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Windows 11 Performance Issues on Ryzen Fixed by Updates from Microsoft and AMD

Microsoft and AMD on Thursday released software updates that fix the two performance issues affecting AMD Ryzen processors with Windows 11. The two issues were abnormally high L3 cache latency, and a broken "Preferred Cores" system. The companies had assessed that the issues impact performance of Ryzen processors on Windows 11 by as much as 15%.

The two issues are fixed in separate methods. The L3 cache latency bug is improved through a Windows Update patch, which has been released now as an Update Preview (an Update Preview is not a "beta," but a software update released ahead of its designated "patch Tuesday"). The Update Preview is chronicled under KB5006746, and Windows 11 systems updated with this, get their OS build version set as "build 22000.282." The next update restores the Preferred Cores mechanism that leverages UEFI-CPPC2. This update comes in the form of an AMD Chipset Software update. You'll need to download and install both of the following:

DOWNLOAD: Windows 11 October 21, 2021 Update Preview KB5006746 | AMD Chipset Driver Software 3.10.08.506

AMD Processors Lose 15% Gaming Performance with Windows 11, L3 Cache Latency Tripled

Apparently, AMD processors officially compatible with Windows 11, exhibit a three-times increase in L3 cache latency with the new operating system. The new operating system is also found to break the "preferred cores" system on AMD processors (UEFI CPPC2), in which the two "best" CPU cores, which can sustain the highest boost frequencies, are highlighted to the operating system, so most of the light-threaded traffic could be sent to them.

AMD and Microsoft jointly made this discovery, and listed out potential impact on application performance. The increased L3 cache latency affects performance of applications sensitive to memory performance. They also warn of a 10-15% loss in gaming performance. On the other hand, a dysfunctional "preferred cores" system would mean reduced performance in light-threaded tasks as the OS is unaware which are the processor's two best cores. Thankfully, both issues can be fixed via software updates, and AMD is working with Microsoft to push fixes for both issues through Windows Update, in an update rollout scheduled within October 2021.

Need Windows 11 Right Now? Here's How to Get it

Microsoft formally released the new Windows 11 operating system. If you meet its rather steep system requirements, you can just wait for it to appear as an option in Windows Update, as Windows 10 users are eligible for a free upgrade. But if you're like us, and impatient to try new things out (when stable), then there are a couple of ways you can get Windows 11 right now. The first (and safest) way to upgrade is to use the Windows 11 Installation Assistant. This app runs from within your Windows 10 environment, downloads the operating system, tailors it to your machine for the upgrade (with essential device drivers already in place for things like network interfaces and graphics); and upgrades Windows 10 for you.

The next option is the Windows 11 Media Creation Tool. You're probably familiar with this one. It's a Windows application that lets you download Windows 11 to create a bootable USB flash drive installation media, or even put out an ISO file that you can burn DVDs or other removable media with. The third option is the bare Windows 11 RTM (release to market) ISO file. The latter two options are recommended if you want to do a clean-slate installation for your machine. Creating ISO files would be particularly applicable to those installing Windows 11 on virtual machines, where the VM software can use the ISO file to emulate an installation media.

DOWNLOAD: Windows 11 Installation Assistant | Windows 11 Media Creation Tool | Windows 11 ISO Files

Microsoft Dives into the Internals of Windows 11

Microsoft released a fairly detailed run-down of the under-the-hood changes it made to Windows 11 over its predecessor. The operating system is optimized for a zero-trust work environment. This explains making a hardware TPM 2.0 device a minimum system requirement. The company may even penalize PCs running unsupported hardware with no access to security updates. The company also described fine-grained application performance prioritization, which automatically prevents "trivial" apps from taking up too many system resources.

Apps running in the foreground also automatically get a higher app priority. This is particularly useful when your CPU is bogged down with a heavy workload, and you're trying to open a new app. The OS automatically rations resources to ensure the app you just launched is prioritized, making the experience snappy. This technology carries forward even to the Edge web-browser, where the tab that's active has more priority, and tabs that haven't been accessed in a while are put to "sleep" (i.e. their memory is completely paged, and they're given least system resources). Microsoft calls this "Sleeping Tabs." Microsoft claims that the feature can reduce memory savings by around 30%, which could be handy for your foreground tasks. With the feature enabled, the OS (or Edge) handle prioritization automatically.

