Microsoft Confirms System Slowdowns and is Working on Solutions

Microsoft confirmed on Thursday that their Windows operating system update released on Jan. 3 to address the Meltdown and Spectre CPU security issues had been shown to slow down the system in some cases.

The slowdowns are more obvious in older Windows products like Windows 7 and 8, especially when they used Intel Haswell chips on the 2015 PCs, noted Terry Myerson, executive vice president at Windows and Devices Group.

The slowdown will be apparent on the systems that applied the Jan. 3 updates. Windows has put out a statement regarding the issue:

“Windows Server on any silicon, especially in any IO-intensive application, shows a more significant performance impact when you enable the mitigations to isolate untrusted code within a Windows Server instance. 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.”

The specifics of the slowdowns were not mentioned in the announcement. However, Myerson also said that Microsoft is currently working on its own benchmark studies and publishing the results.

Another important clarification by Microsoft is that the PC or server original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) determine the firmware update (silicon microcode) distributions. Therefore, the OEMs’ firmware updates could arrive via Windows Update or another mechanism.

Microsoft has released 41 of 45 OS updates through its Windows Update service to address the threats. The remaining updates will be coming as soon as possible.

Earlier this week, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said that Intel plans to issue microcode updates for chips up to 5 years old by the end of this month. An Intel statement from Tuesday addressed this:

“In early December we began distributing Intel firmware updates to our OEM partners. For Intel CPUs introduced in the past five years, we expect to issue updates for more than 90 percent of them within a week, and the remainder by the end of January. We will continue to issue updates for other products thereafter. We are pleased with this progress, but recognize there is much more work to do to support our customers.”

Hopefully, Microsoft and Intel figure out the issues quickly. Loyal customers of these products deserve to have functioning systems, and it’s terrible to see when an issue of this magnitude arises.

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