Core Isolation/VBS benchmarks in 2023 (13th-gen Intel)
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Windows 11’s virtualization-based security (VBS) features caused quite a stir back in 2021 when it was revealed that they could significantly reduce performance in certain situations, including gaming. PCWorld reported on a 10-15% performance hit in productivity apps using an old Intel Skylake (5th-gen) platform. More worryingly though, TomsHardware found a drop in gaming performance of about 5% drop using much more recent hardware such as the Core i7-11700K. AMD CPUs were slightly less affected but by no means immune.
Considering that VBS is now enabled by default in new Windows 11 installations, it would be interesting to test how this affects a system based on the latest 13th-gen Intel CPUs.
Turning off VBS
Due to said performance concerns, PC gamers have often been recommended to turn off virtualization-based security functionality in Windows 11. Some gaming PC OEMs have also allegedly been deactivating virtualization altogether in new PCs. The potential security implications of this practice will not be discussed here, only how it is done and what it might achieve in terms of gaming performance. Turning it off is also a requirement for using Intel’s XTU overclocking utility, meaning that you don’t have to access the BIOS to undervolt/overclock your CPU.
The method most mentioned is to turn off the ‘Memory integrity’ checkbox found under Device Security -> Core isolation in the Windows Security app. To verify that it works following a restart, you can check whether VBS is disabled in the System Information app.
Alternatively, you can simply disable virtualization in the BIOS, in which case there will be nothing for Windows 11 to turn on or off. Of course, this also means that you will be locked out from using virtual machines, including the Windows Sandbox or Subsystem for Linux.
Gaming Performance Results
- MSI Z790 Carbon WiFi
- Intel Core i7-13700KF
- Kingston DDR5 6000 MHz CL36
- Asus GeForce RTX 3080 10GB
In 3DMark Time Spy we see no difference or at least none that can’t be explained as variability between runs.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is one of the games that have been mentioned earlier as being heavily affected by VBS. We do see a 4,4% improvement in the average frame rate, but the minimum is barely affected.
In AC: Valhalla, the behavior is essentially the opposite. Average frame rates are largely unaffected, but the minimum FPS seems to take a major hit from the semi-virtualized environment.
There is less of a difference in Cyberpunk 2077. Then again, there is also significant variability between runs using the built-in benchmark loop, regardless of VBS status. There’s still a tendency towards better results without VBS.
The benchmark tool built into Red Dead Redemption 2 is far more consistent and shows no real difference.
To get comparable results, we have only tested games with built-in benchmark tools and run them at 1080p to minimize the GPU factor. There is no clear pattern, as VBS seems to have a different impact depending on the game. If there is any conclusion to be drawn from this small sample size, it’s that some games benefit, albeit very slightly, from turning off the virtualization-based security features in Windows 11.