Performance impact of Spectre, Meltdown patches on Windows

Isaac Cain
January 10, 2018

There's no way to fix the flaw in the processor itself, and the update can be problematic for certain antivirus software and stop computers from starting up.

If you have run into this issue and can get back into the OS, a little RegEdit wizardry can help you out so that you can move forward and get those security updates. Hackers could theoretically exploit the vulnerabilities - dubbed "Meltdown" and "Spectre" - to hack into iPhones, laptops or data centers. Microsoft expects "most users to notice a decrease in system performance" on these older Windows clients. But the TL;DR is simple; the fixes impact system performance. Intel's business is built around offering measurably better computing performance for more intensive tasks, such as streaming or editing video, playing online games, or working with large data files.

The fixes, though, could slow down older machines and servers, Microsoft said.

He also warned Windows Server administrators of "a more significant performance impact when you enable the mitigations to isolate untrusted code within a Windows Server instance".

Another step the company took involved "reducing the resolution of performance.now () in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer from 5 microseconds to 20 microseconds, with variable jitter of up to an additional 20 microseconds", wrote Hazen in a blog post.

Currently, Microsoft supports 45 different releases of Windows.

Shares of Intel slipped on the news.

Microsoft's VP of Cloud and Enterprise Scott Guthrie helped move Azure onto Intel
Microsoft's VP of Cloud and Enterprise Scott Guthrie helped move Azure onto Intel

Microsoft said that it is still testing the speed impacts of updating systems, and it doesn't have concrete numbers yet.

That left the door open for Intel to provide more context on the effects of the patches on its systems, though the chip giant provided just a few additional details.

Shortly after the issue was uncovered, Microsoft began issuing patches to keep PC users safe.

With Windows 10 on older silicon (2015-era PCs with Haswell or older CPU), some benchmarks show more significant slowdowns, and we expect that some users will notice a decrease in system performance. The company has provided a reasonably detailed description of the impact.

Intel said its processors would be affected based on the type of operations the CPU would carry out, saying that syscall-heavy processes would suffer the most.

Meltdown and Spectre fiasco is affecting nearly all Windows PCs and Phones and with processors manufactured by Intel, AMD, and ARM.

Both Intel and Microsoft said that they would continue to provide updates.

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