Should I install proprietary microcode-firmware-thingy on Ubuntu?


#1

On my Ubuntu laptop, I recently discovered that my system is missing some microcode-firmware-thingy. I’m honestly not sure know what this means, hence my usage of the word “thingy”. All I know is that the system is unable to use a device called “Unknown: Unknown”. The driver is “processor microcode firmware for Intel CPUs from intel-microcode (proprietary)”. Would I get any real benefit from installing this microcode-firmware-thingy? Could there be any significant drawbacks?

For the record, this computer works fine as it is, so unless the benefits are reasonably-significant, I probably wouldn’t be too interested in installing the microcode-firmware-thingy. Also, I can install it with just a few clicks, so I don’t need anyone telling me where to get the microcode-firmware-thingy.

I’m running Ubuntu 16.04.2 x64 on an Intel Core i5 M520 processor, if that makes any difference.


#2

The BIOS or EFI on the motherboard already has some basic microcode update for the CPU, put into play every time the computer starts up.

Now, the OS may have an updated version of the microcode, typically available when there are known issues for a given CPU with a given OS. This allows the user to avoid some issues by disabling some features on the CPU, increasing stability (and occasionally increasing performance).

If the system is working fine, then the default microcode is fine and you don’t have to change anything.

You can tell Ubuntu to use the microcode package provided by Intel if you have issues in specific applications & find that the application is attempting to use a function of the CPU that’s known to have a bug; maybe the microcode package will include updated microcode which knows to disable the bugged feature or implement a workaround.


#3

So, this microcode package does some of the same things as the BIOS, but may be more up-to-date then said BIOS, potentially fixing (or rather, bypassing) issues with the CPU that the BIOS may not fix (or bypass). Is that what you’re saying?


#4

My understanding is the Microcode is a loadable overlay to the microcode originally included in the CPU, which can be applied by an updated BIOS, or by a software driver. As far as I understand, it is loaded each time to the CPU.

Windows also has Microcode updates.

For the Ubuntu side, it is not defaulted as it is not open sourced, opinion seems divided on “leave well alone” or “keep it up to date”.