Microsoft to Ban Unsupported Machines from Windows 11 Updates

With pre-release builds of Microsoft's upcoming operating system, Windows 11, doing rounds, the PC enthusiast community has developed various workarounds to the system requirement of a hardware trusted-platform module 2.0 (TPM 2.0) for the operating system. Microsoft itself also suggested that those on older machines (without TPMs), who cannot upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11, have the option of performing a clean-installation of the new operating system using its ISO installer disk image.

These machines, however, will be treated as "unsupported," will not have access to Windows Update, and may potentially be barred from receiving important security updates. Microsoft recommends, however, that those who don't meet the system requirements of Windows 11 remain on Windows 10. The company plans to maintain support for Windows 10 up to October 14, 2025, which means four more years of security updates for the older operating system. The choice, hence, would be between upgrading hardware to meet Windows 11 requirements, or to remain on Windows 10 until Q4-2025.

Microsoft Account and Internet Connection Mandatory for Windows 11 Home Setup

Windows 11 Home setup will require you to have a Microsoft account and a working Internet connection handy. "Windows 11 Home edition requires internet connectivity and a Microsoft Account to complete device setup on first use," lists Microsoft as part of the operating system's requirements. In addition, all editions of Windows 11 will require Internet connection to receive updates, and a Microsoft Account for some tasks. "For all Windows 11 editions, internet access is required to perform updates and to download and take advantage of some features. A Microsoft account is required for some features," it adds. The requirement for Internet makes sense as Microsoft will be using Windows Update as the main medium of distributing Windows 11. It will be offered as a free upgrade for existing Windows 10 users.

Microsoft's New Windows Update Allows GPU Selection According to Workload

Microsoft's future update to Windows 10 will add a GPU-aware selector that allows both the OS and the user to adaptively select the best GPU for each usage scenario. The preview release of Windows 10 build 20190 features this in two ways. First is an OS-level layer that automagically selects the best GPU for the task at hand between installed options (let's assume, an Intel iGPU and your discrete GPU). For web browsing or productivity it's expected the OS will switch to the less power-hungry option, whilst for gaming and its all-cylinders philosophy, it would launch the discrete option.

However, if you're not much into ceding that kind of control to the OS itself, you can override which specific GPU is activated for a specific application. This change is made via the Settings panel with a drop down menu in Graphics Settings. This feature should be a particular boon for laptops that don't feature a power-saving technology that enables this kind of behavior, but there are some other usages for power users that might come in handy with this OS-level integration.

Microsoft Replaces Windows Insider Rings with Channels

We are transitioning and converting our current ring model, based on the frequency of builds, to a new channel model that pivots on the quality of builds and better supports parallel coding efforts. In addition to this change, Insiders will also find similar offering names and expectations across Windows and Office programs and soon Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Teams. Our goal is to not only make it clearer for existing Insiders to choose the experience that's right for them, but also for new Insiders to pick the right channel as they join. The Insider community is very important to us all and we're working to align how all our Insider programs work better together across Microsoft.

Microsoft's New Chromium Based Edge Browser Now Rolling Out Via Windows Update

Microsoft released the first preview of its overhauled chromium-based edge browser back in January, but users had to navigate to Microsoft's site to install the browser. The new browser will now automatically roll out to versions of Windows 10 from version 1803 onwards, this will mean up to a billion installs of the updated browser. The New Edge browser when installed via windows update completely replaces the previous Edge browser whereas the website install coexists with the existing Edge browser.

Windows 10 May 2020 Update Starts Rolling Out to the Public

Microsoft began rolling out the Windows 10 May 2020 Update (version 2004) to the public. You can have Windows Update check for updates, and offer to upgrade Windows whenever it's available; or head over to the Microsoft website in the link below, and get the Windows Update Assistant and upgrade now. Windows 10 May 2020 Update introduces improved Network Connections, particularly with Bluetooth; the new DirectX 12 Ultimate API that enables richer gaming experiences, the Windows Hello. Hitting the Windows key + . (period key) invokes the new emoji menu that includes Kaomojis. Improvements have also been made to Edge, Cortana, and Windows Accessibility.
DOWNLOAD: Windows 10 May 2020 Update (Update Assistant)

Windows 10 Game Mode Negatively Impacts "Call of Duty: Warzone" Performance

The "Game Mode" toggle Microsoft introduced with Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (1709), is designed to improve gaming performance by prioritizing system resources for the game at the expensive of background processes, and preventing Windows Update from performing any automatic tasks (such as GPU driver updates, which would most certainly ruin your game). With "Call of Duty Warzone," however, this toggle appears to be having the opposite effect.

