A massive performance hit is one of the more noticeable side-effects of the Spectre and Meltdown fixes that Microsoft and others have had to release this year. But now Microsoft says it may have found a way to avoid that performance penalty while keeping PCs and their users safe.
“We have enabled retpoline by default in our [Windows 10 version] 19H1 [builds] along with what we call ‘import optimization’ to further reduce [performance] impact due to indirect calls in kernel-mode,” Microsoft’s Mehmet Iyigun tweeted this week in response to questions about improved performance on this pre-release version of Windows 10. “Combined, these reduce the [performance] impact of Spectre v2 mitigations to noise-level for most scenarios.”
Noise level. I like the sound of that.
That “retpoline” bit refers to a strategy for protecting against so-called processor speculation attacks like Spectre and Meltdown. As MSPowerUser first noted, it’s used in Linux now, and can be used by any platform that runs on impacted processor architectures.
Anyway, it looks like we may suddenly see a big performance boost, if you will, when the next version of Windows 10 appears in early 2019. I’m guessing that Microsoft has no plans to back-port this fix to other versions of Windows 10. After all, Intel’s security woes have simply bolstered Microsoft’s view that its customer base needs to be on the latest software versions to be safe.