Windows updates blocked on PCs using anti-virus software incompatible with Meltdown fix

Windows updates blocked on PCs using anti-virus software incompatible with Meltdown fix

Matt Blowes January 11, 2018 Security

Computers with anti-virus software incompatible with Microsoft's patches for the Meltdown and Spectre flaws will no longer receive Windows updates. That's the hard line Microsoft is taking in the wake of the vulnerabilities impacting millions of devices. 

Shortly after the two flaws were revealed, Microsoft swiftly released patches on January 3. However if the patches are installed on computers with certain third party anti-virus software products they can can cause serious performance issues including system crashes. Microsoft is preventing those machines from being able to download the patches until the anti-virus software is fixed and updated.

In a further escalation, Microsoft will withhold all future updates to Windows computers which have not applied the Meltdown and Spectre patches. An attempt to force anti-virus software makers to update their own software.

However updates may not be blocked permanently. Microsoft left open the possibility updates would be re-enabled at a later date if enough anti-virus makers update their protection software in the meantime. 

Microsoft pulls patch for older AMD computers

Elsewhere, Microsoft have pulled the same Meltdown and Spectre patches for computers using older AMD processors. The patches have reportedly caused some computers to be "bricked". A situation where the computer will not load Windows. 

The issue does not appear to be widespread, though it is serious. The affected AMD processors are roughly a decade old, from the AMD Athlon & Sempron range. 

Microsoft blamed inaccurate documentation from AMD for the issue. AMD has not responded to Microsoft's claims. 

Spectre to remain an issue for the long-term

The complex Spectre flaw looks to be an issue that will continue for months, if not years to come. It is a fundamental design flaw for most processors

It's likely that fixes will come from a variety of software makers, not just device and operating system makers. Unfortunately there is no time-frame for those fixes. 

For now, it appears the Spectre flaw will remain an ongoing issue.

This article was written with assistance from our Systems Engineer Brian Hunter. 

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