PCs with Intel processors could get significantly lower in the coming weeks. The slowdown is a side effect of a fix for a severe security flaw.
It seems that Intel processors made in the past 10 years come with a significant design flaw and fixing it could deal a heavy blow to the device's performance, making it up to 30 percent slower.
The performance slowdown is most likely inevitable and there's nothing that users can do to avoid it. Details of the design flaw are scarce, as Intel is being very secretive until all patches roll out and the flaw is fixed. Windows, Linux, and macOS systems will all need such patches, which means that they could all get notably slower.
Intel CPU Design Flaw
As The Register first reported, the Intel CPUs flaw could open up protected kernel memory areas to user programs. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the kernel is the backbone of the operating system, controlling what runs on it. Since the kernel can host extremely sensitive information, it's paramount that a system's kernel memory is safe.
The security flaw is believed to be severe enough to enable any user program to access and compromise data from the protected kernel memory. Such data could include login keys, passwords, and any other sensitive files, which could be compromised by the simplest of software.
Intel CPU Fix Will Slow Down PCs
As previously mentioned, patching the security vulnerability from this CPU flaw will translate in a notable performance drop by up to 30 percent for some tasks. For systems with Intel CPUs from the past decade, there's reportedly no way to avoid this.
Rumor has it that some newer processors could be unaffected or could deal with the flaw without such a significant drop in performance. However, it all remains unconfirmed until Intel offers more specific information.
Microsoft is expected to roll out kernel patches for Intel-powered Windows systems with a Patch Tuesday release. It already seeded the changes to fast-ring Windows Insider beta testers in November and December, and they should be ready for public release anytime now. Linux kernel fixes, meanwhile, are already available.
Depending on the PC's processor model and the task, the fix will have varying slowdown effects. PCID and other more recent Intel chips can minimize the performance drop, but exact benchmarks will paint a clearer picture once all the patches are released. The embargo on the details of this Intel CPU flaw is due to expire in a few days, so more specifics should become available soon enough.