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MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon Motherboard Review – Mining Performance

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If you are struggling to get your hands on a motherboard that would handle more than four GPUs at a time, then you might find this review interesting.

Everyone knows that the ASRock H81 PRO BTC R2.0 is probably the best choice for a 6 GPU mining rig regarding its low price, features and reputation. However, those boards are hard to get – the company fails to fulfill the growing demand, which allows other companies to introduce their own alternative models.

I’ve already reviewed one alternative before and today I will review another one – the new MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon, which hit the shelves not long ago.

According to its specifications, it can run up to 7 GPU’s at a time since it features seven PCI-E slots. It is designed to support socket 1151 processors and DDR4 memory. All of this makes this board a great candidate for mining.

It does, however, come with some additional extras that offer no value for mining, but add to the price quite significantly. This means that the AsRock H81 Pro BTC is still a better value for the money, though the MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon is easier to obtain.

Compatibility and Set Up

As it happens with any new motherboard, the drivers for the MSI Z170A aren’t still on point. The latest driver release – the 1.7 (December 2016), made it suitable to be used in a mining rig, though there are still issues that might happen.

It looks like the board comes with an outdated firmware. It does not support the seven GPUs simultaneously unless it is flashed with newer BIOS. Even then, some users complain that the issue persists at some extent.

There are two ways to flash the MSI Z170A – if one didn’t worked for you, then the other one might get the job done.

The first one is to upgrade to the newest official BIOS version. People mostly use this method, though sometimes it won’t work as intended. If flashing your motherboard with the official 1.7 BIOS doesn’t help, or if you’re up to trying something different, then there’s a second option for you as well.

There is a custom BIOS version that was released by the mining community. It is tailored to be used in a mining rig. It is really easy to install and it probably works better than the tweaked official 1.7 version. It might be a good alternative to the 1.7 release, but it doesn’t have enough reviews yet, so I can’t say for sure that it is a safe bet. As you know, I only recommend things I am confident about.

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Flashing the Motherboard with the Official 1.7 BIOS Patch

1 First of all, you’d need to download the latest official firmware upgrade from here:
https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/support/Z170A-GAMING-PRO-CARBON.html#down-bios

2 Unzip it into the root of a USB drive.

3 Unplug all the GPUs from the board and leave only the HDMI cable and the USB drive plugged into it, as well as the keyboard/mouse.

4 Once you turn the PC on, go to the BIOS and press F7 for advanced settings. Once there, go to M-Flash (bottom left side of the screen); you will be asked to confirm whether you want the system to reboot and enter Flash mode. Click on yes and wait for the system to reboot.

5 You will see an M-Flash screen that will ask you to choose the file containing the firmware. Locate it in your pen drive (File name: E7A12IMS.170), select it and confirm selection.

6 After you do that, wait for the BIOS to update.

7 Now, go to the BIOS, Settings -> Advanced -> PCI Subsystem Settings
  • Change ‘PEG0’ and ‘PEG1’ values to ‘Gen1
  • Set ‘Above 4G Decoding’ to ‘Enabled

8 That’s all you have to do. Leave the other settings unchanged; save the settings and plug in the extended USB risers and the HDMI cable to the graphics card.

9 You’re all set now. Verify whether your mining software detects all your GPUs. If it doesn’t then you might try the second unofficial method of patching your motherboard.

Flashing the Motherboard with the Custom BIOS

The process is the same, except that you have to download this BIOS version:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/bk22xpc6afayexc/E7A12IMS.7Z?dl=0

According to the official thread, the motherboard supports up to seven GPUs after being flashed with it.

The only requirement is that you have to have UEFI Windows 10 installed; your Windows HDD has to be in GPT format as well.

The official thread is here: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=1819611.0

Once done, you have to perform steps 2 – 6 (inclusive) from the previous method, with the exception that the name of the file you’ll be using is E7A12IMS.181

Once it’s done, you have to enter the BIOS configuration and enable the cryptomining option. Then you can plug in the GPUs and start mining.

Again, I have not verified this on my rig. If you want to, you can contact the creator of the custom BIOS for more information; it’s all up to you. I thought you’d like to know about this alternative in case you need it.

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Where to buy

AmazonPrice Alert

MSI Performance Gaming Intel Z170A LGA 1151 DDR4 USB 3.1 ATX Motherboard (Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon), MSI Computer

Price: $499.99
as of August 22, 2017 5:39 pm  
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Price History

Statistics

Current Price $499.99August 22, 2017
Highest Price$499.99July 29, 2017
Lowest Price$129.99May 3, 2017
Since March 20, 2017

Last price changes

$499.99July 29, 2017
$249.99July 13, 2017
$129.99July 8, 2017
$299.97July 7, 2017
$199.97July 6, 2017

Final Thoughts

I guess the MSI Z170A might be a decent motherboard for a mining rig. It has solid components and great build quality. The driver compatibility issues might or might not affect you. Also, it is very probable that those issues will be patched soon, since MSI releases new BIOS versions constantly.

Thank you for reading. As always, your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome.

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  • Marvel Developer

    So did 7 GPU Run?

