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Microsoft's Meltdown and Spectre Patch Is Bricking Some AMD PCs ( 299

Mark Wilson writes: As if the Meltdown and Spectre bug affecting millions of processors was not bad enough, the patches designed to mitigate the problems are introducing issues of their own. Perhaps the most well-known effect is a much-publicized performance hit, but some users are reporting that Microsoft's emergency patch is bricking their computers. We've already seen compatibility issues with some antivirus tools, and now some AMD users are reporting that the KB4056892 patch is rendering their computer unusable. A further issue -- error 0x800f0845 -- means that it is not possible to perform a rollback.
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Microsoft's Meltdown and Spectre Patch Is Bricking Some AMD PCs

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  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:03PM (#55886275)
    Microsoft really seems to be de-emphasizing quality assurance in the Windows product. Makes me feel real good about the forced updates of Windows 10.
    • by greenwow ( 3635575 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:41PM (#55886607)

      After firing the vast majority of their QA, why would they expect anything different than a massive drop in quality? They knew this would happen, but decided to do it anyway.

    • by TheDarkMaster ( 1292526 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @03:03PM (#55886809)
      The new guys at Microsoft (the veterans who have created things like Windows NT have now retired), they have not yet understood that you can not make an operating system with the same techniques and procedures they use to create web pages.
    • Microsoft really seems to be de-emphasizing quality assurance in the Windows product. Makes me feel real good about the forced updates of Windows 10.

      Well, hurry up and grab the pitchforks. The article includes this helpful note on the scope of the issue:

      The number of people experiencing the problem appears to be fairly significant

      So we know that... somebody is affected, so it must be indicative of MS's gross incompetence. Oh, and let's be perfectly clear about something. If Microsoft delayed this patch, for any reason, whatsoever, you would still be condemning them for not snapping their fingers and producing a patch for this critical security vulnerability.

      • by geoskd ( 321194 )

        So we know that... somebody is affected, so it must be indicative of MS's gross incompetence. Oh, and let's be perfectly clear about something. If Microsoft delayed this patch, for any reason, whatsoever, you would still be condemning them for not snapping their fingers and producing a patch for this critical security vulnerability.

        incompetence is incompetence. This fault has been around for 6 months at least (I heard July 27th). Apparently all of this time has been necessary to allow all of the major players (except Debian) to create a patch. I find it very difficult to have any sympathy for any organization that cant get a sev 1 problem fixed in 6 months. That is just shameful.

        I, for one, want to know why it takes Microsoft that long? Is it incompetence? Do they not think that our security is that important? A single individual coul

    • You don't need stringent quality control when the patches are FORCED onto users systems. ( ala Windows 10 )

      You only need it when the consumer has a CHOICE to install it or not.

      In other words: The carrot isn't needed as long as you have a stick.

    • Well, it depends. If the patch that's killing AMD systems was prepared with input from Intel then maybe it's working exactly as Intel intended.
  • by Train0987 ( 1059246 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:03PM (#55886281)

    I haven't seen too much online but MS did something to break Windows Updates for many users sometime around Dec 3-5. I have one customer with a couple hundred PC's and Windows Update is still broken on about 70% of them. The only fixes I've seen involve setting the date back on the PC by about 6 months, running Updates again, let it fail, then change the date back to current. The problem with this fix (and the others I've seen) erases the Windows Updates history so it appears they've never been run (and nothing installed prior can be uninstalled)

    • In case it helps, we've found that removing the computer from the domain, performing the Windows updates by setting it to "automatically" (and waiting for them to download & install), and then joining the domain again allows Windows updates to work from that point forward. Of course it's impossible to do en masse, and managing a non-domain computer remotely is ugly. So far this has happened only to Windows servers and some stray employee PCs. Hope this helps, maybe someone can find the real issue.
      • by swb ( 14022 )

        What I don't get is why MS doesn't maintain a standalone "Windows Update" tool that resets/fixes the built-in Windows update client. I would imagine that MS probably knows the top 25 reasons it craps out and could fix them pretty easily.

        • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

          They do:


          Sadly, the success rate IME is only about 50%, and manual methods are required, e.g. turn off Windows Update service, rename "c:\windows\software distribution", restart Windows Update service, and try again.

          Even that doesn't always work.

      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        How about you reformat your disk and recover from backup? I remember having to do that a couple of times. Of course that was decades ago.

        It wasn't quality control that drove me away from MSWind, it was their EULA, but I've got to admit that the current quality on Linux is better than the quality was on MSWind around 2000. Can't even guess about their current quality (outside of aggravated posts, which are biased) because I won't agree to their EULA.

    • Have you tried running WSUS Offline on these? If a future update fixes the problem that might do it.

  • why no rollback (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:06PM (#55886301)

    Why does error 0x800f0845 mean rollback is impossible?

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:24PM (#55886423) Journal

      It causes the Flux Capacitor to revert to 2D matrix transformations, creating more matrices than normal to compensate for dimension loss, which triggers overflows in the TRXR precision-damper register. Next question?

      • You’re running Windows 10 on a Retro Encabulator, aren’t you?

      • by tomxor ( 2379126 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:48PM (#55886663)
        Surely they can just remodulate the the dampening field to allow for higher dimensional transformations in the instruction capacitor in order to invoke the HCF instruction and BURN IT TO HELL!!!11!1
      • Can't you just reverse the polarity?
        • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

          Tried that, it burnt my toast. Can't have that.

          • by tomxor ( 2379126 )

            Tried that, it burnt my toast. Can't have that.

            You forgot to bombard the tray with a tachyon pulse... just plug your headphones into the line-out jack, side->load your nanocode into the IMU and use the 3rd master jumper configuration (the stripey one with a reindeer). Don't forget to butter afterwards not before.

    • Re:why no rollback (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:38PM (#55886577)

      Why does error 0x800f0845 mean rollback is impossible?

      Error 800f0845 (and similar error detail codes) generally means the post-reboot stage of the auto-installer is fubar'd and since this update apparently didn't bother to create a restore point, then you can't easily rollback unless you happened create a restore point before the auto-installer tried to install this update.

      About the only way around these types of errors is to wait until M$FT issues a new windows update troubleshooter which you will probably need to run in safe mode (which also might have to be manually downloaded on another computer depending on how big a mess they made with this original hot fix). Worst case it might involve an in-place upgrade (basically installing windows on top of itself).

      • I can't believe they took safe mode out of Win 10.

        • They did?


          • Re:why no rollback (Score:5, Informative)

            by michaelwigle ( 822387 ) <> on Monday January 08, 2018 @03:52PM (#55887171) Homepage
            The problem here is that you can't initiate safe mode from a cold boot. Both of those methods require you to have a somewhat working OS to start with. If your Windows 10 crashes dead and you turn it off, there is no way to force it into safe mode during startup like you could with previous versions. This is a significant problem for techs who repair systems that have been unplugged to be delivered to a central location. Yes, you can still stick in a Windows 10 bootable disk and repair from there but you shouldn't have to.
            • Re:why no rollback (Score:5, Informative)

              by taustin ( 171655 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @05:52PM (#55888521) Homepage Journal

              I just dealt with this on a computer with an AMD processor, including the 0x800f0845 error.

              Safe mode would not boot.

              After enough failed attempts, it offered me the "repair your computer" option.

              Two system restores - the most recent and the oldest, failed with the 0x800f0845 errror.

              After that, however, a "startup repair" fixed it.

              I am writing this on the computer in question.

              I have no idea if this will work on all AMD equipped computers, but it certainly worked on this one.

            • You can also do 3 interrupted cold boots in a row. That will go to the repair options screen.

              The problem is that EFI booting is too fast to leave time for the button press. They really need to have a separate EFI entry point for this instead of everything being under "Windows Boot Manager" so you can at least easily switch in EFI settings.

      • Fortunately Microsoft doesn't delete restore points when it updates... Right?....
    • It doesn't - the error code (I think - it's not documented) something bad happened on restart. Windows update should have created a restore point (as it usually does) and you can revert the snapshot in safemode or in recovery.