The Game Mode toggle reportedly causes Warzone to stutter, and sometimes even freeze. Apparently Windows 10 doesn't recognize it as a game. The issue affects users of both AMD and NVIDIA graphics hardware. It has so far been reproduced on the likes of the GTX 1080 Ti, GTX 980, RX 5700 XT, RX 570, RX 480, and R9 290. For now there's no workaround other than to simply disable Game Mode in Windows Settings. Find it in the "Gaming" section.

Windows 10 2004 Could Come Out in May

Microsoft could release the next major update to Windows 10, aka 2004, in May as the Windows 10 May 2020 Update (build 19041.173). Codenamed "Manganese," Windows 10 2004 has been released to Windows Insiders (slow ring), who can now either update their current installations or get ISO files for the new operating system. For the rest of us, Microsoft could release the software some time in May. Windows 10 2004 introduces a "restore this PC from the cloud" option, refined Windows Update management system; a more functional Task Manager that can show GPU temperatures; improvements to Cortana, Windows Search, and Network management.

Microsoft Freezing Optional Windows Updates Amidst COVID19 Pandemic

Microsoft yesterday announced that they would be freezing any release for optional Windows 10 updates whilst the world still reels from the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision by the company comes after they decided to keep delivering security updates for the Fall Creator's update (version 1709 of the OS).

Both these decisions by Microsoft stem from the company trying to reduce the impact of Windows 10 updates on businesses - reducing update requirements to security updates means there is fewer chances of an optional update shipping that could negatively impact productivity - of which very little bit is required right now for some businesses to even keep afloat. When the crisis has passed, all updates will be resumed.

Microsoft Pushes Intel "Haswell" Microcode Update to Harden Against MDS

Microsoft started deploying microcode updates to some of Intel's older Core, Pentium, and Celeron processor generations through Windows Update. The latest Cumulative Update packages chronicled under "KB4497165" apply to machines running Intel's 4th generation Core "Haswell" processors, and low-power Pentium and Celeron chips based on "Apollo Lake," "Gemini Lake," "Valley View," and "Cherry View" microarchitectures.

The microcode update provides firmware-level hardening against four major variants of the MDS class of security vulnerabilities, namely CVE-2019-11091 (MDS Uncacheable Memory), CVE-2018-12126 (Microarchitectural Store Buffer Data Sampling), CVE-2018-12127 (Microarchitectural Load Port Data Sampling), and CVE-2018-12130 (Microarchitectural Fill Buffer Data Sampling).

Windows 10 May 2019 Update 1903 Gaming Performance Tested in 21 Titles, with RTX 2080 Ti and Radeon VII

Microsoft earlier today released to market its latest version of Windows 10, the May 2019 Update (version 1903). There was quite some talk about Microsoft tweaking the kernel to improve CPU performance. Other gamer-relevant changes include updates to WDDM (display driver model), and an updated DirectX 12, which now supports variable-rate shading. A similar technology is available on Vulkan, and has already been implemented in games such as "Wolfenstein: The New Colossus." With much talk about the latest Windows being better for games than the previous Windows 10 Fall 2018 Update (1809), we decided to take it for a spin.

After backing-up our 1809 installation onto a disk image, we updated to 1903 using Windows Update, with the same driver- and game versions as our recently-updated setup (details here). We then put the machine through our entire selection of 21 games, and two high-end graphics cards, the AMD Radeon VII and the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. We used driver versions 19.5.1 for AMD, and 430.64 for NVIDIA, both of which support Windows 1903. Our tests span 1920x1080 (Full HD), 2560x1440 (1440p), and 3840x2160 pixels (4K) resolutions. We present our data as percentage gain/loss over Windows 1809, with three data-points per game, each representing the three resolutions in the order "Full HD", "1440p", and "4K". The first graph below covers the RTX 2080 Ti, and the second one Radeon VII.

Intel Releases CPU Microcode Updates For MDS Vulnerabilities Unearthed on May 14

Intel released CPU microcode updates to address four new security vulnerabilities disclosed by the company on May 14, 2019. These microcode updates can be encapsulated as motherboard UEFI firmware updates, and for some processors even distributed through Windows Update. In its Microcode Revision Guidance document put out on Tuesday, Intel revealed that all Core and Xeon processors going as far as the 2nd generation Core "Sandy Bridge" architecture are eligible for microcode updates.