    • look like it is, ala try to check bitcointalk thread..

  • flavio

    Running 7 cards with 1.7 official bios without any mobo problem here.

  • Ed Stewart

    I got this and could not install my gen 7 Kaby Lake CPU because of the outdated BIOS so I had to get an earlier gen CPU. Keep this in mind when getting one in the near future that you have to have an earlier gen socket 1151 CPU in order to use it or upgrade the BIOS.

    • flavio

      i’m running with a Intel CELERON G3900 2.80GHZ and i have no problem at all

      • Ed Stewart

        My skylake CPU worked fine too.

        • Thanks for adding this!

          • Yuchen Feng

            I found that it supports gen 7th cpu starts from bios 1.6 according to the website.

    • Yuchen Feng

      – –

  • Ed Stewart

    I’m not sure why but when I enabled above 4G decoding it would not boot and hung until I reset the BIOS memory. I could only get it to work correctly with Peg0 and Peg1 set to gen1 but could not enable the 4G decoding. I currently have 4 Nitro+ RX 470’s installed in risers and will add 2 more in the next couple of days.

    • Try this maybe will help:

      change
      -Settings / Windows OS Configuration
      — Windows 8.1 / 10 = “Enabled
      — Windows 7 = “Disabled”
      — MSI Fast Boot = “Disabled”
      — Fast Boot = “Enabled”
      —> = Secure Boot Secure Boot Support = “Disabled”
      —> = Secure Boot Secure Boot Mode = “Standard”

      to

      -Settings / Windows OS Configuration
      — Windows 8.1 / 10 = “Disabled”
      — Windows 7 = “Disabled”
      — MSI Fast Boot = “Disabled”
      — Fast Boot = “Disabled”

      • Ed Stewart

        Thanks for the recommendation. I tried it and still hangs on 4G decoding for some strange reason.

        • asda

          U need to install windows in uefi mode with GPT format. google it

      • Ed Stewart

        I finally got 4G decoding to work be reinstalling Windows in UEFI mode.

        • You didn’t installed windows in uefi from the first time?

          • Ed Stewart

            I never installed UEFI before. I was not aware of it before and still not quite sure what it is for other than what is mentioned here.

          • Christian Ulirsch

            I am having the same issue but I have uefi installed. When I boot without cards it works, but when I boot with a card it freezes in the same manner.

  • Batsmasher Batsmasher

    Hi . i installed MSI Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON 7GPU following this topic and personal knowledge, i upgraded that Mobo to this custom BIOS and tried also latest formal update 1.7 ..

    Now the problem

    i have 2 RX 480, Sapphire Radeon NITRO+ Rx 480 8GB GDDR5 and ASUS ROG STRIX Radeon Rx 480 8GB OC..

    now i have strange issue .. when i install only one card ( any of these cards ) every thing work fine , card detected , get 28-29 hash rate .. but when i install both cards in ( PCIe-1 and PCIe-2 ) ,, one card have full speed GPU memory/Core speed 1200/220 speed and the other one get always stuck GPU memory/Core speed 300/300 always the ASUS..

    see attached pix

    any one ever faced that issue ?

    do i have to install all 6 cards to make this work ?
    and why always i get GPU memory/Core speed 300M ?

    also Claymore miner didnot detected except one GPU ( the faster one only ) , it didnot detected the 300M card.

    i installed so many AMD drivers 16+ . NOT 17+
    changed risers
    changed power molex
    changed GPU setting in the bios
    http://imgur.com/qgZPf0U
    http://imgur.com/rvmFxWj
    http://imgur.com/nXUkJx7

    Windows 10 Pro UEFI

    CoreI3 7Gen…. 4 G RAM

    • Batsmasher Batsmasher

      I got it to work .. was a driver issue and also the correct order of installing the cards . i will add more cards later to test the 7 GPU

      • Hi, sorry for the delay, what did you do? Are you using claymore? Make sure you use DDU when uninstalling drivers!

        • Batsmasher Batsmasher

          1-attach only 1 Card to the 16x ( ASUS )– Riser
          2-reinstall windows in UEFI mode
          3-install 16.9.2 AMD driver
          4-install the 2nd GPU card to the 1x– Riser

          and after mod both bios for the ASUS and the Sapphire i get 29.9 Mh/s

          and yes claymore dual mining

  • t. Troll

    I will ask you one thing, I have a little problem. If I put riser in 2nd shielded pcie (5th from the top) it doesn’t recognise GPU, but if I put whole GPU in (without riser) it recognises it without problems, any ideas? tnx

    • It should work with no problem, have you updated bios and set ‘PEG0’ and ‘PEG1’ values to ‘Gen1’ ?

      • t. Troll

        Yap, it is super strange, even in linux it doesnt recognise it if its in that slot with riser. Tnx anyway.

        • sk

          Did you try another riser with the same slot and same GPU card?

  • DaKill

    Some Bios Solution for z270 Gaming Pro Carbon?

  • Hi, one question what do you mean when you are saying leave only the hdmi on ? During the flash on bios ? And after that ?

    • I meant to leave only one GPU attached to the board..

