Windows Patch Kills Buggy Intel Spectre Fix Microcode
Samuel Wan / 3 weeks ago
Supplementary Intel Fix Causes More Harm Than Good
Last month, the Spectre and Meltdown bugs took the CPU world by storm. Intel was hit the hardest with both Spectre and Meltdown affecting their CPUs. AMD and ARM also got hit but not as bad. To mitigate the issue, Microsoft issued OS level updates while Intel released some microcode updates. Unfortunately, the Intel fixes caused numerous stability for users. In fact, it is so bad Microsoft is now disabling the Intel microcode fix with a new update.
Initially, Microsoft was the first to release a Meltdown and Spectre patch for Windows. Unfortunately, that patch suffered from many bugs as well. Fortunately, only a small number of systems were impacted. For the Intel bug, the issue is more serious. For Sandy Bridge to Kaby Lake (Sandy Bridge, Ivy, Bridge, Haswell, Broadwell, Skylake, Kaby Lake), systems suffered from rebooting issues. The microcode fix is simply too unstable to be useful. So Microsoft’s patch will disable the microcode. Users will have to rely on the Windows patch to provide protection.
Lack of Microcode Fix Means Slower CPUs
Luckily, because of the Windows patch, users will still be safe. However, they will have to suffer a heavier performance penalty. This is because the microcode not only provides protection but speeds up performance. The initial Windows patch changed the way the CPU functions, leading to slower performance. The microcode aimed to fix the security flaws with a smaller performance penalty. Unfortunately, users will still have longer to wait for a full fix. However, a full fix is already on its way soon.
Intel has identified the issue and is working to fix the buggy microcode. In fact, some industry partners already have their hands on a fixed version of the update. Hopefully, Intel will be doing more testing this time around. Given that Intel knew of these bugs in November, it is taking a while for a full fix to come out. One major factor is the complexity and severity of the bugs. Meltdown and Spectre will be behind the industry however as new processors release in 2019. Both Intel and AMD are promising fixed silicon by 2019.
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