      I've seen it occur on machines with failing disk drives long before this though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The child who wrote the "article" doesn't understand anything. These aren't bricked, as they are fixable with a reinstall.

      Everyone keeps backups like they are supposed to, right?

    • Why does error 0x800f0845 mean rollback is impossible?

      Because 0x23309df008e.

  • AM2+ cpus are quite old even intel system from that time have limited drivers for new windows.

    • Crap, that's what my home PC is running on. Guess it's time to permanently block updates...
      Never mind, I'm good - I'm actually running an AM3 processor (Phenom II X4). Guess it is time to go block updates, though.

      • Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services and export the wuauserv key to a reg file. Then import this reg file:

        Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00


        Run your export to restore the Windows Update service. Run this one to remove it again. Once the updates want to reboot you can remove wuauserv because that has nothing to do with the actual update installation at that point.
    • by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:35PM (#55886553)

      I currently have 4 AM2+ systems running at home and while they are old, they are more then capable for what I need them to do. They're all running Windows 7. So I'll have to look into this before allowing them to be updated.

      Processors are not like they were in the 80's and 90's. In the 1980's it was seriously expensive to update, so I didn't do so as often as I did in the 1990's. I probably updated my systems every 2 to 3 years back then. But I don't' see the need to do so anymore. Unless you are a serious gamer, or do a lot of video editing/transcoding there's no need. It's been a while since I played any games, but the Phenom 2 1100T with an NVidia 730 had enough power to keep all of the settings pretty high and no issues with frame rate. Why should people be forced to send perfectly usable hardware to a landfill simply because it's not the latest shiny thing on the market?

      • Why should people be forced to send perfectly usable hardware to a landfill simply because it's not the latest shiny thing on the market?

        This is a bit of an overreaction. No one is forced to send usable hardware to a landfill. No one at Microsoft intentionally ruined any machines, they just have a bug somewhere and, more important, an inadequate testing system.

        Please don't make a software bug into a conspiracy.

        • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @04:29PM (#55887589)
          "No one at Microsoft intentionally ruined any machines, "

          If you think that's true, explain Windows 10.
        • This is a bit of an overreaction.

          First of all I was responding to the poster that stated that "AM2+ was rather old hardware and even Intel has drives issues with hardware this old". Implying that they shouldn't have to worry about this. But if Microsoft originally cleared these computers to be Win10 compatible, it's pretty shitty to just drop support.

          Perhaps. It depends on if they fix the issue, doesn't it? To be fair, the title is also a bit of an over reaction. This update isn't bricking the system. It's still possible to (re)install a

    • Seems like it ran fine yesterday.

  • by quonset ( 4839537 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:11PM (#55886341)

    Keep shoving those updates down people's throats. Don't give them an opportunity to not update. It's not their machine anyway, so why should they have a choice when or if to update?

  • by banbeans ( 122547 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:25PM (#55886437)

    How much did Intel pay M$ to brick AMD systems?
    *tightens tin foil hat*

    • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

      Especially in the case of Microsoft, Hanlon's razor [] should be applied.

      I don't have a problem with the idea that Intel is trying to actively sabotage AMD (they've done it in the past), but that it seems a lot more likely that Microsoft made a stupid mistake.

    • That was my very first thought, but it does look more and more like a Microsoft mistake.

      My desktop system at home runs Windows 7 Ultimate and I have it set to "tell" me about updates, but let "me" decide when to download & install them. I always wait until all the bugs are known before applying updates. Good thing, too, because all my systems run on AMDs!
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:29PM (#55886497)
    'bricked' means the hardware is messed up, e.g. you can't reinstall an OS.

    I've got some old Athlon boards around I was using until last year. They're great for HTPC if you don't mind a bit of noise from the fan. They make good gaming rigs for e-sports style games if you pair them with something like a 1050 or an RX460. The boards came out after solid state caps were a thing so they last forever.
  • Why is a Meltdown patch affecting AMD? Only commercially avaiable Intel processors are affected by Meltdown.
    • by Misagon ( 1135 )

      ... as far as we know.

      The researchers have not proven that AMD processors could not be affected by a future tweaked version of Meltdown. They have just not been able to perform Meltdown on AMD themselves yet.
      I suppose that Microsoft is therefore choosing to err on the side of caution.

