Tech Tip of the Week: Should You Install Windows 7 32-bit or 64-bit?

By on July 29, 2009, 4:24 AM
With the upcoming release of Windows 7, the question is raised again on whether you should install the 32-bit version (x86) of the operating system or move up to 64-bit (x64).

This is something that's been asked since the introduction of consumer-level processors bearing the “x64” nomenclature. It feels like just yesterday that Intel and AMD fanboys were at odds over the Athlon 64. At that time and even as recently as the introduction of Windows Vista, software and drivers for 64-bit setups were slim-pickings.


Analogous to the shift from 16 to 32-bit computing, the jump to 64-bit has been a slow one. Windows XP x64 never took off, though 64-bit versions of Vista did, thankfully. The ride was a bumpy one, but hardware manufacturers and software developers alike have finally widely adopted the 64-bit architecture - and there’s no turning back now.

Continue reading our Tech Tip of the Week.




User Comments: 45

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Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

64 Bit for the Win!

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

Its just not for everyone for two possible reasons.

Not everyone needs it

It may be more expensive than the 32 bit version.

Guest said:

The ONLY reason why someone would actually NEED 64 bit OS is if you answer yes to the following question : Do I have 4 or more Gig of RAM.

32 Bits OS can manage up to 4 Gig of ram. 64 Bit OS can manage more then 4 Gig.

End of story.

gobbybobby said:

well, I thought that 32 bit could not use 4 gig of ram very effectivly. thats y I am uisng the Windows 7 RC 64bit as my primary OS at the moment. When u next my a PC, make it fucture proof, buy a 64Bit system and OS, you will save money in the long run.

Guest said:

Well x64 if for serious computer working and gaming

and x32 is for poor loosers that cant afford good computer for gaming, office "pancton" workers, and those pathetic people who only exist to fillin usless junk in social nets like facebook etc

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

The ONLY reason why someone would actually NEED 64 bit OS is if you answer yes to the following question : Do I have 4 or more Gig of RAM.

32 Bits OS can manage up to 4 Gig of ram. 64 Bit OS can manage more then 4 Gig.

End of story.

Not entirely true, what about production software that are written for 64 bit os.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

64 Bit also has a few nifty Security extras aswell, and 64 Bit is the same price as the 32 Bit version as they are included in the same box, the only question is if you have 64 bit drivers but almost all drivers made for vista and windows 7 have a 64 bit version, if it doesn't then i highly dout it has a 32 bit version, it seems silly to buy 32 bit OS now that 64 bit is out, plus programs are going to start being written for 64 Bit compatibilty and imagine the gains if computer games could use 6GB+ of RAM! it would be awsome! let alone the fact that there would be less loading times as you could litterally load the entire game to RAM.

yukka, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I have been running 64bit Vista Home Premium since December. I havent ever had such a solid operating system. I am running a newer machine (9gb ram and core i7) but i would heartily recommend 64bit to anyone purchasing a new computer.

ddg4005 ddg4005 said:

I'm going to buy 64-bit Windows 7 Professional when it drops in October. Both my boxes have been upgraded to 8GB of RAM. Besides, most of the desktop PCs at the local Best Buy stores are running 64-bit Windows Vista.

Guest said:

x64 is the way to go people. I've been running it and I've only had one issue...my printer driver. It only took a few minutes to find the correct one and install it. I run heavy graphics apps so my 12Gb of RAM is being used.

Guest said:

It's about the right time to opt for 64-bit. Everyone functions fine in 64bit Windows 7, and it's not even released yet, and odds are most people here will want more than 4 GB of ram in the near future, if not now.

Captain828 Captain828 said:

I have Windows 7 RC1 and 4GB of RAM and I have to say... it's really sweet!

Alt-Tabbing out of demanding apps is a breeze and there are few issues with 32bit apps.

In fact, most 32bit apps work just as well on a 64bit OS as on a 32bit.

JDoors JDoors said:

In my experience, it's not just a "driver" issue. Though many or most 32-bit programs and standards work with a 64-bit system, there are plenty that choke. If you can live with or work around it, you're good to go. If you absolutely rely on such products, you're screwed, until and IF they upgrade to the 64-bit architecture.

For me there's been a few annoyances going 64, but nothing SO important that I wished I hadn't upgraded. Your mileage may vary however!

