Microsoft Allegedly Overcomes Performance Issues in its Spectre Fixes

Posted on October 19, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 9 Comments

Intel Finds New Spectre Derivative

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.

 

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Microsoft Allegedly Overcomes Performance Issues in its Spectre Fixes”

  1. Avatar

    bassoprofundo

    Looking forward to test results on this one post-patch... The storage performance hit is so massive as it is that I have the Spectre one disabled on my home machine.

  2. Avatar

    Silversee

    Paul wrote: "I’m guessing that Microsoft has no plans to back-port this fix to other versions of Windows 10..."


    Of course not. Philosophically, that's the whole point of Windows as a Service: there are no "previous versions", only the current one (leaving aside LTSC). I realize that in practice this is not perfectly true, as people remain (for whatever reason) on earlier release levels. But the point is that (outside of critical security patches) you need to be on the current release if you expect to receive improvements.

    • Avatar

      madthinus

      In reply to Silversee:

      The original Spectre and Meltdown patches were tested on Insider builds first before they where released to the public. To me that makes sense. Kernel level changes are complicated and have potential to be disruptive. Happy to see Microsoft making strides to protect better for less performance impact.

  3. Avatar

    skane2600

    "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."


    Well, it's worth remembering that the processor feature that created the vulnerability was once the "latest" version. Any new version of hardware or software has the potential to create new problems as the most recent Windows 10 release illustrates.

  4. Avatar

    JMarco

    I have ASUS laptop with 3rd gen. i7 proc. I have really noticed an improvement (quicker) in my pc performance after installing Insider build 18262. I had thought removing about 8 of unused Windows Store apps was the catalyst.

  5. Avatar

    BMcDonald

    I disabled all Meltdown and Spectre patches as soon as the whole thing broke.


    It's a non-issue to me until a real problem report from the field actually surfaces.


    I am dealing with 5-6 year old CPUs over here so there is no room for slowdowns.


    B

  6. Avatar

    igor engelen

    "I’m guessing that Microsoft has no plans to back-port this fix to other versions of Windows 10."

    Would it be safe to assume this fix is also coming to server? We wouldn't mind a performance boost on our citrix farms at work.

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