Windows patches CPU bug, gaming performance unaffected

News has been circulating about a processor (CPU) bug with all Intel chips released in the last ~10 years which requires an operating system level fix. There is a disclosure from Google which indicates AMD processors are also affected by this, despite AMD previously saying they are not impacted.

Early reports suggest if the exploit is taken advantage of by a malicious party, they could gain complete control of your system – this is purely speculative and absolute worst case – there is so far no evidence of this being exploited in the wild so far.

The patch required to fix this can cause an impact on performance. It will slow down “syscalls” (function calls where the program talks directly to the operating system). This includes everything from opening files to communicating over the network; it’s virtually impossible to write a program without it. Performance impact will vary between applications; programs that don’t make as many syscalls may be mostly unchanged or unnoticeable. Although there’s a lot of uncertainty, rumours, and secrecy involved (to ensure the information doesn’t get into the wrong hands before adequate steps have been made to keep us all safeguarded first): we have some benchmarks.

The fix released for Linux with an i7 6700 calling the getpid syscall 100,000,000 (one-hundred million) times:
Before the patch: ~3.8 seconds
After the patch: ~15 seconds

Gaming performance however is a completely different ballpark – because games doesn’t need to interact with the OS directly nearly as often (if at all) as gaming benchmarks (below) have proven.

Testing conducted on Linux with a Intel i7 8700K and Radeon RX Vega 64 (thanks to Michael Larabel @ phoronix)

It is imperative that you do allow the Windows updater to run in order to protect yourself from being compromised.

It’s important to note that Intel has stated any performance impacts are entirely workload-dependant (as our research also implies) and that for the average computer user, should not be significant, and that it will also be mitigated over time by further OS updates.

As for our customers, apart from ensuring their Windows updates are turned on and they let it complete, gaming should be largely unaffected, so, happy continued gaming!