When it comes down to bulletproofing systems, users should always opt for the latest releases of the Windows client. Volume eight of the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIRv8) makes this perfectly clear, per the Operating System Trends analysis performed by Microsoft with data gathered from in excess of 500 million computers worldwide. Windows 7 RTM and Vista SP2 are the apex of security for the Redmond company as far as Windows clients are concerned.
Infection rates for both Windows 7 RTM and Vista SP2 are considerably lower than their predecessors, with the 64-bit (x64) flavors of the two platforms superior to the 32-bit (x86) versions. The statistics offered in SIRv8 reflect data collected from over half a billion Windows computers worldwide in the second half of 2009. Since Windows 7 was released on October 22nd, 2009, SIRv8 also includes information on Vista’s successor.
“Windows 7, which was released in 2H09, and Windows Vista with Service Pack 2 have the lowest infection rate of any platform on the chart. The 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Windows Vista SP2 had lower infection rates (1.4 for both) than any other operating system configuration in 2H09, and the 32-bit versions both had infection rates that were less than half of Windows XP with its most up-to-date service pack, SP3,” Microsoft reveals in the report.
With over 100 million copies sold since GA in October, and over 20% market share, both the x64 and x86 versions of Windows 7 end users protection on par with Vista SP2, which was released just months before, but has an infection rate that is approximately half that of Vista RTM, launched in January 2007. At the same time, the infection rate for 32-bit Windows 7 is 2.8 compared to 7.0 for XP SP3, while for 64-bit Windows 7 it is just 1.4 over XP SP2’s 4.5. Obviously, users sticking with XP are more susceptible to malicious code infections than those that have already upgraded to Windows 7 or at least Vista SP2.
“Infection rates for the 64-bit versions of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 are lower than for the corresponding 32-bit versions of those platforms. The enhanced security features available in 64-bit versions of Windows, like Kernel Patch Protection (“PatchGuard”) and Data Execution Prevention (DEP), may be responsible for part of the difference. Another factor might be a higher level of technical expertise on the part of people who run 64-bit operating systems. This difference may be expected to decrease as 64-bit computing continues to make inroads among mainstream users,” Microsoft added.