IT Security

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Not long into 2018 we already had the first security alert in the news in the form of Spectre and Meltdown, which we had reported in our microchip article before. The fix was released for this very quickly, however, there has been evidence of it reducing performance levels.

What performance drop can I expect?

Intel have already released the results from their testing. With the patch applied, users can expect anywhere between a 2% to 14% performance drop - they do explain that this should not be significant drop to average users, but this could be devastating on older computers.

The patch was rolled out with Microsoft Windows Updates in advance on the usual second Tuesday of each month, “Patch Tuesday”, and was available on 3rd of January 2018. Users with updates set to automatic, which is best practice, will likely have these installed already.

The most affected are computers that are used for PC gaming or computers that rely on cloud services. Computers with solid state drives and eighth generation cores can expect about 6% performance decrease.

Intel state that this will likely be unnoticeable as the average user will never reach a computers full potential and stick to browsing, emails and documents, the issue only comes with intensive applications such as PC games and modelling software etc.

Cause of the performance drop

The cause of the drop is simply based around the fix being a work around. The chip itself has faster, but smaller, memory and so when using an application it will prefer the faster memory.

Now though, the update doesn’t fix the fault with the chip, instead it completes the task that the chip was doing that created the vulnerability, meaning now, the other slower hardware will be used to run the software.

Can it be avoided?

In short, no. This patch is applied to fix a vulnerability and so should not be skipped or removed at risk of abuse from the Spectre or Meltdown vulnerability. Unfortunately computers with noticeable speed reductions may just need to be replaced with newer computers or users will just have to deal with the performance drop.

Further Reading

For more information on Meltdown and Spectre, please visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42636415