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

"One of the most commonly cited differences is that the 32-bit architecture has a memory access limit of 4GB (2^32 bytes)."

Sorry but this is wrong. 32-bit windows can access 36-bit memory address space via PAE (Physical Address Extensions). 32-bit Windows Server editions illustrate this. Hardware with this capability has been around for a loooooong time.

Microsoft disable the PAE memory access advantages due to "driver problems" (nvidia was the main culprit) and "performance" (I have seen a few benchmarks where performance loss was negligible) back with WinXP officially.

Guest said:

The main reason I'd still consider 32-bit, is because of better CODEC support. All CODECs today are made in 32-bit editions, but only some are made 64-bit. If you want to use Windows Media Center on 64-bit Windows, you can only use 64-bit CODECs. I need CoreAVC for playing H.264 movies with subtitles, so 32-bit is my only option.

VonDisco said:

Guest said:

Well x64 if for serious computer working and gaming

and x32 is for poor loosers that cant afford good computer for gaming, office "pancton" workers, and those pathetic people who only exist to fillin usless junk in social nets like facebook etc

Gosh you're pleasant.

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

I have been running 64bit Vista Home Premium since December. I havent ever had such a solid operating system.

there are two major ways to improve existing code:

  1. add 64 bit memory and file support AND
  2. add support for SMP (symmetrical multiple processing) which we call multiple core(s)

if the regression testing is worth $0.02, these enhancements will force the location of many otherwise undiscovered bugs.

bwchato said:

that's exactly the reason fot the 64 bit OS.i have 4 ghz and windows says 3,24.I want to change to the 64bit because of that

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

Other benefits of running a 64-bit OS include enhanced security with hardware-backed DEP, Kernel Patch Protection and mandatory driver signing.

Actually to my understanding, driver signing is an attrribute of Vista, not x64 systems per se

Technochicken Technochicken, TechSpot Paladin, said:

that's exactly the reason fot the 64 bit OS.i have 4 ghz and windows says 3,24.I want to change to the 64bit because of that

Usually windows just tells you the clock speed your CPU is supposed to be running at, not its actual clock speed. So if you overclock your CPU, you will need a tool like CPU-Z to read your actual clock speed. Upgrading to a 64 bit OS won't make a bit of difference.

Or did you mean gigabytes, as in amount of RAM?

Darth Shiv Darth Shiv said:

supersmashbrada said:

Its just not for everyone for two possible reasons.

Not everyone needs it

It may be more expensive than the 32 bit version.

They include both versions of the install on the disc. You can choose which to install with Win7.

Guest said:

I have been running 64 bit Windows 7 for a month now. It works flawlessly. I am a gamer and I couldn't b happier. Driver support for 64 bit is much better now than even 32 bit was a few years ago for Vista. 64 bit is here to stay and Windows 7 will be around for a few more years while memory for desktops and laptops gets cheaper. My HP HDX 16 can hold at least 8 GB of ram so that is why I am going to 64 bit. In other words if your computer is capable of adding more than 4 GB of ram in the future then you should install Windows 7 64 bit now rather than later.

Guest said:

I only use embroidery software and do some accounts work, I never have a capacity problem as I have a couple of external hardrives I save onto. When there is an upgrade we always have problems with the embroidery software company issuing new updates to enable us to continue with that version. I never play computer games, if I upgraded to Windows 7 and 64 bit I would probably have to buy all new software which would be phenomenal cost.

What's the answer in this case

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

Not entirely true, what about production software that are written for 64 bit os.
Very good! Compatibility extends to both SOFTWARE and hardware issues -- look before you leap!

fyi: here's the compatibility info

Guest said:

Running the embroidery software is a perfect example of possible exception. Check with the company to see if the program and hardware will work properly with Windows 7 in 64 bit. You may find that there is no Windows 7 driver available yet, or that it will run in the new OS but there is no 64 bit driver. If the machine is dedicated to this task, there probably is no advantage to changing anything.

Guest said:

Based in my last 3-4 years of testing, I decided:

USE Windows XP PRO, Vista and Windows 7 64 bit versions, ONLY if you are using a software for business use. In a company that is with 3d rendering, video editing, CAD - computer assited desgin, and is a somewhat BIG company - with more then 5 super desktop computers, then USE IT!

