It’s possible that your Intel-based computer isn’t running at full speed right now, and you can blame Windows Defender, the anti-malware tool that comes preinstalled on your system, for that. Error found TechPowerUp Associate Software Author Kevin Glynn causes Windows Defender to “arbitrarily start using all seven hardware performance counters provided by Intel Core processors.” A utility created by Glynn that has been monitoring and logging performance counters for Intel Core processors since 2008 has found that strange behavior causes significant performance degradation.
Due to Defender hogging CPU time, the Core i9-10850K running at 5GHz loses 1000 Cinebench points, about 6% below normal. Owners of 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th generation Intel Core processors on both desktops and laptops are experiencing similar performance spikes. The bug does not affect AMD processors, and some users have reported that 12th generation Intel chips are also protected. We have not independently verified these claims.
As TechPowerUp notes, the main problem is that Windows Defender randomly starts using all seven hardware performance counters, including three fixed function counters. Each counter can be programmed to a different privileged mode and used by multiple programs. For some reason, Defender randomly changes the privilege level of the counters, creating a conflict with programs trying to use them at a different level. This can happen at boot and sporadically thereafter.
To be clear, this is not a problem for Intel processors because manually overriding the counters and resetting them will bring the system back to normal performance. There is no way to prevent Windows Defender from harassing your Intel processor unless you download third party software. You probably won’t even know your CPU is slow unless you actively monitor its performance.
How can I prevent my Intel processor from slowing down due to this Windows Defender error?
In theory, you can disable Windows Defender, but we don’t recommend doing so, as the security boost the program gives you outweighs these performance hits. Another way to get around this error is to download a piece of software created by Glynn called Control counterwhich determines when the Defender starts using all seven performance counters and “resets” them to the appropriate state.
A more permanent solution is to download the TechPowerUp package. ThrottleStop Software v9.5 and turn on the feature called Windows Defender Boost in Settings. This setting activates a programmable timer that the Defender sees and responds to by ceasing to use all counters.
We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update this article. Hopefully the company is aware of this issue and is actively working on a solution so you don’t have to choose between performance and security.
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