Intel’s Meltdown and Spectre patches are causing reboot issues in older chips

As if dealing with Meltdown and Spectre wasn't enough of a mess already, Intel has revealed that its firmware updates are causing problems on some older PCs.

"We have received reports from a few customers of higher system reboots after applying firmware updates. Specifically, these systems are running Intel Broadwell and Haswell CPUs for both client and data center. We are working quickly with these customers to understand, diagnose and address this reboot issue," Intel said.

In other words, the patches for Meltdown and Spectre may need patches themselves, though Intel has not come to that definitive conclusion just yet. If it's determined that a revised firmware update is needed, the company said it will make it available through normal channels.

The notice comes on the heels of a report in The Wall Street Journal that Intel has been quietly advising its customers not to install the latest firmware updates. WSJ got its hands on a document Intel has been sending out, which recommends that customers "delay additional deployments of these microcode updates" while it figures out the reboot issue.

This puts clients in a tough position. On one hand, with these vulnerabilities now disclosed, there is a sense of urgency to patch up systems as quickly as possible. However, dealing with reboots and other unintended behavior can create a whole new set of headaches.

The good news for the general public is that this doesn't affect them, at least not directly. Intel says that end-users should continue applying updates recommended by their system and operating system providers.

That said, Intel is still assessing the performance impact that patching systems will have. The company recently released an expanded set of benchmarks, including graphics tests. For the most part, the performance penalty has been pretty small, though Intel is currently working on collecting more data from a wider range of platforms and usages.


An earlier version of this article stated that Intel had notified "some" of its customers about the reboot issue, as originally reported by WSJ. Intel reached out us to clarify that it sent notifications about the reboot issue to all of customers, not just some, through its standard patch notification process.

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).