Core isolation is a security feature of Microsoft Windows that protects important core processes of Windows from malicious software by isolating them in memory. It does this by running those core processes in a virtualized environment. 

Memory integrity

Memory integrity, also known as Hypervisor-protected Code Integrity (HVCI) is a Windows security feature that makes it difficult for malicious programs to use low-level drivers to hijack your computer.

A driver is a piece of software that lets the operating system (Windows in this case) and a device (like a keyboard or a webcam, for two examples) talk to each other. When the device wants Windows to do something it uses the driver to send that request.

Tip: Want to know more about drivers? See What is a driver?

Memory integrity works by creating an isolated environment using hardware virtualization.

Think of it like a security guard inside a locked booth. This isolated environment (the locked booth in our analogy) prevents the memory integrity feature from being tampered with by an attacker. A program that wants to run a piece of code which may be dangerous has to pass the code to memory integrity inside that virtual booth so that it can be verified. When memory integrity is comfortable that the code is safe it hands the code back to Windows to run. Typically, this happens very quickly.

Without memory integrity running, the "security guard" stands right out in the open where it's much easier for an attacker to interfere with or sabotage the guard, making it easier for malicious code to sneak past and cause problems.

How do I manage memory integrity?

In most cases memory integrity is on by default in Windows 11, and can be turned on for Windows 10.

To turn it on or off:

  1. Select the Start button and type “Core isolation”.

  2. Select the Core Isolation system settings from the search results to open the Windows security app.

On the Core isolation page, you’ll find Memory integrity along with the toggle to turn it on or off.

The core isolation page of Windows Security

Important: For safety we recommend having memory integrity turned on.

To use memory integrity, you must have hardware virtualization enabled in your system’s UEFI or BIOS. 

What if it says I have an incompatible driver?

If memory integrity fails to turn on it may tell you that you have an incompatible device driver already installed. Check with the manufacturer of the device to see if they have an updated driver available. If they don’t have compatible driver available, you might be able to remove the device or app that uses that incompatible driver.

The Windows memory integrity feature showing that a driver is incompatible

Note: If you try to install a device with an incompatible driver after turning on memory integrity, you may see the same message. If so, the same advice applies - check with the device manufacturer to see if they have an updated driver you can download, or don’t install that particular device until a compatible driver is available.

See also

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