Processor manufacturers release stability and security updates to the processor microcode. These updates provide bug fixes that can be critical to the stability of your system. Without them, you may experience spurious crashes or unexpected system halts that can be difficult to track down.
All users with an AMD or Intel CPU should install the microcode updates to ensure system stability. In virtual machines and containers, the microcode updates belongs on the host, not in the guest system.
Microcode updates are usually shipped with the motherboard's firmware and applied during firmware initialization. Since OEMs might not release firmware updates in a timely fashion and old systems do not get new firmware updates at all, the ability to apply CPU microcode updates during boot was added to the Linux kernel. The Linux microcode loader supports three loading methods:
- Built-in microcode can be compiled into the kernel and then applied by the early loader.
- Early loading updates the microcode very early during boot, before the initramfs stage, and is preferred over late loading. This is mandatory for CPUs with severe hardware bugs, like the Intel Haswell and Broadwell processor families.
- Late loading (dangerous) updates the microcode after booting which could be too late since the CPU might have already tried to use a faulty instruction. Even if already using early loading, late loading can still be used to apply a newer microcode update without needing to reboot.
To acquire updated microcode, depending on the processor, install one of the following packages:
- amd-ucode for AMD processors,
- intel-ucode for Intel processors.
Microcode built in the initramfs
One can prepend the microcode cpio into the initramfs. Some initramfs generators, like dracut (see dracut.conf(5) § DESCRIPTION), do this by default. This makes #Early loading and #Late loading unnecessary. However, Arch Linux defaults to using mkinitcpio to generate its initial ramdisk (initramfs), which does not support this. It does, however, support loading the microcode via a UEFI stub: see #Unified kernel images.
If not compiled into the kernel, microcode must be loaded by the early loader. It can be passed to the loader as part of a unified kernel image, or as an initrd image by your boot loader.
Note that because of the wide variability in users' early-boot configuration, microcode updates may not be triggered automatically by Arch's default configuration.
Unified kernel images
See Unified kernel images for guidance on how to include microcode in single-file images.
Microcode updates must otherwise be enabled by adding
/boot/intel-ucode.img as the first initrd in the bootloader configuration file. This is before the normal initrd file. See below for instructions for common bootloaders.
In the following sections replace
cpu_manufacturer with your CPU manufacturer, i.e.
initrdto the boot loader configuration. Their order does not matter as long as they both are specified before the initramfs image.
Enabling early microcode loading in custom kernels
In order for early loading to work in custom kernels, "CPU microcode loading support" needs to be compiled into the kernel, not compiled as a module. This will enable the "Early load microcode" prompt which should be set to
CONFIG_BLK_DEV_INITRD=Y CONFIG_MICROCODE=y CONFIG_MICROCODE_INTEL=Y CONFIG_MICROCODE_AMD=y
grub-mkconfig will automatically detect the microcode update and configure GRUB appropriately. After installing the microcode package, regenerate the GRUB configuration to activate loading the microcode update by running:
# grub-mkconfig -o /boot/grub/grub.cfg
Alternatively, users that manage their GRUB configuration file manually can add
/boot is a separate partition) as follows:
... echo 'Loading initial ramdisk' initrd /boot/cpu_manufacturer-ucode.img /boot/initramfs-linux.img ...
Repeat it for each menu entry.
initrd option to load the microcode, before the initial ramdisk, as follows:
title Arch Linux linux /vmlinuz-linux initrd /cpu_manufacturer-ucode.img initrd /initramfs-linux.img ...
The latest microcode
cpu_manufacturer-ucode.img must be available at boot time in your EFI system partition (ESP). The ESP must be mounted as
/boot in order to have the microcode updated every time amd-ucode or intel-ucode is updated. Otherwise, copy
/boot/cpu_manufacturer-ucode.img to your ESP at every update of the microcode package.
initrdkernel parameter need to follow the steps described in rEFInd#Configuration to enable the passing of multiple
Edit boot options in
and add an
initrd= option for the microcode image as the first
initrd argument passed. Use either
initrd=cpu_manufacturer-ucode.img depending if the files in
/boot are in the root of a separate partition.
The microcode is required to be the first initramfs declared for the boot options list. For example:
"Boot using default options" "root=PARTUUID=XXXXXXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXXXXXXXXXX rw add_efi_memmap initrd=boot\cpu_manufacturer-ucode.img initrd=boot\initramfs-%v.img"
Manual boot stanzas
Users employing manual stanzas in
esp/EFI/refind/refind.conf to define kernels should add the
initrd= parameter with the proper path within the boot partition. This parameter is required as part of the options line, and not in the main part of the stanza. E.g.:
options "root=PARTUUID=XXXXXXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXXXXXXXXXX rw add_efi_memmap initrd=boot\cpu_manufacturer-ucode.img"
initramfs-linux.imginitrd files. The
INITRDline must be exactly as illustrated below.
