Microsoft has detailed the performance impact of the first rollout of Meltdown and Spectre fixes. Without the security patch applied, malicious software can exploit the vulnerabilities and gain access to sensitive data by accessing one process from another. It affects just about every process and you should take steps to install fixes for your OS, processor, web browsers, and even your graphics card drivers.
For now, these benchmarks only take into account the impact of the OS updates, rather than silicon, with Microsoft promising more in-depth benchmarks to come.
The first round of fixes only tackles Meltdown, which is limited to affecting Intel processors. For those on Windows 10 with a Skylake, Kaby Lake or new CPU, the slow-down is in the single-digit percentages. Microsoft says most users won’t notice any performance change during general use.
If you’re using Windows 10 and you’ve got a CPU from 2015 or earlier (Haswell or older), Microsoft has said the slowdowns are “significant” and some users will detect a noticeable decrease in system performance.
On Windows 8 and Windows 7 PCs with Haswell or older processors, “most users” will notice a decrease in system performance.
As for Windows Server, on any CPU, any IO-intensive processes will have a much more significant performance impact when the settings to isolate untrusted code are enabled. We've seen already that server-side fixes are already causing problems with game servers. Both Nex Machina and Fortnite have suffered serious issues.
The reason older versions of Windows have a larger performance impact is due to legacy design which means more user-kernel transitions take place. The older and weaker your processor, and the older your OS, the more your performance will be affected. For that reason, if you want to suffer the least performance impact from Meltdown fixes then Windows 10 and a newer CPU is the way to go. That should be nice for Microsoft and Intel’s already bulging pockets.
“As you can tell, there is a lot to this topic of side-channel attack methods,” explains Microsoft. “A new exploit like this requires our entire industry to work together to find the best possible solutions for our customers. The security of the systems our customers depend upon and enjoy is a top priority for us. We’re also committed to being as transparent and factual as possible to help our customers make the best possible decisions for their devices and the systems that run organizations around the world.”
Bad news then, but have you noticed any real-world impact on performance since the update? Has your gaming experience suffered in any way? Let us know!