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Windows 7's infection rates five times lower than Windows XP


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data from StatCounter. In terms of global usage, Windows XP is at 46.44%, Windows Vista at 12.5%, and Windows 7 at 32.64%. Good news for everyone, right? Well, if these adoption numbers aren't convincing enough, perhaps this might convince you (or your technologically challenged peers) - Windows 7 has the lowest infection rates per quarter amongst Microsoft's currently supported operating systems.

Windows 7's marketshare continues to grow at a steady pace at the expense of its two older siblings, Windows Vista and XP, according to the

The above graph, which was extracted from Microsoft's Security Intelligence Report, shows Windows 7's average infection rates per each quarter in 2010 as 3.8% for 32-bit versions and 2.5% for 64-bit versions. This is about half of Windows Vista SP2's quarterly infection rates and less than a fifth of Windows XP SP3's quarterly infection rates. The tests were conducted on a thousand computers per operating system.

The observations drawn from this chart are made clear in the report:

As in previous periods, infection rates for more recently released operating systems and service packs are consistently lower than earlier ones, for both client and server platforms. Windows 7 and Windows Server® 2008 R2, the most recently released Windows client and server versions, respectively, have the lowest infection rates on the chart.

The lower infection rates from the 64-bit versions was perhaps proof Kernel Patch Protection built into 64-bit versions of Windows Vista and 7 worked, as they noted:

One reason may be that 64-bit versions of Windows still appeal to a more technically savvy audience than their 32-bit counterparts, despite increasing sales of 64-bit Windows versions among the general computing population. Kernel Patch Protection (KPP), a feature of 64-bit versions of Windows that protects the kernel from unauthorized modification, may also contribute to the discrepancy by preventing certain types of malware from operating.

Still a skeptic? Could the lower infection rate be simply due to Windows 7's infancy in the market? This theory would hold if Windows 7's infection rates went up as its marketshare increased, but as this next chart shows, not only did Windows 7's infection rate remain below a quarterly infection rate of 4%, there is no clear increase or decrease in infection rates:

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The full Security Intelligence Report for 2010 may be viewed here.

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its hard to compare something so old vs something so new. now, how many people have XP compared to vista?

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Lots of those XPs are probably old and have gotten viruses over time though. Plus back then there was less bundling to "sucker" users into buying preloaded antiviruses. In addition to that, many exploits have been blocked via windows update. Odds are many of those XP users aren't legitimate and cannot receive these security fixes. Since XP was out longer, it would have much much more time on the black market for people to get it. But still an interesting fact.

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Just because Windows 7 has less infections doesn't mean that it is safer. They say infancy in the market can't be the cause, but it can; a lot of viruses which worked on XP simply don't on 7. You could say it is more safe and you'd be right, at the moment, but for a better comparison you should look at the infection rate of XP after 1 year and 7 after 1 year, but then again this wouldn't be sound as well because there are more viruses now than there were then.

All in all most statistical research has to be taken with a large container of salt... (Don't eat the container though, bad for your intestines. Also don't read too many statistical researches because too much salt isn't good for anyone.)

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I personally find Windows 7's security implementation quite better than XP. Agreed it's marketing by M$, but that doesn't mean you don't give Windows 7 the better score. :)

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