Microsoft Confirms System Slowdowns from Fixes to Meltdown and Spectre Attack Methods

10 January, 2018, 01:51 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • Patches for Meltdown Spectre flaws in 90% Intel chips within a week says CEO Brian Krzanich

That documentation was used by Microsoft when developing its security response to the Spectre and Meltdown threats, the company said.

Of course, lest we forget, because Microsoft rolls up a lot of its security updates into fun-sized bundles of bork this also means it has had to pull some other stuff from AMD machines as well.

"Microsoft has reports of customers with some AMD devices getting into an unbootable state after installing recent Windows operating system security updates", says a Microsoft spokesperson.

The good news is that for Windows 10 PCs with modern Intel processors, the Windows security patches plus the additional firmware updates necessary for addressing a specific variant of the Spectre vulnerability won't have a big impact on performance.

Microsoft Confirms System Slowdowns from Fixes to Meltdown and Spectre Attack Methods

The pause in the updates was spotted by The Verge. "Older versions of Windows have a larger performance impact because Windows 7 and Windows 8 have more user-kernel transitions because of legacy design decisions, such as all font rendering taking place in the kernel", Myerson explains. It's worth noting that the Windows Server is also affected and Microsoft recommends the IT admins to think twice before patching Meltdown and Spectre. One way that Microsoft is mitigating this risk is by removing support for the SharedArrayBuffer JavaScript optimization that was introduced in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

Intel continued to downplay the performance hits of these OS and firmware updates, stating that "based on our tests on SYSmark 2014 SE, a leading benchmark of PC performance, 8th Generation Core platforms with solid state storage will see a performance impact of 6 percent or less".

Windows 10 PCs with Haswell or older processors will see "more significant slowdowns" and Microsoft notes that a segment of customers may "notice a decrease in system performance". "It wouldn't be the first time a Windows update had an issue", said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. As part of a coordinated vulnerability program, all involved researchers and notified organizations agreed to not publicly announce the flaw until January 9, at which point many planned to issue patches. There are some reports that users with very old AMD processors are seeing crashes because the Windows kernel is trying to use an instruction that the very earliest 64-bit AMD chips didn't support.

Later Tuesday morning, shortly after Microsoft's post, Intel issued its own statement.

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