Intel quietly releases Spectre fixes for Haswell and Broadwell CPUs

Intel's finally fixed the Spectre fixes for Haswell and Broadwell CPUs, after yanking earlier microcode updates due to instability.

Credit: Thomas Ryan/IDG

The fixed Spectre fixes are coming fast and furious now. Intel quietly pushed CPU firmware updates out for Haswell (4th-generation) and Broadwell (5th-generation) processors earlier this week, following in the footsteps of recent microcode patches for Skylake (6th-gen), Kaby Lake (7th-gen), and Coffee Lake (8th-gen) processors.

The Broadwell and Haswell patches were designated as “in production” in Intel’s recent microcode update guidance, as Tom’s Hardware first noticed. Intel did not publish a blog post heralding their release. The company’s roadmap shows that it plans to issue fixes for processors all the way back to the decade-old Nehalem and Penryn generations.

These firmware updates protect against the nasty Spectre (variant 2) CPU exploits that affect virtually all modern processors. The new releases are Intel’s second go at a fix, after a rushed first round of microcode patches sparked random reboots, occasional data loss, and other system instabilities. Intel pulled the bad patches on January 22. We haven’t heard of any instability complaints with this new round of fixes.

install intel cpu motherboard Thomas Ryan/IDG

Don’t expect to see the updates immediately. They need to trickle down through hardware suppliers like Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Asus in the form of motherboard BIOS updates; you can’t grab it directly from Intel. If you own a laptop or prebuilt PC from a major manufacturer, keep an eye out for an available update. It’s trickier if you built your own PC, so we published a guide on how to find Spectre CPU fixes for DIY computers.

Be warned: The Spectre CPU firmware updates will affect your PC’s performance, though it varies wildly depending on your hardware, operating system, and tasks at hand. In general, expect processors older than Skylake to suffer a larger performance hit, especially if you’re on Windows 7 or 8. We’ve tested the Spectre fix’s performance impact on a newer Surface Book as well as a 5th-gen Broadwell laptop. We’ve also explained how to test how much Spectre and Meltdown hurt your PC’s performance, since it differs so much from system to system.

You should install the CPU microcode updates regardless. Security researchers have seen attackers testing malware that exploit Meltdown and Spectre in the wild. Keep your system’s protection vigilant (PCWorld’s guide to the best antivirus software can help if you need it) and don’t stop with these processor updates. With Meltdown and Spectre touching so many parts of your system, this microcode is just one part of the security solution. Check out how to protect your PC against Meltdown and Spectre for a walkthrough on how to lock down every aspect of your computer.

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

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

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.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?