You likely have read about or personally experienced the troubles surrounding the new 12th-gen Intel processors (Alder Lake) when it comes to gaming. Games are protected by DRM (digital rights management) software that verifies the legitimacy of installs and registration (protecting developers from various acts of piracy).
The system works quite well until it doesn’t. Updates to an OS can sometimes break the DRM of certain games and now we are seeing how hardware can do the same.
The new Intel chips feature two types of cores (known as hybrid cores), including both performance cores (P-Cores) and efficiency cores (E-Cores), and tasks are broken up between the two groups for better multitasking, performance, and power-handling.
It’s a new approach by Intel as the company begins a new path in processor evolution–although it isn’t the first as companies like Arm have been doing it for a number of years now. It’s an exciting path for Intel take that allows it to swing back at AMD, which it has been having a little trouble competing against as of late.
However, the change in core structure is causing issues as some DRM software is seeing the two sets of cores as two completely different systems. So when you run a game that is affected by this, it thinks you are running the same game on two different installs at the same time, thus breaking the DRM policies and kicking you out of the game (thinking you might be sharing your license code).
Intel, along with other companies, has been quickly working on ways to resolve this. If Intel delivers a solution, it should be a resolve-all solution that allows you to continue using the full functionality of the system (one would hope). However, it may be on the individual developers to update their games with patches (which some are actively working on as we speak). For now, though, workarounds are needed and MSI already has a solution.
MSI has been working on a firmware update for its Z690 motherboards (Intel Alder Lake models) that will add a feature called “Legacy Game Mode” to bios. This new feature will allow you to disable the E-Cores live without a reboot so that you can play any of the affected titles. You can then switch back at any time
It basically offers a soft fix that parks the E-Cores into standby mode. This way, when you run the affected game, it will only see one set of cores and continue on as normal. Your system will still function just fine with the available P-Cores. Multi-tasking may be affected slightly if you have other things running. However, most gamers likely avoid as many background tasks as better in order to dedicate resources to the game anyway.
The feature is already available to some motherboard models via beta versions of the bios firmware. However, it is advised that you only mess around with beta versions on systems you don’t use as your main setup. MSI should be rolling out the public update shortly once the company has finished testing it.
Once you do have the update installed on your motherboard, it is as simple as enabling “Legacy Game Mode” within your bios and saving the settings. Once you are back in Windows, simply press the “Scroll Lock” key on your keyboard to enable the function (a key that *most* keyboards have).
This is just a workaround until the problem goes away officially. Once developers patch any affected games or (if) Intel comes out with a fix, this would no longer be needed. For now, it is nice to see MSI rushing to the rescue with something to work with. You should see the other motherboard companies following suit shortly.