Friday, 26 March 2010

Installing Intel Microcode Updates

It is not unknown for personal computers to be shipped with subtle and rarely occurring bugs in the x86 processor. Normally these bugs can be fixed with microcode updates that get loaded by the BIOS at boot time. However, re-flashing a BIOS may be deemed to risky (since it can brick a machine) or perhaps one can no longer get BIOS updates to an older machine.

This is where the Intel microcode updates come in useful. To install these on Ubuntu use:

sudo apt-get install intel-microcode

These may then fix subtle bugs, so it's always worth a try when you see strange processor related issues such inexplicable memory related oopses.

The caveat is that the microcode is loaded late in boot time, so you may not be able to workaround bugs in the early boot phase. For example, when coming out of hibernate you may hit a processor related bug that's fixed with the microcode update - however, the microcode is loaded late into the resume from hibernate phase, so it cannot be fixed this way.


  1. My favourite solution for a bricked BIOS was in PC Format a few years ago. Find a spare chip from somewhere that works. Boot the PC with the new chip and once started swap the chips around and flash the bricked one. Always seemed a little risky(!), which is why I had a preference for gigabyte boards with their backup bios chip. Not that I ever needed one.

  2. @Tim, that's a nice workaround. I always hate reflashing kit, because I know one day it will bite me and I won't have a "get out of jail free" card. Hence the trick of using the kernel loadable microcode update - this is a really useful feature IMHO.