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Microsoft will discontinue support of its Windows XP operating system (OS) on April 8, 2014. While many point to that day as a deadline after which many computers will suddenly become more vulnerable, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing General Manager Mike Reavey says current Windows XP computers are already experiencing a much higher infection rate than Windows 8 devices.

Are You at Risk?

If you are still using Windows XP computers at home or at work, you are putting your data at a higher risk than if you upgraded to either the Windows 7 or Windows 8 OS. Information Week reports Reavey says Windows XP systems have six times the infection rate of Windows 8 systems, and that number is expected to skyrocket next year when Microsoft stops issuing security patches for the twelve-year-old OS.

Considering that Microsoft claims 21 percent of personal computers worldwide are still running the aged OS, it would seem many people need to get on board with a newer OS.

Windows 7 or Windows 8.1?

In fact, the only question for Windows XP users should be whether they will upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Although any new OS has a bit of a learning curve, especially for those who have spent more than a decade on one system, Windows 7 will be more familiar than the starkly new experience of Windows 8.1–the free update to Windows 8 that Microsoft released Oct. 18, 2013.

Keep in mind, Windows 7 is already four years old. Businesses that opt to go with Windows 7 will be looking at making another upgrade sooner than those that choose to make the more dramatic jump to Windows 8.1. In addition, Microsoft’s newest OS allows for more cross-platform compatibility. If your or your company envision an ecosystem where personal computers, tablets and smartphones complement one another with similar applications, then Windows 8.1 is the OS for that ecosystem.

Either way, the sooner you implement your upgrade, the sooner you will be able to take advantage of tighter security for your computers and data.

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