Pre-2016 Intel CPUs Hit Worst By Meltdown + Spectre Fix

Microsoft just revealed that pre-2016 Intel CPUs will be hit worst by the Meltdown and Spectre patches. They also pointed out that the performance impact detailed in benchmarks published so far did not include both operating system and silicon updates, and are therefore, inaccurate.

Microsoft is still working on their own set of benchmarks that will look at the performance impact after both operating system and silicon updates have been applied. In the meantime, Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, shared some preliminary findings.

 

Performance Impact Of The Meltdown + Spectre Patches

According to Terry, the patches for Variant 1 (Spectre 1) and Variant 3 (Meltdown) of the speculative execution bug have minimal performance impact.

It is the Variant 2 (Spectre 2) patches, both operating system and silicon microcode, that have a significant performance impact.

Pre-2016 Intel CPUs Hit Worst By Meltdown + Spectre Fix

Here is a summary of what Microsoft has found so far :

Windows 10 With 2016 Or Newer Intel CPUs

Intel CPU Models : Intel Skylake, Intel Kaby Lake, Intel Coffee Lake

Performance Impact : Single digit reduction in performance. Microsoft does not expect most users to notice the impact, because the percentages are “reflected in milliseconds“.

Windows 10 With Pre-2016 Intel CPUs

Intel CPU Models : Intel Broadwell, Intel Haswell, Intel Ivy Bridge, Intel Sandy Bridge, or older.

Performance Impact : Significant slowdowns in some benchmarks. Microsoft expects some users to notice the decrease in performance.

Windows 8 and Windows 7 With Pre-2016 Intel CPUs

Intel CPU Models : Intel Broadwell, Intel Haswell, Intel Ivy Bridge, Intel Sandy Bridge, or older.

Performance Impact : Significant slowdowns. Microsoft expects most users to notice the decrease in performance.

Windows Server On Any Intel CPU

Performance Impact : Significant slowdowns in any IO-intensive application.

 

Why The Difference In Performance Impact?

In the newer Intel processors (from the 2016 Skylake onwards), Intel refined the instructions used to disable branch speculation to be more specific to indirect branches. This reduces the performance impact of Spectre mitigation patches.

There is a larger performance impact with Windows 8 and Windows 7 because they have more user-kernel transitions. For example, all font rendering takes place in the kernel.

 

What Should You Do?

If you are using a newer Intel CPU like the Core i7-8700K with Windows 10, you can rest easy knowing that the performance impact of the Meltdown and Spectre patches to be minimal.

If you are using a newer Intel CPU with an older operating system like Windows 8 or Windows 7, you should consider upgrading to Windows 10. This would reduce the performance impact of the Meltdown and Spectre patches.

If you are using a pre-2016 Intel CPU with Windows 10, there is nothing much you can do except consider upgrading to a newer processor. You could possibly live with the performance impact of the Meltdown and Spectre patches.

If you are using a pre-2016 Intel CPU with an older operating system like Windows 8 or Windows 7, you can try upgrading to Windows 10 to reduce the performance impact of the Meltdown and Spectre patches.

If you are managing a Windows Server that uses Intel CPUs, you will need to balance the risk of leaving each Windows Server instance unprotected, against the significant performance impact of protecting it against Meltdown and Spectre.

 

Meltdown + Spectre Reading Suggestions

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7 Comments

  1. Toby Micheals

    Great … thanks INTEL !

    If I do have to upgrade my currently fine older sandy bridge CPU it will be to an AMD CPU.

    Reply
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