Despite Microsoft’s claims that “if you’re a gamer, Windows 11 was made for you,” you’ll want to pay attention to PCs that were built pre-built with the new OS factory installed. That’s because Big M enables more security features in computers by default, and one in particular can seriously impair gaming performance.
In our testing, this could result in up to a 28% drop in average frame rates. And you thought the limitations of TPM 2.0 were annoying…
This kind of frame rate delta is like dropping an entire class of graphics card, and these days where GPUs are hard to come by, it will definitely be hard for gamers to absorb the performance of the chip in your new hardware.
The problem is with Virtualization-Based Security (VBS), a setting introduced in Windows 10 that uses hardware and software virtualization to improve the security of your system. It essentially creates an isolated subsystem that helps prevent malware from damaging your computer.
Microsoft explains it this way: “VBS uses the features of virtual machines to create a secure area of memory and isolate it from the normal operating system. Windows can use this “virtual safe mode” to host a number of security solutions, providing them with significantly increased protection from vulnerabilities in the operating system, preventing the use of malicious exploits that attempt to defeat protection.”
It’s a feature primarily intended for enterprise customers to be able to secure the company’s PCs they drop into their offices and make sure they aren’t compromised.
And if you’re upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11, you don’t have to worry about enabling VBS, unless you’re already running an enterprise version of the older OS, ie. The problem comes if you are receiving a device that has an OEM version of Windows 11 installed.
In a post from late August, a post that reintroduced the PC Health Check app for Windows 11 Insiders, Microsoft once again talked about the new operating system’s improved security features.
I expect you already know the requirements for Trusted Platform Module (TPM 2.0), but this post also talks about VBS, and the company matches the DoD’s desire and demand to enable virtualization-based security as a standard.
The post explains “Although we do not require VBS when upgrading to Windows 11,” we believe the security benefits it offers are so important that we wanted the minimum system requirements to ensure that every Windows 11 PC could meet the same level of security approved by the Ministry. defense on.
“In partnership with our OEM and silicon partners, we will enable VBS and HVCI on most new PCs over the next year. We will continue to look for opportunities to expand VBS across more systems over time.”
PCG Test Device
CPU: Intel Core i7 10700K
Motherboard: MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi
Photographers card: Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti Enterprise Edition
memory: 32GB Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4-3200 |
SSD: 1 TB SK Hynix Gold P31
coolant: Corsair H100i RGB Pro XT
the structure: Dimas Tech Mini V2.0
You: Windows 11 version 22000.194
We tested a selection of games on the current version of Windows 11, with VBS turned off and VBS enabled (even though it wasn’t actually turned on) and the effect was clear.
Far Cry New Dawn is out here, which barely ignores VBS, with just a 5% drop in frame rate. But Horizon Zero Dawn is down about 25%, Metro Exodus by 24%, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider by 28%. Interestingly enough, 3DMark Time Spy’s score decreased by only 10%.
Why is this interesting? Because it was UL who brought this issue to our attention. When it showed us information about Windows 11 support that’s rolled into its full standard product suite, he made a note about a security feature that’s detrimental to performance. That’s when I started measuring.
UL tells us, “In our testing with pre-release versions of Windows 11,” a feature called Virtualization-Based Security (VBS) is causing performance degradation. VBS is enabled by default after a clean install of Windows 11, but not when you upgrade from Windows 10. This means that the same system can get different degrees of performance benchmarks depending on how Windows 11 is installed and whether or not VBS is enabled.
“We plan to add VBS discovery to our criteria in a future update to help you compare results fairly.”
However, enabling VBS does not affect the actual hardware speed of the system. We’ve looked at what happens over the course of several benchmark tests of the Metro Exodus and does your CPU or graphics card slow down. Average GPU and CPU frequency hardly changes.
However, what we did notice is that the power draw has decreased for both the processor and graphics card. But the reason for the low performance certainly comes from somewhere else.
The thing to note, however, is that VBS is not enabled by default for all clean installs of Windows 11. I downloaded the latest ISO version of the OS in order to check out VBS on our test bench, but had to go through some process Editing the registry, tweaking and tweaking the BIOS, to actually enable it. So, you don’t have to worry if you are just downloading Windows 11 for a fresh install yourself.
But it seems that Windows 11 PCs, built by the biggest OEMs, such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo, will likely come with VBS as standard. What we haven’t been clear about, however, is whether those companies’ game brands will also enable VBS. Or whether system builders will be excused and can continue to ship gaming PCs without VBS.
My instinct is that gaming-focused brands should Being able to circumvent any Microsoft request to turn VBS on by default, but these are fun times…you can quickly check if it’s on or off for yourself by pressing the “Win” key and typing “MSInfo32”, then down at the bottom From the system report it will show if VBS is enabled.
Although it may take some logging work to disable it if you detect it is there.
We’ve reached out to Microsoft and some OEMs for clarification on Windows 11 and VBS, and will update if we hear anything concrete from them. But one thing is for sure, this security feature does not make me feel secure about gaming performance for PCs in the future.