      • Re:Intel Only (Score:4, Informative)

        by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:53PM (#55886703) Homepage Journal
        That doesn't make any sense. AMD is not affected by the bug, so how would Microsoft "fix it"? It is processor specific. Meltdown is INTEL ONLY. But nice spin!
        • The Meltdown paper [] reports warning signs for AMD and ARM chip, but the researchers couldn't get a proof of concept to work (see section 6.4). As of the 3rd ARM has reported that 4 out of their 10 Spectre vulnerable designs are also vulnerable to Meltdown or a variant of it that they discovered. []
          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            Spectre and Meltdown are not the same, though, I believe, Meltdown is a subclass of Spectre. Many of the sites seem to confuse the two, sometimes, I suspect, intentionally. Certainly I suspect the Intel press release of intentionally confusing them.

        • You fix it by not sharing kernel page tables and relying on memory protection to keep it hidden.
          It doesn't matter what CPU you use, you can always not share the kernel memory. Doing different things for different processors is what adds complexity.

          Looks like they tried to make it selective and broke it.

      • Also having a different kernel mapping scheme on Intel and AMD opens up the possibility of Intel only and/or AMD only kernel mode bugs.

        Then again it seems like not all AMD systems are bricked so the patch does seem to have an AMD only kernel mode bug.

        Of course Microsoft being Microsoft it's a bit hard to work out what they did.

  • Not bricking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by samwichse ( 1056268 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:44PM (#55886645)

    The OS has to be reinstalled.

    How is that bricking?

    • Re:Not bricking (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Mashiki ( 184564 ) <> on Monday January 08, 2018 @02:50PM (#55886675) Homepage

      How is that bricking?

      It's not. You get it, I get it, most /. users get it. Average millennial braindead idiot that's pumping out clickbait? Doesn't get it. But it sure sounds shit hot in the media and drives those clicks doesn't it?

      It's the same as hacker, cracker, and phreaker. Only us old people know the difference, to younger kids it's all hacker.

      • It's the same as hacker, cracker, and phreaker. Only us old people know the difference, to younger kids it's all hacker.

        I think you mean to essentially the entire population.

      • You should say "middle-age people". I was born in 72, but my wife and most of her siblings/cousins were born in the 60's, and they act like my parents (or even my grandparents) when it comes to computers. My grandparents are still alive on one side of the family, which makes it difficult for me to feel really old despite what my kids like to tell me. ;-)

    • How is that bricking?

      My conversation with quite a few "normal people" (non-iT folks) with a computer problem they asked me to look at....
      "Yeah. That's going to take a reinstall to fix that. Do you have your Windows install disc?"
      "Uh, what's that?"

      For many if not most people, when this happens, the PC is bricked as far as they know. A new PC purchase is likely to follow.

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      If the repairs to a car after an accident approach or exceed the value of the car, an insurance company considers the car totalled.

      In this case, the average user will probably have to take his computer to a repair place to find out WHY it isn't starting up anymore, pay for diagnostics, then for reinstall of Windows, then have to start installing all his programs and games again, if he's lucky he has a backup of savegames ...

      He is essentially starting over. Might as well buy a new computer rather than go thr

  • I find it hard to believe that any software patch is managing to brick a PC. Short of flashing the BIOS, it's almost impossible to brick a PC with software. A simple format/reinstall will recover the PC without issues.

  • Perfectly safe airship. It can't fly.
  • It makes it really hard for anyone to ever want to trust MS when their patches break the OS, more than twice in your life, much less (it feels like) once a year.

    It is hard for the end users who have 1000's of machines, or just don't understand patching, or simply don't care, to try and remember to patch manually after checking that the patches work. It is hard when you have "It must be patched" rules to follow. I get it, but on the other side, you end up spending weeks rebuilding boxes when you lose all

  • I almost never log in to /. anymore to post as I have found the quality of the site to have dropped off significantly in the past many years. For this though I make an exception.