      • Thanks mate i finally got it to work. One more question. I have a monitor connected to mb gpu and i can see all the rx470 nitro+ cards they are mining fine ! I moded them.now i want to oc them but when im opening trixx i cant do anything. Also if i try to open the radeon settings getting error tha card is not connected to display. If i connect the card to display i can oc but is that right ?

        • It wont work, change in mobo display to PCIe and it will work 🙂

  • Magnus Berggren

    I have trouble connecting GPU to PCIe x1, the other PCI slots works fine…. is there something occupying this slot or any BIOS change getting this to work?

  • I would recommend to start building a second rig than using the adapter.

  • Cesar B

    I installed the latest update from the msi website 7A12V18 and now my rig won’t boot. it turns on and does nothing I don’t even see a video signal. please help.

    • Juan Andrade

      Hey man, same thing happen to me. Move the ram stick to the slot that is closest to the processor. I did that and it booted without problem 🙂

      • Cesar B

        I tried that, it turned out it’s because my ssd wasn’t formatted properly (UEFI and GPT) once I did that I flashed the custom bios and it booted with all the cards. Now my issue is that one of my cards is either not seen at all by claymore or it crashes the system shortly a few minutes into mining.

        • Jaro

          Have you solved? I have the same problem! 6x RX580 with z170a m5 latest bios update.

          • Cesar B

            I solved it, my steps were I reset the bios. Changed the boot to UEFI only.

            I didn’t connect any of the video cards.

            Installed Windows and ensured it was on a GPT partition (look it up on YouTube) let windows install.

            Once windows was installed, I shut it down. I went into the BIOS, change the G4 setting to mining, verified the integrated graphics was set for PEG and not IG.

            I started with one card, I plugged that card to the first pcie x16 slot closest to the CPU. Plugged in the HDMI to it, booted it, after what seemed like a while the windows log in screen came on. I logged in, installed the proper drivers I needed for my cards to work 16.9.1 or something along those lines.

            I turned off the computer, installed the other cards.I plugged the HDMI to the card that was on the first x16 pcie slot closest to the CPU once again and after what seemed like 2-5 minutes the windows log in screen came on again. Some of the cards weren’t installed on device manager but one by one they all installed the drivers themselves.

            If the drivers don’t install themselves I use display graphics uninstaller program in not safe mode because my rig doesn’t like to boot into safe mode or install any major updates like creators update as long as G4 is set for mining.

            Once I updated the drivers that time it all worked great.

            If this helps let me know or if you find other issues also let me know

  • Cesar B

    My board doesn’t want to support more than 3 cards at a time. I tried running 1.7 and 1.8 and the custom 1.81 but no luck. the VGA light turns on and I have no video feed. any ideas?

  • Christopher Aaron Brownlee

    MSI Pro Solution Intel Z170A. Mine does not have on board graphics. So I am wondering if I can use this method and still have one of the Video cards on a riser.

    I have this board and I am having trouble getting it to run more than 3.
    It will only mine with 2 and it’s showing that my 2 of them are linked and I can’t get that to end.

    • Kürşat Konak

      Not having on-board vga is better, here we are all disabling on board VGAs lol. (MSI Z170A PC Mate). I have ALL my cards on risers. I put first card with riser to an x16 slot, attach HDMI cable to it. Boot to windows check it works, then i start filling x1 ports one by one. The above method should help you

      • Diego Vidaurre

        hey ! I’m using the same mother board (MSI Z17a PC MATE9 How many GPUS are you able to run? i

        • Kürşat Konak

          All the slots work 🙂 5

  • Costin Trandafir

    Hi, I also have the Msi Z17A Gaming Pro Carbon running the latest official 7A12v18 bios and every time I boot it with my modded Sapphire RX 580 Nitro+ 4GB (Elpida memory) I get three long system beeps, sometimes I don’t even get a video signal. When switching the bios switch to the default bios everything works fine. I followed every step related to this motherboard. I also get the voltage control grayed out in Msi Afterburner. What else can I do…can anyone help?

  • kobazik

    Hi,

    I’m having issues with MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon and 6 GPUs under Ubuntu 16.04.

    I got 6 Sapphire RX470 Nitro (non-plus) OC 8GB (Micron memory) and even with stock bios settings as soon as I start Claymore miner two out of six cards all of sudden goes to 0mh/s.

    Motherboard is running bios 1.7

    Ubuntu 16.04
    kernel 4.4.0-78
    amdgpu-pro 17.10-429170

    Any ideas?

    Thanks

    Dom

    • Not really sure.. have you also tried on WIN?

  • The 0ne

    Ok guys I have followed all of your instruction : I have a Z710A with 6 GPU plug on that one. But at this moment only 5 are recognized. I have no more idea why the last one is not recongnized.
    If you can help me it will be a pleasure…

  • Magatsou

    I have installed this card and everything went fine on the first boot.
    After Win 10 install was finish the mobo refuse to switch on.

    When i press the power button for 5 seconds a blue light appears on the MOBO, any idea ?

    No boot / no fan activation /

    Thx in advance !

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