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Intel releases important security patches for Core processors

Intel releases important security patches for Core processors
Marian Vejcik | Dreamstime.com

Last month, we told you about Intel and Microsoft's problematic patches to protect users against the Spectre and Meltdown chip flaws. Intel's patches were so buggy that they were causing computers to randomly reboot and even lose data. The company has urged users to skip them entirely until further notice.

Microsoft's chip flaw update was also so inconsistent that it was causing PCs to crash and be rendered unbootable. Microsoft even released an emergency patch to undo whatever the Intel Spectre patch did.

Since Intel's first Spectre patch was a dud, the company promised to roll out another patch that will provide protection minus the prior system-breaking bugs. And it looks like that time is now.

Read on and I'll tell you about the latest Spectre patch for Intel processors.

Intel's latest patch

Intel just released a new batch of Spectre version 2 patches for its Kaby Lake -, Coffee Lake-, and some Skylake-based processors.

These are also known as 6th, 7th and 8th Generation Intel Core product lines including the X-series family. The patch is being rolled out for Xeon Scalable and Xeon D processors for data centers too.

The new microcode updates should be more stable than the one they pushed out in January and it will hopefully solve the reboot and shutdown problems that the January Spectre patches introduced.

However, if your computer has an older processor, like a Sandy Bridge-based chipset and earlier, the fixes are not ready yet but they're now in beta. We're expecting them to roll out soon.

Why is Spectre so hard to fix?

Both Meltdown and Spectre exploit a process called "speculative execution," a capability built into every modern processor.

This process makes chips faster by allowing them to predict what tasks your gadget may need and execute them beforehand whether you actually need a task or not. If a task is not needed, then it is discarded.

Since this process is being used as a core optimization technique by all modern chips, fixing the flaw can break how applications and even operating systems work, leading to errors and crashes. Note: It's been almost nine months since Intel was informed of these chip flaws.

How to update

In light of the buggy January updates across the board, we don't blame you if you want to take a wait-and-see approach before installing the latest patches. But if you want to apply the patches now, here are your options:

For now, the microcode patch is being released to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and it is up to them to push out the firmware update to their respective computers.

  • To check if the patch is available on your computer, you can use your OEM computer management tools like HP's Support Assistant or Lenovo's Vantage then check for a BIOS update.
  • You can also manually fetch the update by going to your manufacturer's drivers and downloads page. Again, look for the BIOS update for your particular model. Be careful with this method since BIOS updates are specific to processor models.
  • If you're really cautious about applying these patches, Microsoft and Apple will most likely include the patch in their next batch of Windows and macOS updates so keep an eye out for those. Note: Microsoft regularly issues its updates on the second or third Tuesday of the month.

Worried about updating your Windows PC? Here's how to delay the Automatic Updates.

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