Intel's Meltdown and Spectre patches cause reboots and hurt performance

Intel has accepted that its fix to the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities are having an impact on performance of PCs, particularly that it's causing more reboots and slowing devices down.

The company's Data Centre boss said it has now issued updates to 90% of Intel CPUs that have been purchased in the last five years, but it's now working on fixing the problems the update has caused. Although it has fixed the vulnerabilities, securing Intel chip-powered devices from hackers, it has caused knock-on effects across the board.

"We have determined that similar behavior occurs on other products in some configurations, including Ivy Bridge-, Sandy Bridge-, Skylake-, and Kaby Lake-based platforms," Navin Shenoy said. "We have reproduced these issues internally and are making progress toward identifying the root cause. In parallel, we will be providing beta microcode to vendors for validation by next week."

The company tested the performance of devices running its processors - both on the client and data centre sides. The tests on its data centre systems do show a significant impact that changes according to the specific workloads and configurations a client has set up.

For example, systems running integer and floating point throughput, Linpack, STREAM, server-side Java and energy efficiency benchmarks have been affected by 0-2%, while online transaction processing benchmarks show a performance reduction of 4%.

I/O applications were harder to measure because of their range of variants. Stress testing the CPU in a 100% write resulted in an 18% performance reduction, but splitting that out to 70/30 read/write model, there was only a 2% reduction.

"In those areas where we are seeing higher impacts, we are working hard with our partners and customers to identify ways to address this," Shenoy added. "For example, there are other mitigations options that could yield less impact. More details on some of these options can be found in our white paper and in Google's post on their 'Retpoline' security solution."

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.