How to find your motherboard's Spectre CPU fix

Operating system patches alone can protect against the nasty Meltdown flaw affecting Intel processors, but fixing Spectre—Meltdown’s nasty sibling, which affects all CPUs—requires firmware updates for your hardware. Those firmware fixes are finally starting to appear after Intel’s first round of Spectre patches were yanked for causing system instability and potential data loss. Stable patches for 6th-gen Intel Skylake CPUs are now available, and both Intel and AMD are working on CPU microcode updates for other chips.

Installing Spectre fixes aren’t so easy, though, especially if you’re using a computer you’ve built yourself, or one from a boutique PC builder that uses off-the-shelf parts. You can’t download CPU firmware patches directly from Intel or AMD; instead, you need to download them from your motherboard’s provider, such as Asus, Gigabyte, or ASRock. You’ll need to know your motherboard’s model number to find the correct firmware for your device, too, and Windows doesn’t make that easy to find.

It’s a mess—but we can help you find and install Spectre CPU firmware fixes for your DIY PC. After you’ve done so, be sure to check out PCWorld’s supplementary guide on how to protect your PC from Meltdown and Spectre, as well as our comprehensive Meltdown and Spectre FAQ.

How to find your motherboard’s Spectre firmware fix

First things first: Before you can download your DIY PC’s firmware update, you need to know what motherboard you’re using. If you don’t know that information offhand (or don’t have your motherboard’s packaging stashed away somewhere) then download HWInfo, free software beloved by DIY enthusiasts for revealing nitty-gritty aspects of your computer’s hardware.

hwinfo spectre Brad Chacos/IDG

Where to find your motherboard model in HWInfo. (Click any image in this article to enlarge it.)

After installing and running HWInfo, close the system summary window that provides an overview of your key system specs. In the main HWInfo interface, click Motherboard in the left-hand navigation pane. Details about the hardware then appear in the main pane. You’re looking for the “Computer brand name” entry, which lists your motherboard’s model (Gigabyte AX370-Gaming 5 in the screenshot above).

spectre gigabyte gaming Brad Chacos/IDG

BIOS updates for the Gigabyte AX370-Gaming 5 are located in the downloads section of the board’s support tab.

With that information in hand, look for your motherboard’s model in your search engine of choice. The manufacturer’s page for it should appear near the top of the results; that’s the link you want. (For example, I’d want the AX370-Gaming 5 page on Gigabyte’s website for this PC.)

Here’s where things get tricky. You’re looking for the latest available BIOS for your motherboard, which some manufacturers hide in a support page, others hide in a dedicated “downloads” or “drivers and tools” tab, and yet others hide in a “downloads” or “drivers and tools” section of the support page. Keep poking around until you find the appropriate area.

spectre bios gigabyte gaming Brad Chacos/IDG

Clean, descriptive BIOS update notes are always welcome.

Most motherboard manufacturers list available BIOS versions in chronological order, with the newer updates at the top. Each should be listed with a version number and a release date. As I’m writing this on February 8, 2018, AMD hasn’t released any CPU firmware patches yet, and Intel only just released the first round of “fixed” Spectre patches yesterday, for 6th-gen Skylake CPUs alone. Any Spectre-related motherboard BIOSes will be dated 2/8/2018 or later, in other words. Earlier BIOS updates that include CPU microcode fixes are the buggy version Intel yanked. You don’t want those!

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