The ending of support for the Microsoft operating system Windows XP has tempered the slump in sales of new PCs according to new data from research firm Gartner.

The study found that in the first quarter of the year, sales of new PCs were down 1.7% at 76.6 million, compared to the same period last year, a smaller drop than the previous seven quarters.

Gartner analysts say the ending of support for XP likely played a role in the easing of the decline, with sales of professional desktops showing a particular bounce.

In Japan, PC shipments were up 35% on the same period last year, while European, Middle Eastern and African markets also saw positive growth after eight quarters of decline.

Gartner expects the XP effect to continue for the rest of the year.

All but one of the top five vendors of PCs saw year-on-year growth in the quarter, with Lenovo experiencing the strongest gains.

Its shipments grew 11%, extending its position as the worldwide leader.

The company's shipments grew in all regions except Asia/Pacific, where growth in China has been problematic.

Overall, the Chinese market slowed again.

Sales of laptops continued to be squeezed during the quarter, with consumers tending to buy premium ultramobiles or tablets as notebook replacements.