September 13, 2009

Windows 7 32 or 64-bit ?

When deciding to move up to a 64-bit operating system, you should first consider what 64-bit gets you. Knowing what software runs on 64-bit should influence your decision; you will see no advantage if you are running 32-bit software on a 64-bit OS. You also lose the ability to run 16-bit software, which shouldn’t be a problem unless you rely on older software, such as old work software or home-made packages you haven’t yet updated.

What Does 64-Bit 7 Get Me?
More bits gets you access to more memory; the processor inside your PC communicates with your system memory (RAM) with numeric addressing. Thus, the maximum amount of memory a 32-bit processor can address is 4 gigabytes. Newer 64-bit processors—not to mention the 64-bit operating systems that run on them—can address 17,179,869,184 gigabytes (16 exabytes) of RAM. Windows NT, released in 1993, was Microsoft’s first fully 32-bit operating system; however, it took eight years before the platform, which had since evolved into Windows 2000 and then XP, became mainstream. (Yes, Windows 9x ran 32-bit applications, but it was a hybrid OS that ran on a 16-bit DOS foundation, which was one of the reasons it was so unstable.) 64-bit Windows became a reality in XP, and Vista was Microsoft’s first serious attempt to make 64-bit computing mainstream. I am sure more people will use Windows 7 64 bit because of the increasing demands for more RAM. The question is: how mainstream is 64 bit?

How Mainstream is 64 bit?
While 64-bit Windows 7 can run most 32-bit applications without a problem, it’s not compatible with 32-bit hardware drivers or 32-bit utilities like Windows Explorer extensions (e.g., context menu add-ons.) This means you need a native 64-bit driver for every device on your PC; finding support for all your hardware can be a bit of a challenge, at least on older computers

Is there a Performance Increase?
Now, 64-bit software running on 64-bit Windows has been known to run as much as 10% faster, which illustrates the other reason—aside from memory addressing—that people find 64-bit 7 alluring. Just be prepared for lackluster industry support, at least for the next few years until Microsoft releases a 64-bit-only OS.

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