2nd generation Core is roughly the time when motherboard vendors were forced to adopt UEFI (unrelated to these vulnerabilities). A number of low-power microarchitectures, such as "Gemini Lake," "Cherry View," "Apollo Lake," and "Amber Lake," which are basically all low-power processors released after 2012-13, also receive these updates. Until you wait for your motherboard vendor or PC/notebook OEM to pass on these microcode updates, Intel advises you to disable HyperThreading if your processor is older than 8th gen "Coffee Lake," and seek out the latest software updates.
Additional slides follow.

Microsoft Reconsiders: No More Forced Updates in Windows 10

One of the big no-nos for some users looking to upgrade do Windows 10 was the fact that Microsoft enforced constant, 6-month update cycles independent of whether users wanted them or not. This move was done to streamline the update process and keep all users at parity when it comes to important security and feature updates that Microsoft considered relevant. However, it seems Microsoft is now abandoning this practice, which means that users that like to know exactly what is being changed in their systems - and at a time of their convenience - now have one less reason to not upgrade.

Not only will Windows no longer push updates inadvertently, now home users will also have the ability to not only pause updates, but also remove them. There's a caveat, though - you won't be able to postpone feature updates forever. As it stands, Microsoft has an 18 month "end of life" period for major Windows 10 versions, which means that after your 18 months of postponing updates are up (and all of the kinks have been ironed out), you PC will still update to the latest version. There are some other details, which I will transcribe from the Microsoft blog post for your perusal.

Microsoft Issues Fix for "Performance Degrading" Windows 10 Update

Let's give credit where it is due- Microsoft was quick in admitting that their Windows 10 update (KB4482887) from March 1 had a detrimental effect on performance, especially as it related to specific gaming scenarios. Under a week later, we now have a public fix available as well. The latest update from today, March 12, is version KB4489899 (OS Build 17763.379) and claims to address "an issue that may degrade graphics and mouse performance with desktop gaming when playing certain games, such as Destiny 2, after installing KB4482887", among other things.

Other listed improvements and fixes include improved HoloLens tracking and device calibration, solving a bug that caused some users to get "Error 1309" when dealing with some .MSI and/or .MSP files, and a host of general security updates to various Microsoft software solutions. There remain some issues with this update, however, which are listed in the source page linked below. The update should be available for download and install automatically via Windows Update, as of the time of this post.

PSA: "NVIDIA Installer cannot continue" on Windows October 2018 Update and How To Fix It

For those doing a fresh install of Microsoft's latest Windows 10 operating system (version 1809 October 2018 Update), you may encounter an issue with NVIDIA graphics drivers. Namely, a message may pop up when you install the graphics driver, telling you "The standard NVIDIA graphics driver is not compatible with this version of Windows". The issue is caused by the operating system automatically installing the GeForce 398.36 DCH graphics driver through Windows Update, immediately after first log-on. DCH drivers are also known as "Universal Windows Driver", "UWD", "DCHU", and "Declarative, Componentized, Hardware Support App", and leverage the Windows UWP platform for driver control panels while promising simpler updates and maintainability.

If networking is available during the Windows 10 installation, the operating system will automatically look for a graphics driver on Windows Update, which is a good thing, as it simplifies the setup process for the majority of users. At this point, everything will appear to be fine, however, once you attempt to update from that driver to the newest version from NVIDIA's driver download page, the error will appear. This is highly frustrating for some users, who have been reporting the issue on several online forums, including NVIDIA's own, with little attention paid thus far from their developers. We encountered the problem ourselves today, during the setup of our 2019 SSD review benchmarking install and got motivated to investigate this further.

Windows 10 Oct 2018 Update Process Runs Aground with Certain Intel Processors, Fix Released

Microsoft earlier this week released Windows 10 October 2018 (version 1809) update. You can either get it through Windows Update, and install it leaving your personal files and settings largely unchanged, or perform a clean install by making yourself an install media using Microsoft's Media Creation Tool. PC Watch noticed something curious about getting the new Windows version through Windows Update on their notebook. The process was sapping too much power from the battery, and the update process is interrupted by an incompatible driver dialog (screenshot below).

