Last week, security researchers found a couple of major vulnerabilities affecting most modern computing devices. Spectre and Meltdown have been reported as kernel flaws present in a majority of Intel, AMD and Arm processors. After the reports, companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple responded by issuing software updates to mitigate the flaws, but a lingering question was how this would affect system performance. Microsoft has now provided a statement, admitting that the security fixes will slow down performance on some personal computers.
Microsoft in its statement said that the slowdowns will affect performance depending on the software running on your PC. For example, users running Windows 10 are not going to notice a significant difference in performance, whereas those running older Windows 7 or Windows 8 operating systems are going to notice some slowdowns. The Redmond giant notes that Intel Haswell processors and older see the most impact following firmware updates to protect against Spectre and Meltdown. Notably, the statement explains that Meltdown and Spectre Variant 1 will have minimal impact on performance. However, firmware updates being released are largely to protect against Spectre Variant 2, which Microsoft says will have an impact on performance.
Windows Executive Vice President Terry Myerson explains that PCs running Windows 10 on Skylake or Kaby Lake processors will see performance slowdown in single digits while noticeable slowdowns will be seen on PCs running older operating systems and corporate-level server computers are going to be the most affected. “On newer CPUs such as on Skylake and beyond, Intel has refined the instructions used to disable branch speculation to be more specific to indirect branches, reducing the overall performance penalty of the Spectre mitigation,” Myerson said.
“We’re also committed to being as transparent and factual as possible to help our customers make the best possible decisions for their devices and the systems that run organizations around the world,” Myerson added in the blog post.
Microsoft’s statement gives us a much better picture of how the vulnerabilities are going to impact consumers. This comes following Intel CEO Brian Krzanich keynote at CES 2018 where he lauded the collaborative efforts between companies to mitigate the issue and assured that over 90 per cent of computers will be protected through patches this week. Qualcomm president Christiano R. Amon at CES also addressed concerns about the vulnerabilities affecting smartphone, and explained that they are not likely to impact the mobile industry in a major way as fixes for them have already been made available for a while.
The Redmond giant is hoping to be as transparent as it can be to avoid what happened to Apple after the latter revealed it was intentionally slowing down older iPhone models. Apple, for its part in all this Spectre and Meltdown issue has also responded quickly, admitting last week that its iOS and Mac devices are affected. However, the Cupertino giant has mitigated Meltdown through software updated issued last month while newer updates rolled out this week to mitigate against Spectre.
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