Why it matters to you
Unexplained crashes while using Intel’s sixth or seventh generation CPUs could well be due to a bug with hyperthreading.
A new bug discovered in the sixth and seventh generations of Intel’s central processors can affect any chip with hyperthreading enabled. Although a fix exists for some CPUs, it may be worth disabling hyperthreading just in case you run afoul of its potentially quite serious problems.
The microcode bug discovered in the Intel chips could, under certain conditions, cause processors to behave erratically, leading to possible application and system stability issues and even data corruption and data loss, according to Debian.org. The problem can exist on any operating system and will require a microcode update from Intel to fix properly.
The microcode fix for seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors is said to be with motherboard manufacturers right now. It will be distributed as a BIOS/UEFI update, so make sure to check your motherboard maker’s website to see if there’s a recent release. If not, you may want to contact them directly, but disabling hyperthreading in the meantime may be worthwhile.
For sixth-generation Skylake processors, there is an additional option, though updating your BIOS would be the best first step. The Debian wiki has further instructions on updating the microcode yourself, though it won’t be possible for all processors of that generation, and you will need to jump through a few hoops first.
If it seems overly technical, we’d again recommend disabling hyperthreading for now instead.
If you’re unsure whether your CPU is one of the potentially affected generations, there are a few things you can do. Intel has lists of processors from each generation alongside a notification of whether they support hyperthreading, but you’ll need to make sure you know your CPU’s model number. Fortunately finding that out is easy on Windows 10 PCs. Simply right-click on “My PC” select properties and you’ll be taken to the system panel where your processor’s name and number will be listed in an easy to read manner.
Check your CPU against the lists, and if you find it could be affected, take appropriate action.
We have reached out to Intel and have been assured a comment will be coming in short order. We’ll update this piece when we hear back from a representative.