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article imageMicrosoft expands Windows Meltdown and Spectre patch availability

By James Walker     Mar 15, 2018 in Technology
Microsoft has announced it is expanding its Meltdown and Spectre patches to a wider range of Windows PCs. In this month's Patch Tuesday security updates, the company delivered Intel's microcode updates to computers which were previously unprotected.
The struggle to protect devices against the Meltdown and Spectre hardware vulnerabilities is still ongoing. The rollout of patches has been significantly obstructed by the chaos caused by rushed releases and lingering technical problems. Two months after news of the flaws first broke, Microsoft's now confident the updates will be stable on a broad array of Windows hardware.
Writing in a blog post this week, John Cable, Microsoft Director of Program Management for Windows Servicing and Delivery, announced the patches have reached a "sustained level" of compatibility with the Windows ecosystem. Microsoft had previously blocked PCs from installing the updates if they were likely to run into issues afterwards.
Devices running Windows 10 will now have this block removed. The antivirus (AV) compatibility check that disabled the installation of cumulative security updates will be disabled by this month's Patch Tuesday release. However, Microsoft will continue to withhold updates from computers using antivirus software that's known to conflict with the patches.
"Some AV products had created compatibility issues with the Windows security updates, by making unsupported calls into the kernel memory, which required us to make AV compatibility checks to manage this risk," Cable explained.
"Based on an analysis of available data, we are now lifting the AV compatibility check for the March Windows security updates for supported Windows 10 devices via Windows Update. This change will expand the breadth of Windows 10 devices offered cumulative Windows security updates, including software protections for Spectre and Meltdown."
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More Windows 7 and 8.1 computers will also be provided with the updates. Microsoft has added software coverage for 32-bit editions of its older operating systems, which will expand the patch availability to more low-end PCs. Most devices running a supported version of Windows will now be offered Intel's microcode updates, provided their processors are covered by the current patches.
Intel currently has Meltdown and Spectre mitigations available for most of its latest desktop platforms. Skylake, Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake chips are generally all protected by their latest firmware versions.
Microsoft directed customers to its updated vulnerability documentation for detailed guidance on which products are protected. The company said it's continuing to work to deliver fixes to more Windows hardware. Customers should update to the latest version of Windows 10, the Fall Creators Update, to stay secure, as Microsoft is preparing to discontinue older releases of the platform.
More about Microsoft, windows 10, Devices, Cybersecurity, Windows updates
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