In a surprising turn of events, Microsoft has gone on to reveal how Spectre and Meltdown firmware updates can potentially impact a PC’s performance. The technology industry has been struggling to release updates with the objective to protect systems against two of the worst security flaws over the past couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, there have been reports that suggest how potential performance issues might show up, after installing these software updates. As noted by The Verge, the good news, however, is that most consumers won’t notice significant changes – especially if you’re running Windows 10.
Microsoft reveals that Intel Haswell processors and older will end up being impacted by most series of firmware updates, which are specifically designed to prevent problems raised by Spectre CPU security flaw. Intel has already been working with PC makers to prepare firmware updates for the same. However, these updates are expected to impact the PC’s performance – especially if it is running Windows 8 or 9.
The level of impact entirely depends on what the PC is and how old it actually is. Windows 10 machines running older processors like Haswell “show more significant slowdowns, and we expect that some users will notice a decrease in system performance,” says Windows Chief Terry Myerson. The same older Haswell machines running Windows 7 or Windows 8 will also experience slowdowns that Myerson says “most users” will notice. However, Windows 10 won’t be hit as hard as Windows 7 and 8. Since they are older operating systems with features such as kernel-level font rendering, they are expected to incur a larger amount of impact.
Microsoft says on Skylake or newer chips “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.” Microsoft also warns that Windows Server running on any silicon, especially if the server task is I/O intensive, “shows a more significant performance impact when you enable the mitigations to isolate untrusted code within a Windows Server instance.”