Belay that order: Intel says you should NOT install its Meltdown firmware fixes

You know how you’re supposed to flash the BIOS or update the UEFI on all of your Intel machines, to guard against Meltdown/Spectre? Well, belay that order, private! Intel just announced that you need to hold off on all of its new patches. No, you can’t uninstall them. To use the technical term, if you ran out and applied your Intel PC’s latest firmware patch, you’re hosed.

In what appears to be a catastrophic curtain call to the “oops” moment that I discussed 10 days ago, it now seems that the bright, new firmware versions — which Intel has had six months to patch — have a nasty habit of causing “higher system reboots.”

According to Executive Vice President Navin Shenoy, on the Intel Newsroom site, the current advice is:

We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior.

And that covers just about everybody in the sentient non-ARM universe.

While the affected products site doesn’t list individual chips, the breadth of the recall is breathtaking — second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-generation Core processors, Xeon, Atom, and lesser Core i3, i5 and i7 processors — they’re all in the bin.

Meltdown/Spectre firmware updates from HP, Lenovo and Dell are worthless

By implication, that means the Meltdown/Spectre firmware updates you’ve installed from Lenovo or HP or Dell are officially trash. They’ll make your system unstable.

No official word from Microsoft, but it seems highly likely that the Surface firmware updates from Jan. 10 (“Surface – Firmware – 108.1926.769.0” and “233.1903.770.0,” among many others) are similarly afflicted. If you have Automatic Update turned on, you probably already have the buggy firmware, since Surface firmware patches get distributed through Windows Update.

If it makes you feel any better, yesterday Linus Torvalds launched another one of his trademarked broadsides, saying that from a Linux perspective, the Intel patches:

do literally insane things. … I really don’t want to see these garbage patches just mindlessly sent out. … I think we need something better than this garbage.

What can you do about it? Not much. Except to realize that not one single Meltdown- or Spectre-based piece of malware is in circulation.

Moral of the story: It pays to hold off on firmware patches, too.

Intel support group meeting currently in session on the AskWoody Lounge.