Intel processors running with Gen 9.5 iGPUs enabled (that's 6th generation "Skylake" or later), expose an integrated audio controller to the operating system. This controller is responsible for digital audio output through the iGPU's HDMI and DisplayPort connectors, and is similar to the one NVIDIA and AMD integrate with their discrete GPUs. Users with driver version 10.25.0.3 or older for this controller, could run into problems when Windows Update is re-loading the drivers as part of the upgrade process. Intel has since released driver version 10.25.0.10 part of the latest Graphics Drivers 25.20.100.6323. If you're still on Windows 10 version 1803 and use your iGPU, it's recommended that you update your Intel graphics drivers before initiating Windows Update to version 1809.

NSA's Windows Exploit "DoublePulsar" Being Actively Utilized in the Wild

The "DoublePulsar" exploit exposed recently as part of the leaked NSA-derived hacking toolkit posted online, is set to become one of the more significant issues related to the leak. Not because it is unpatched, because it has been patched for roughly a month, but rather because according to a threatpost.com report, few users are as up to date as they should be.

User Patch Unlocks Windows 7 and 8.1 Updates for Core "Kaby Lake" and Ryzen

Microsoft, in a bid to ensure users of 7th generation Intel Core "Kaby Lake," AMD A-series "Bristol Ridge," and AMD Ryzen "Summit Ridge" processors stick to Windows 10, ensured that the three platforms don't receive software updates when running older Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 operating systems. A new user-made patch removes this draconian restriction, letting you install Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 on your new-generation CPU powered machine, and receive regular software updates through Windows Update.

The patch is open-source, so you can inspect its code, and available on GitHub. The author of the patch, Zeffy, discovered two new functions to system file wuaueng.dll after the March 2017 update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, labeled "IsCPUSupported(void)" and "IsDeviceServiceable(void)." This library is patched to toggle those two functions "1," telling Windows Update that the CPU is "supported" and that the platform is "serviceable," making it eligible to receive updates.

DOWNLOAD: New-gen CPU Windows Update Unlocking Patch for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 by Zeffy

Microsoft Showcases Latest Updates to Windows

Wednesday at Build 2014, Microsoft Corp.'s developer conference, the company announced several advances to Windows including Windows Phone 8.1, the availability of Windows 8.1 Update, a converged developer platform, and a $0 royalty licensing program for OEM and ODM partners developing smartphones and tablets with screens under nine inches.

Microsoft detailed new developer opportunities on the Windows platform with a common platform across devices, a single toolset, a common infrastructure across the Windows and Windows Phone stores, and a clear commitment to interoperability. The announcements highlight Microsoft's continued commitment to its partners and the developer community by maximizing opportunities across the broadest range of devices and services. Also as a part of the conference, Nokia announced three new Lumia smartphones for Windows Phone 8.1, including the flagship Lumia 930, the affordable Lumia 635 and the first dual-SIM Lumia 630.

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Leaked

Ahead of its anticipated mid-March launch, the Update 1 package of Windows 8.1 was leaked to the web. Not very different in definition to a service pack, Update 1 adds a host of features and under-the-hood changes to Windows 8.1. When updated, it should change the version string of your Windows 8.1 installation to look something along the lines of "6.3.9600.17031.WINBLUE_GDR.140221-1952." You'll notice how it's formatted similar to those of Microsoft's Windows Phone operating systems. NGOHQ.com hosts a repository of the Microsoft Update (*.msu) files that must be applied in sequence, to update your Windows 8.1 installation. If you're not sure, wait out till the update is formally out, and Windows Update will update the operating system with close to zero user intervention.
DOWNLOAD: Windows 8.1 Update 1 MSU files

No Service Pack 2 for Windows 7: Report

Microsoft has no plans to release a new service pack (SP) for Windows 7. Sources at Microsoft's engineering team told The Register that breaking precedent (of releasing a new SP every 2 or so years), Microsoft will not release SP2 (service pack 2) for the operating system. Apart from being a collection of important software updates over a period, a service pack allows Microsoft to introduce major updates to key components of the operating system, such as its kernel. Apparently, Microsoft's Windows team is too busy with Windows 8, and it is observed that by choosing to not release an SP, Microsoft could be pushing users to its newer OS. Instead of newer SPs for Windows 7, Microsoft will release timely updates for Windows 7 SP1 over Windows Update, till the operating system's support lifetime runs out (that's January 2020).
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