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Microsoft security update trumps Intel's Meltdown and Spectre fix

(Image credit: Image Credit: StockStudio / Shutterstock)

An emergency Windows update has been released by Microsoft that disables Intel's problematic microcode fix for Spectre Variant 2 that was known to lead to frequent reboots and stability issues (opens in new tab)

The company discovered that the chipmaker's fix for the Spectre attack not only caused reboots and stability issues but could also lead to data loss or corruption in certain circumstances. 

Microsoft justified its actions by pointing out the fact that Intel had mentioned its microcode fixes could lead to data loss or corruption in a press release to investors (opens in new tab), saying: 

“Security vulnerabilities and/or mitigation techniques, including software and firmware updates, may result in adverse performance, reboots, system instability, data loss or corruption, unpredictable system behavior, or the misappropriation of data by third parties.” 

Before that time, the chipmaker had only informed users that its update could cause unexpected reboots and unpredictable behaviour on systems utilising its latest processors (opens in new tab)

Microsoft offered further details on its decision to disable Intel's microcode fix, saying: 

“Our own experience is that system instability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption.  We understand that Intel is continuing to investigate the potential impact of the current microcode version and encourage customers to review their guidance on an ongoing basis to inform their decisions.” 

In an effort to prevent data loss from Intel's Spectre updates, Microsoft released an out-of-band update which disables Intel's fix for the Variant 2 Spectre attack.

The company's update that removes the problematic patch is available for Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1 and all of the client and server versions of Windows 10.  The update is currently available from the Microsoft Update Catalog website (opens in new tab) and while it disables Intel's microcode fixes it does leave the fixes for the other two Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities intact. 

Image Credit: StockStudio / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
Anthony Spadafora

After getting his start at ITProPortal and then working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches to how to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.