Is Windows 7 More Secure Than XP or Vista?

Category: Windows-7

I am still running Windows XP on my 5-year-old computer. I have installed all the service packs and recommended security patches. Is my computer as secure as a newer one running Windows 7, or is there some compelling reason for me to upgrade?

Windows 7 Security Boost

Windows XP is still by far the most popular operating system in the Windows family, even though Vista and Windows 7 have been available for several years. But that doesn't mean it is equally secure. It's true that Microsoft will provide security updates for XP until 2014, but you're still patching up a 10-year-old operating system. If you're still running Windows 95, 98 or ME and connecting to the Internet, you're taking too big a risk, in my opinion.

If you are concerned about security vulnerabilities, you should consider upgrading to Windows 7. That's the conclusion to be drawn from Microsoft's May 2011 Security Intelligence Report, which reviews in depth the state of software vulnerabilities, exploits, and malware in the second half of 2010.

Overall, the word is that malware infection rates (infections per 1,000 computers) are much higher for systems running Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (the last one issued) than they are for Windows 7. Specifically, the rate for XP SP3 was 15.9 infections per 1,000 computers. The infect rate was even higher (19.3) for systems running Windows XP with SP2.
Windows 7 More Secure

In contrast, the infection rate was only 3.8 per 1,000 systems for Windows 7 32-bit, and 2.5 for the 64-bit version of Windows 7.Windows Vista's infection rate was much lower than XP's but still was double that of Windows 7.

Other Factors Influencing Security

Microsoft says two factors account for the 64-bit Windows 7's lower infection rate compared to the 32-bit version. First, 64-bit users tend to be more tech-savvy, and presumably more proficient at safeguarding their systems against infections. Second, the 64-bit Windows 7 includes a feature called Kernel Patch Protection, which prevents unauthorized changes to the Windows kernel that malware tries to make.

It should be noted that malware is far more likely to infect a computer through application software than through vulnerability in the operating system or Web browser. The good news is that application vulnerabilities declined by over 22 per cent in 2010.

The message is clear: the latest Windows OS is more resistant to malware infections and other security exploits. But upgrading to Windows 7 is not the end of security worries. You still need to keep current on Windows 7 updates and service packs; train users to avoid risky behavior such as clicking on links in unsolicited email, and use strong anti-malware software. See my related article Free Anti-Virus For Windows 7 for a list of programs you can download to secure your Windows 7 computer.

What's your plan? Stick with XP for the long haul, or upgrade to Windows 7? I'm sure some of you will say "Switch to Linux" or "Get a Mac". That's fine, but if you have done so, please also talk about your learning curve for moving from Windows to another platform. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Is Windows 7 More Secure Than XP or Vista?"

Posted by:

Paul VdB
06 Jul 2011

weird ... I'm still running XP SP1(ONE) + ZoneAlarm + Avast, has been years since I had a virus ... (knock on wood !!!) *s*
But last month, when I was in the USA with my laptop (XP SP3)I had lotsa "intrusions". Even got infected for a day... but could kill it and didn't have any problems anymore ... (knock on wood !)

Posted by:

Roger Martindill
06 Jul 2011

I have an older Dell Dimension; will Windows7 even work on this system?

Posted by:

Armando Garcia
06 Jul 2011

Security is an issue just due to lost time and frustration in fixing the system that has malware problems. I am buying an Apple Air just to try it out. I am sick of MS next and newest OS that gets replaced next year. Their software is bloated and expensive compared to Apple office suite. I have never owned anything other than windows and my first Kapro. I was looking at a Kindel and was diverted to an ipad. The Air is light, easy to travel with. Fast boot time with flash memory. I want to try Apple's cloud format; even though I use Carbonite. This way I can ease into the learning curve of a new OS and reduce my dependancy on MS.

Posted by:

06 Jul 2011

I'm still using Win XP Home, and the laptop's got Win XP Professional. My PC's a dinosaur in comparison to most people (9 years old), but it runs smooth and I haven't had any problems with viruses or spyware in years.

I truly believe it's up to the person sitting in front of the PC to learn and take the necessary precautions to keep your system safe. I'll keep my XP and wait for Windows 8. Maybe by then, I might spring for an entirely new PC, too, LOL.

Posted by:

07 Jul 2011

I'm still very happy with XP. Does Windows 7 have the capability to prevent the feds from spying on innocent citizens and invading their privacy?
P.S. Thanks for all the useful 411.

Posted by:

07 Jul 2011

where does one find MSE for Windows 7 64? all I can find, is for XP and vista 32/64 but not any for Win 7 64!!

Posted by:

07 Jul 2011

Moving to Windows 7 sounds very enticing, until one finds out some of their expensive other equipment, like for example a scanner, will not function properly with 7 because there are no drivers being made for it. Seems to me just another way to help sell more scanners and other externally attached items. Am I being too suspicious?

Posted by:

07 Jul 2011

Any suggestions as to where I can find the drivers for my Dell 1420 laptop mouse and my touchpad? Both of them became unusable when I loaded Windows7. After 6 hrs. on phone support (3 with MS and 3 with Dell) I was told that my model wasn't listed as being able to be upgraded and I had to unload windows7 and go back to Vista. The only option I was given was to purchase a new computer! I have searched for drivers and found them but every place I have gone requires me to pay $30.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If Dell does not have the drivers, do not pay some 3rd party for what will probably turn out to be a scam.

Posted by:

07 Jul 2011

Is I/E 7 easy to install and is it better then version 8? I have heard mixed opinions on the switch.

Posted by:

Rakibuzzaman Ashik
07 Jul 2011

Everyone knows that windows can be infected by viruses. But linux is an operating system where viruses can not attack that I think.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Bzzzt, incorrect! Our next contestant is Mac McApple, who also claims that his computer is immune from viruses...

Posted by:

07 Jul 2011

I just cant help it..I love xp and have no plans to update to a new set of windows.I enjoy knowing I can depend on xp and have never had any problems so why change a good thing.
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Posted by:

Bob Pegram
07 Jul 2011

Switching to Linux or Mac from Windows certainly involves some additional training. However, moving from Windows XP to 7 also involves some training. The Mac is much less similar to Windows than a number of versions of Linux. There are some versions of Linux that are so similar to Windows XP in the way they are laid out on screen, that moving to Linux is probably the easiest option of the three. That is assuming you are using the same programs on Linux as you were using on Windows XP - Open Office or Libre Office, GIMP, etc. Learning these first under Windows XP, THEN moving to Linux would the easiest solution. As a bonus, Linux and the various programs are free. The versions of Linux laid out most like Windows XP are MEPIS, PCLinuxOS, Linux Mint, Ubuntu Linux, etc. The later two are the two most popular desktop versions of Linux, but the first two are laid out slightly more like XP. The differences are minor. All 4 are easy to use and very secure. All are freely downloadable at The list of versions is in a drop down menu near the top left.

Posted by:

08 Jul 2011

What is clear is that Linux,Apple and Vista Os do not have the interest of Hackers.
That's about it.

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