Intel's Gemini Lake Encounters Serious Bugs When Using Some 64-Bit Software (Update)

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Update, 10/07/2019 2:45pm PT: Intel has provided us with the following statement, indicating a fix is on the way:

“The reliability of our products is a top priority for Intel. Under a complex set of micro architectural conditions, end users may potentially experience application crashes on systems based on Intel Pentium Silver and Intel Celeron Processors (codename Gemini Lake). Intel has released a microcode update to our customers and partners that mitigates this issue, and is working with them to make it available to end users.”

Original Article, 10/07/2019 8:50am PT:

Phoronix reported that Google and Mozilla have been experiencing many "impossible" crashes on Intel Gemini Lake-based processors. These crashes have been confirmed to happen on Chrome and Firefox when using the 64-bit version, and other software might also be affected. Google and Mozilla have investigated the issue and devised a workaround for it.

For anyone unaware, Gemini Lake is Intel's Atom-based low power solution for cheap mobile devices, primarily laptops. It is not like Intel's mainstream Core architecture (currently represented by Sky Lake, Coffee Lake, Cascade Lake, and Ice Lake), so the bugs present in the handful of Gemini Lake-based processors that exist should not be present in Intel's other offerings, like the Xeon and Core families.

Google started its investigation in May and by September had issued a workaround based on forcing the processor to read instructions without "crossing select 16-byte boundaries." Mozilla, the parent of the Firefox browser, also investigated and discovered the issue was introduced by a microcode update, meaning there is likely no inherent hardware issue causing the problem.

The easiest solution to the issue is switching to 32-bit programs, but now that 32-bit is getting phased out, you might have some trouble finding 32-bit versions of some software. Luckily, as this is likely just a microcode issue, Intel might be able to fix it without needing to issue a hardware revision.

We've reached out to Intel for comment on the matter and will update as necessary.

Matthew Connatser

Matthew Connatser is a freelancing writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes articles about CPUs, GPUs, SSDs, and computers in general.