Windows 11 Security Features Hit Game Performance

Microsoft has officially released Windows 11, not that you probably have it on your system yet. Unlike past years, Microsoft isn’t giving everyone the option of installing Windows 11 right away, but anyone buying prebuilt from this point forward is likely to encounter it. If you’re going to use that PC for games, Windows 11 might get in your way due to some of its new security features. The impact isn’t huge, but testing from Tom’s Hardware shows it is noticeable. 

Windows 11 supports several new security features, one of which is known as Virtualization-Based Security (VBS). When enabled, VBS uses virtualization to create a secure area in memory that can be used to run other security features like Trusted Platform Modules (TPM) and Hypervisor-Protected Code Integrity (HVCI, sometimes called Memory Integrity). This does come with a hit to CPU performance that can negatively impact gaming, but there’s good news. 

So enabling VBS is bad for gaming, but a feature called Mode Based Execution Control (MBEC) lessens the impact. That’s not available on all processors, but when you look at the supported chips, Microsoft’s Windows 11 restrictions make a little more sense—MBEC requires a 7th generation Intel Core or AMD Zen 2 CPU. Tom’s Hardware benchmarked several games to assess the impact of VBS, finding that Intel CPUs lose about 5 percent of their gaming performance as measured by frame rates. AMD systems were a little lower at 4 percent average. 

Image and data by THG.

These numbers all include MBEC, and things would be much worse otherwise. Still, this drop could be enough to make a game that was borderline into an unplayable experience, and it represents between 1/3 and 1/2 of the performance AMD and Intel have typically delivered generation-on-generation. The good news is VBS does not default to “On” when you install Windows yourself. Microsoft is telling OEMs to use this feature, but gaming-focused systems should have it disabled. In the event you do have VBS enabled on a future Windows 11 machine, it can be disabled to reclaim that lost performance. 

Windows 11 launched on October 5th for new PCs. Windows 11 includes more robust security, a redesigned start menu, new window management features, and a revamped Microsoft Store. Existing Windows 10 machines will get updates for free, but they will arrive on Microsoft’s schedule, and that could stretch well into 2022. 

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