    For all the hand ringing and complaining about updating windows 10 on a site of technically competent people, for the love of God just go into services and disable windows update. This will stop the evil corporation from pushing crap onto your machine. After all the bitching is done about 'whatever the current crisis' is, turn on

  • by GerryGilmore ( 663905 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @04:17PM (#55887417)
    I tried - despite down-mods - to warn everyone here that over-reacting to this issue would be a big problem, but nnnnnoooooo. We all had to jump on the Panic Train before it got too crowded. To address a vulnerability that A) requires you to be running malware anyway (specific to Meltdown) and B) is excruciatingly difficult to make work (it took over 20 YEARS to find it!!) and C) is lost in the swarm of thousands of known, easy-to-implement malware, people are ready to brick their systems, suffer XX% performance loss and God knows what next just shows that all sense of perspective has been lost to hype and hysteria. Sad!(TM)
    • by Guyle ( 79593 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @05:02PM (#55888005)
      Once a vulnerability is known, if the vulnerability is somehow exploited, and a party is successfully hacked, then the victim becomes liable for whatever resulted from the attack. So yes, now that this is public and those individuals whose moral compasses are pointing south are most likely working to exploit it before patches become widespread, I would feel a sense of urgency about patching my shit. I wouldn't want my company being the first headline of a successful hack and then deal with the aftermath of lawsuits. Whatever probability of likelihood that exists concerning whether a hack will 1) ever happen and 2) what scope of penetration it will allow doesn't matter when it's your ass on the line. That being said, you waving your "I said so!" flag doesn't exactly help anything, either. Has this been overhyped? Probably. Is it still a serious issue? Most definitely. You make it seem like a bug in an update affecting specific systems (and a very small percentage of the market share of desktop PCs, I would add) is a travesty, whereas it's a mistake. Microsoft (like everyone else) makes mistakes. They have a long history of it. They will figure it out and fix it. I would recommend you chill out, have a beer, and let the professionals do their jobs.
      • Congratulations on a well-reasoned response - too rare on /. these days... Specific to Meltdown (what really requires kernel patches that do affect performance), after having read all of the papers, I cannot imagine a scenario whereby malware (which - Yes! - does need to be running on the system) would be written to use such a bizarre technique when a simple PE would allow me to access, say, /proc/kcore much more easily....
        • You are absolutely correct. Much easier exploits to chase after, and to lose sight of those would also spell disaster for any enterprise. But, any decent enterprise should be on top of the known biggies these days, so naturally their focus should be on Meltdown and Spectre. By the way, sorry for the snarkiness, reading it again I realize I went a bit over the top.
  • Bricking? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dawn Keyhotie ( 3145 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @04:21PM (#55887467)

    Kids these days don't even know what it means to brick a device.

    Here's a hint: A bricked device might as well be a brick. It is unusable for its original purpose, forever.

    This incident is nothing more than a fubared update patch. The device (computer) can easily be made useful again by reinstalling the OS, or even waiting for Microsoft to issue a fix. It is certainly not bricked in any sense. Although you might be tempted to throw a brick at it.

  • We've already seen compatibility issues with some antivirus tools, and now some AMD users are reporting that the KB4056892 patch is rendering their computer unusable. A further issue -- error 0x800f0845 -- means that it is not possible to perform a rollback.

    I got a BSOD on my old AMD Athlon 64 3500+ system running Windows 7 Ultimate after applying the 2018-01 Security Monthly Quality Rollup for Windows 7 for x64-based Systems (KB4056894), but was able to recover using System Restore.

  • by ITRambo ( 1467509 ) on Monday January 08, 2018 @05:07PM (#55888093)
    3 1/2 years ago MS announced their intention to use Windows 10 Home and Pro users as the final line of QA, before the Enterprise version gets updated. The reason given was that Enterprise users pay a lot more and are their key customers. The only reason Microsoft might miss consumers, should they leave Windows in droves, would be the loss of the free QA work. Linux is a better alternative for many consumers. Mint is great. Chromebooks are ideal for the elderly that only want to check email and do Facebook. Everything else is available online. Windows is no longer needed by consumers. Typed on my Windows 10 workstation.

UNIX is many things to many people, but it's never been everything to anybody.