Microsoft’s Skype Stealthily Bogged Down Gaming PCs for Months; Manual Update Required to Solve Issue
If in the last few months you’ve felt that your gaming PC wasn’t performing as usual, and you got micro-stutters, general instability and longer loading times with your games, there’s a high probability that you need to check what version of Skype you have installed.
When Microsoft purchased the popular voice and video chat program, they released the new and “improved” version 6.09. Turns out that it wasn’t very much improved, as it included a severe incompatibility with Google Chrome set as the default browser. And considering that Chrome is basically the most popular browser out there, that happened to affect a lot of people.
The incompatibility caused a very nasty effect: it added a large amount of spurious load on the CPU (before the update to 6.09 the load caused by Skype when not directly used was almost zero) , bogging down the whole system. This was especially apparent while gaming, as most non-gaming applications aren’t very CPU-Intensive, while many PC games are already bad at multi-threading, and this issue caused gamers all over the world to lose precious frames per second.
I discovered it on my own PC, much to my surprise, yesterday night, while doing some customary stress tests of my overclocked system after adding some RAM. Something was bogging down one of my cores and completely blocking another, and my CPU had lost about 25 gigaflops of processing power. I was even more surprised when (after three hours wasted on running all sorts of tests) I discovered that the culprit was Skype. Doing some further digging revealed that the issue was very widespread.
Luckily, if you’re one of the many gamers affected, the issue is now easy to solve. The newly released 6.13 version of Skype finally removed the nasty bug. It’s very likely that you’re still stuck with the still-bugged 6.11, though, as 6.13 is a completely new build, and as such the automatic update or the built-in update feature won’t recognize the new one. You actually need to uninstall the old version, go to Skype‘s website, and download/install the new one. Just remember to prevent the installation from sneakily change your search engine and home page to Microsoft’s Bing, because you can be sure as hell that it’s going to try.
How much have your games been affected? I’ve run a few benchmarks to give you an idea. Of course results may vary depending on your PC’s configuration, but the unnecessary CPU load was definitely there.
First of all, here’s Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn’s Benchmark: The pictures below showcase the result with Skype 6.09 on top and 6.13 below it. You can also see the CPU load of the PC while idle. There’s a neat difference of almost 450 points between the two tests.
Below you can see a test made using Unigine’s lovely Heaven benchmark with Skype 6.09 on the left and 6.13 on the right. While the average frames per second isn’t too far off, since the benchmark runs for a very long time. There’s a large difference in minimum and especially maximum FPS, as the GPU isn’t as bogged down by the CPU with the new version.
Finally, here’s Batman: Arkham Origin‘s benchmark. 6.09 is on top and 6.13 is at the bottom. Here the difference is sizable. Skype was eating 2 FPS minimum, a whole 5 maximum and 3 in average.