Spectre CPU patches can cause unwanted reboots, Intel warns

But you should still install them.

Credit: Gordon Mah Ung/IDG

The firmware patches designed to protect Intel processors against nasty Spectre CPU exploits have a big downside: They’re forcing more frequent reboots on some systems, including PCs that released in 2017.

On January 11, Intel said that the firmware patches prompted more frequent reboots in Haswell (2013) and Broadwell (2014) systems. Late Wednesday, Intel executive vice president Navin Shenoy revealed that many other processor generations also succumb to the reboot bug: Sandy Bridge (2011), Ivy Bridge (2012), Skylake (2015), and Kaby Lake (2017). The only processors from the last five years that run without issue—yet, at least—appear to be the newest Intel 8th-gen CPUs, dubbed Coffee Lake.

“We have reproduced these issues internally and are making progress toward identifying the root cause,” Shenoy says. “In parallel, we will be providing beta microcode to vendors for validation by next week.”

meltdown spectre Google/Natascha Eibl

Even with the reboot issue, the existing firmware updates still deliver valuable protection against potential Spectre attacks. "Intel recommends that partners maintain availability of existing microcode updates already released to end users,” the company’s security advisory says. “Intel does not recommend pulling back any updates already made available to end users.”

Install the patch, swallow any unwanted reboots, and keep an eye out for further fixes coming down the line, in other words. Spectre attacks haven’t been observed in the wild, but now that the exploits have been published, they’re no doubt coming. AMD says its processors have “near-zero” risk to the Spectre variant that require a microcode update, but it is nevertheless releasing optional firmware updates for its chips.

Attackers need to be able to run code on your PC to exploit the CPU flaws. Staying strong on the security front can keep malware that gives hackers access to your PC off your PC. PCWorld’s review of the best antivirus suites can help you find solid protection. But guarding against these exploits requires more than security software and fresh firmware. These flaws touch every aspect of your computer. Check out PCWorld’s guide on how to protect your PC against Meltdown and Spectre for everything you need to know.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags intel

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?