You may recall that when Windows 11 came out in late 2021, there was quite a fuss about VBS (Virtualization Based Security) slowing down games – and cheer up, here comes another controversy surrounding this security feature.
Enter the stage on the left (perhaps accompanied by a rumble of thunder) a report from Tom’s Hardware (opens in new tab)although our sister site recently ran a whole bunch of graphics card benchmarks and realized one thing afterwards: that VBS was turned on.
Here’s the thing, the senior editor at Tom’s who wrote the report, Jarred Walton, had previously disabled VBS, but at some point a Windows 11 update (presumably) had the feature reset and re-enabled without Walton noticing. (In Windows 11, VBS is now enabled by default for new OS installations).
Walton goes on to note that Tom’s Editor-in-Chief, Avram Piltch, is running Windows 10 Home and hasn’t touched VBS since the operating system was reinstalled last summer — but VBS was also on with that system. Again, we can surmise that this happened through an update at some point (although we don’t know for sure).
In short, Microsoft wants to enable this feature for tighter Windows security – clearly – and seems to be turning it back on by default on all PCs (most likely during major updates). But when users are unaware that VBS is re-enabling and it can negatively impact game frame rates, it’s a bit tricky to say the least.
With the launch of Windows 11, we heard stories about VBS affecting frame rates in some cases, with frame rate drops of up to 30%. Now that turned out to be a worst-case scenario, as Toms ran tests of his own at the time, which showed that the drop was closer to 5% on average (still a noticeable drop in frame-rate).
Against this background, what is the significance of DDPS today? Walton was curious and ran a series of tests to find out using an Nvidia RTX 4090 graphics card (at different resolutions and graphics settings across 15 games).
With a new processor – Intel’s Core i9-13900K – and a cutting-edge GPU, would VBS have a noticeable impact on gaming performance?
Apparently, the performance drops remain roughly at the same level as in previous tests a year and a half ago, with VBS reducing performance by about 5% overall. At higher resolutions, the impact was smaller: just 2% at Ultra settings in 4K.
As you can imagine, there were some games that performed worse. Tom’s Hardware highlights Microsoft Flight Simulator, which experienced average frame rate drops of around 10%. Far Cry 6 and Control also showed drops of around 10% (at least at 1080p resolution with certain graphics settings). Other games were affected much less, or in some cases saw no difference at all.
Analysis: Perhaps a difficult decision – but one we should make for ourselves
It seems that VBS is still pretty much the same as when Windows 11 first started, in terms of slowing down games by about 5% in fps (frames per second) on average.
So the big picture hasn’t changed, but what has changed is that Microsoft now appears to be turning on VBS post updates, at least in some cases (and this could apply to both Windows 10 systems and Windows 11).
This is worrying because you should have a choice of “VBS or no VBS” – and you shouldn’t have to worry about the operating system manufacturer deciding that you can’t do without this security feature and enabling it without your knowledge . If this is the route Microsoft believes it needs to take, the move should at least be documented somewhere in patch release notes, or some effort should be made to inform the user.
The question of whether or not you should disable VBS is tricky. On the one hand, it’s a security feature, and Microsoft clearly thinks you’d be stupid not to use it. Hence the restart. Also, the impact is arguably fairly small for many games (as we can see from Tom’s testing).
There is some impact though, and a 10% slowdown in remote cases is quite a penalty to pay. Especially for avid gamers obsessed with tuning their PCs to endure every extra frame – a tenth less fps is akin to a lead weight strapped to the feet of this type of enthusiast.
Additionally, while VBS may be undeniably important in business PC scenarios, there are those who argue that it’s overkill for the average home user – and probably not even necessary. On the other hand, however, Microsoft has indicated in the past that VBS can be a useful additional line of defense against some malware attacks.
Ultimately, that decision is up to you, the type of games you play and whether you play them competitively — and also how cautious you might be on the security front. But honestly, what’s pretty puzzling here is that Microsoft appears to be making these decisions for users, as it seems to be doing now.