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As Windows 8 launch approaches, Windows 7 finally tops XP as most popular desktop OS

Just weeks before the release of Windows 8, Microsoft's Windows 7 has finally topped Windows XP as the most popular global desktop OS.

According to data from Net Applications, Windows 7 captured 42.76 per cent of the market in August, just barely beating XP, which had 42.52 per cent. In July, XP had a slight lead over Windows 7 at 42.86 per cent versus 42.21 per cent, respectively.

In August, Windows Vista had about 6.15 per cent of the market, followed by the three most recent versions of Apple OS X, which had just over 6 per cent altogether.

Microsoft's next operating system is scheduled to hit shelves on 26 October. Those running PCs with Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for £24.99.

Windows 7 debuted on 22 October, 2009 with a "simpler, faster, more responsive" system. Vista debuted in 2006, while XP has been around since 2001. On 8 April, 2014, Microsoft will officially end support for Windows XP and Office 2003.

In a speed test that pitted Windows 7 against Windows 8, software analyst Michael Muchmore said that the key difference between Windows 7 and 8 is their startup speed. The new OS boots up in about 17 seconds, while Windows 7 takes up to 38 seconds.