Windows Defender would hamper the performance of Intel processors

Developer Kevin Glynn, aka “Uncle Webb”, has discovered a weird Windows Defender bug that causes Intel processors to experience a significant performance hit on Windows 10 or 11.

According to a Tech Power Up report (opens in a new tab), the bug causes Windows Defender to “randomly start using all seven hardware performance counters provided by Intel Core processors.” That wouldn’t be a big deal, according to Tech Power Up, except that Defender randomly changes the privilege level of counters – putting them in “mode 2” – which puts it in conflict with other software that tries to use the meter in its typical, “mode 3” state.

Uncle Webb saw his Intel Core i9 10850K processor drop 6% in performance in Cinebench; it claims it may affect users of Intel Core processors from 2008 onwards. Other cases have seen Defender reduce CPU performance by around 4%. He saw no issues on AMD Ryzen processors.

What’s crazy is that there’s no way to predict when Windows Defender will kick in. Uncle Webb says it could happen on startup or anytime after, and unless you actively monitor your CPU’s performance, you won’t know when it’s happening.

There is a rather dubious way to fix this problem if you encounter it: disable Windows Defender. Like Tech Power Up, we don’t recommend this approach, as it will leave your system vulnerable.

Uncle Webb has also developed software that may provide a solution. The first is ThrottleStop 9.5 (opens in a new tab). Once started, press the Windows Defender Boost option, which prevents Defender from randomly using all of your CPU’s performance counters whenever it wants. The other is counter control (opens in a new tab), which does more or less the same thing. Either should allow Windows Defender to defend Windows without hurting your CPU performance.

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Steven L. Nielsen