Should you be concerned about the Spectre & Meltdown patches?

Windows users are used to seeing warnings about viruses, spyware and security flaws for Windows but once in a while it's not Microsoft to blame for some security vulnerability. Google has found some flaws in CPUs (processors) that can result in information being stolen from your computer such as passwords and the like.

But this time it's not as simple as running a scan or installing an update to make things go back to normal because fixing the problem can actually make your computer slower yet not fixing it puts you at risk. The 2 vulnerabilities are named Spectre & Meltdown and each one may or may not affect your computer. The details around what Spectre & Meltdown actually do are complicated to understand but you should be more concerned about if you are affected or not and if so, how bad the firmware updates and Windows updates will affect your computer.

Spectre & Meltdown patches

These 2 flaws mostly affect Intel processors but can also affect some AMD and ARM processors as well. Intel is the most dominant processor used in PCs while ARM processors tend to be used in smartphones. Windows 7 and 8 computers running older processors such as the Haswell CPUs, will be most affected by performance issues. Windows 10 computers running these older CPUs will still notice some slowdowns. If you are lucky and have a newer computer with a on Skylake, Kaby Lake or newer CPU then you shouldn’t notice too much of a performance hit if any.

Microsoft actually eased off on these updates because it caused certain AMD computers to crash or not even boot up. This mostly affected PCs that use Athlon X2 CPUs. Microsoft has also been having issues getting the updates to Windows computers because of things like firewalls and antivirus software blocking them and are hoping that antivirus software manufacturers make sure that the update won't affect their software. Microsoft even went as far as saying they won’t push the patches or any other patches to computers with third party antivirus software that is not compatible with Windows as to avoid system crashes and other potential problems.

As for Microsoft Server customers they are being asked to consider the impact of the potential security issues vs. the impact on performance. Plus they have modified Edge and Internet Explorer 11 browsers to protect against JavaScript exploits. They have updates for most versions\builds of Windows ready to go and should have the rest completed soon.

If you want to find out what processor you have you can use a utility such as CPU-Z to find out.

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