Multiple initrd's can be separated by commas in
LABEL arch MENU LABEL Arch Linux LINUX ../vmlinuz-linux INITRD ../cpu_manufacturer-ucode.img,../initramfs-linux.img ...
LILO and potentially other old bootloaders do not support multiple initrd images. In that case,
initramfs-linux.img will have to be merged into one image.
initramfs-linux.imgmust be placed after
cpu_manufacturer-ucode.imgin the resulting image.
To merge both images into one image named
initramfs-merged.img, the following command can be used:
# cat /boot/cpu_manufacturer-ucode.img /boot/initramfs-linux.img > /boot/initramfs-merged.img
/etc/lilo.conf to load the new image.
... initrd=/boot/initramfs-merged.img ...
lilo as root:
For Limine you will just need to add the path to the microcode through the
MODULE_PATH option in your limine.cfg file. Here is an example:
DEFAULT_ENTRY=1 TIMEOUT=3 :Arch COMMENT=Arch Linux PROTOCOL=linux KERNEL_PATH=boot:///vmlinuz-linux CMDLINE=root=UUID=c0748521-eca9-4f38-989c-43811b6e39a1 rw loglevel=3 MODULE_PATH=boot:///cpu_manufacturer-ucode.img MODULE_PATH=boot:///initramfs-linux.img
Late loading of microcode updates happens after the system has booted. It uses files in
/usr/lib/firmware/intel-ucode/. On Linux 5.19 and later, late loading requires the kernel to be built with
For AMD processors the microcode update files are provided by linux-firmware.
For Intel processors no package provides the microcode update files (FS#59841). To use late loading you need to manually extract
intel-ucode/ from Intel's provided archive.
Enabling late microcode updates
Unlike early loading, late loading of microcode updates on Arch Linux are enabled by default using
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/linux-firmware.conf. After boot the file gets parsed by systemd-tmpfiles-setup.service(8) and CPU microcode gets updated.
To manually reload the microcode, e.g. after updating the microcode files in
# echo 1 > /sys/devices/system/cpu/microcode/reload
This allows to apply newer microcode updates without rebooting the system.
Disabling late microcode updates
For AMD systems the CPU microcode will get updated even if amd-ucode is not installed since the files in
/usr/lib/firmware/amd-ucode/ are provided by the linux-firmware package (FS#59840).
For virtual machines and containers (FS#46591) it is not possible to update the CPU microcode, so you may want to disable microcode updates.
To disable the dangerous late microcode updates, override the tmpfile
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/linux-firmware.conf that is provided by linux-firmware. It can be done by creating a file with the same filename in
# ln -s /dev/null /etc/tmpfiles.d/linux-firmware.conf
Verifying that microcode got updated on boot
Check the kernel messages with journalctl to see if the microcode has been updated:
# journalctl -k --grep=microcode
On Intel systems one should see something similar to the following on every boot, indicating that microcode is updated very early on:
microcode: microcode updated early to revision 0xde, date = 2020-05-18 microcode: sig=0x806ec, pf=0x80, revision=0xde microcode: Microcode Update Driver: v2.2.
It is entirely possible, particularly with newer hardware, that there is no microcode update for the CPU. In that case, the output may look like this:
microcode: sig=0x806ec, pf=0x80, revision=0xde microcode: Microcode Update Driver: v2.2.
On AMD systems using early loading the output would look something like this:
microcode: microcode updated early to new patch_level=0x0700010f microcode: CPU0: patch_level=0x0700010f microcode: CPU1: patch_level=0x0700010f microcode: CPU2: patch_level=0x0700010f microcode: CPU3: patch_level=0x0700010f microcode: Microcode Update Driver: v2.2.
On AMD systems using late loading the output will show the version of the old microcode before reloading the microcode and the new one once it is reloaded. It would look something like this:
microcode: CPU0: patch_level=0x0700010b microcode: CPU1: patch_level=0x0700010b microcode: CPU2: patch_level=0x0700010b microcode: CPU3: patch_level=0x0700010b microcode: Microcode Update Driver: v2.2. microcode: CPU2: new patch_level=0x0700010f microcode: CPU0: new patch_level=0x0700010f microcode: CPU1: new patch_level=0x0700010f microcode: CPU3: new patch_level=0x0700010f x86/CPU: CPU features have changed after loading microcode, but might not take effect.
Which CPUs accept microcode updates
Users may consult either Intel own website or Gentoo's wiki on AMD at the following links to see if a particular model is supported:
Detecting available microcode update
It is possible to find out if the
intel-ucode.img contains a microcode image for the running CPU with iucode-tool.
- Install intel-ucode (changing initrd is not required for detection)
- Install iucode-tool
- Load the
# modprobe cpuid
- Extract microcode image and search it for your cpuid:
# bsdtar -Oxf /boot/intel-ucode.img | iucode_tool -tb -lS -
- If an update is available, it should show up below selected microcodes
- The microcode might already be in your vendor bios and not show up loading in dmesg. Compare to the current microcode running
grep microcode /proc/cpuinfo