Ouch! Microsoft's Spectre security update bricks some AMD-powered PCs

10 January, 2018, 01:50 | Author: Pamela Mathis
  • Cloud computing servers tech

Microsoft has scaled back its rollout of a Windows patch against the Meltdown and Spectre CPU flaws after reports the update was crashing computers with AMD processors.

In a January 9 blog post, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices group, warned of "more significant slowdowns" on Windows 10 PCs running on fourth-generation "Haswell" Intel Core processors relative to newer systems.

The question many will be asking is whether the performance hit is a price with paying for the security mitigation.

Windows Server machines will actually show an even more significant performance impact when the mitigations are enabled and untrusted code is run within a Windows Server instance, the company said. This is why you want to be careful to evaluate the risk of untrusted code for each Windows Server instance, and balance the security versus performance tradeoff for your environment.

For Windows Server, administrators should ensure they have mitigations in place at the physical server level to ensure they can isolate virtualized workloads running on the server.

Microsoft didn't release specific benchmark results, or reveal how it generated those numbers. This may require an update to your Lenovo Drivers. However, Microsoft's announcement added an important clarification.

Instead, the problem that is being patched by Microsoft concerns a variant of another flaw, known as Spectre. But the TL;DR is simple; the fixes impact system performance.

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The number of affected AMD processors has not been disclosed, but an AMD spokesperson said the booting errors affect only a small subset of its "older" processors.

Users vented their frustration over attempting to recover their systems after the failed updates installed, often automatically. Surface will be updated through Windows Update starting today.

Withdrawing or suspending delivery of Windows Updates is not uncommon; while there is some testing done by Microsoft, releasing things to a wider audience does from time to time unearth incompatibilities or bugs within the update. The remaining updates will be coming "soon". Microsoft blamed the problem on AMD failing to properly document its firmware.

In early December we began distributing Intel firmware updates to our OEM partners. We are maintaining a table of editions and update schedule in our Windows customer guidance article.

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

Microsoft, Intel and PC manufacturers are still dealing with the Meltdown and Spectre CPU vulnerabilities these days, and contrary to Intel's reassuring statements from last week, the fixes will have a performance impact, especially on older PCs.

The attack methods depend on malware being on a system. Unfortunately, researchers found ways to surface that information.

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