But for hardcore gamers, for small businesses, for enthusiasts, the 32 bit version offers more compatibility and fiability so please avoid spending important time into something that is not ment for majority of users, even if so advertised.

Respectfully,

Vasile Lucian BUJOR

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

did you follow the link on this to assure youself that the required software WILL run on that platform?

LOTS of people have been shocked !

Guest said:

PS. The windows xp mode it doesn't work as it should be. I tested with applications that work on XP and fail on Vista/Windows 7, and those apps. fail to work in Windows xp mode, so please don't believe that crap. Windows xp mode is verry good for apps. that work poor in Windows 7, apps that will work proper in Windows xp mode.

Guest said:

did you follow the link on this to assure youself that the required software WILL run on that platform?

LOTS of people have been shocked !

Is my english poor cause I think you didn't get the message.

My message is plain simple:

USE 64bit OS ONLY if you use it in a professional environment with software made for it, software that is a resource hungry like video rendering, programming, rendering 3d scenes, et cetera.

Lots of people fall into the trap of the advertisers, that are promoting 64 bit.

I tested it in lasts almost 4 years and my verdict is that you don't need it, it makes way more harm than good!

Respectfully,

Vasile Lucian BUJOR

Guest said:

Yeah, he was kicked off facebook because of his sharp wit and great spelling.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Everybody...! Let's go Forward into the Past.....

Everybody complains they want more RAM. In an effort to stop answering the same, and at this point, really stupid question; "why does my system tell me I only have 3.25 GB of RAM, when I installed 4GB last night", I suggest that they should discontinue selling 32 bit OSes, void the activations of 32 bit OSes, and arrest the stragglers that continue using them, or have the manufacturers do the typing. Oh, wait, they're already done that, it's just that the people who don't bother to, or can't read it, come here.

Is my english poor cause I think you didn't get the message.

My message is plain simple:

USE 64bit OS ONLY if you use it in a professional environment with software made for it, software that is a resource hungry like video rendering, programming, rendering 3d scenes, et cetera.

Lots of people fall into the trap of the advertisers, that are promoting 64 bit.

I tested it in lasts almost 4 years and my verdict is that you don't need it, it makes way more harm than good!

Respectfully,

Vasile Lucian BUJOR

No, you even have that wrong. Your English is poor, that's the only thing we agree with. Are you assuming that if your English was better, we would all stop buying 64 bit OS es...? Because that's just crazy talk.

You seem to be looking backward to obtain your point of view. Just because some crap program written 5 years ago isn't available in, or won't run on a 64 bit OS, doesn't mean that tomorrows version won't run better on one.

Me makey I my pointey of view great good clear now huh....?

Guest said:

"The ONLY reason why someone would actually NEED 64 bit OS is if you answer yes to the following question : Do I have 4 or more Gig of RAM.

32 Bits OS can manage up to 4 Gig of ram. 64 Bit OS can manage more then 4 Gig."

The early x86 linux versions supported more than 4G ram, this 4G cap stupidity is microshaft's fault. From Winxp64 and higher eg vista, win7 etc you can use more ram and even on the old windows XP 32bit you are able to utilize the part of memory the OS can't manage by using ramdisks eg superspeed.

The ONLY reason why someone would actually NEED 64 bit OS is if you use specific applications which use it.

Guest said:

The real problem with 64 bit, is manufacturers are installing 64 bit Windows 7 with no notice to the buyer about potential issues. Frankly, I'm tired of Microsoft changing things.

They changed the HAL in Vista which broke all 32 bit drivers, and now they are pushing 64 bits which obsoletes some hardware instantly.

The poor people buying computers at Staples or Office Depot don't know they are getting a 64 bit OS. Even if they did, they don't know of potential issues because they aren't disclosed at the time of sale.

The retail box provides a 32 bit option, there should be a downgrade option for the OEM OS as well.

I think maybe the industry needs some regulation to it stops abusing the customers.

Oh, by the way, 32 bit is more than adequate for the typical office user and internet freak. Lets start getting practical out there geeks, and realize you aren't the only customers.

CH

dlen said:

I have installed Win64 and it works like a charm. The only thing that is missing in 64bit Flash

Guest said:

I have been using 64bit for a while now and although it has been fine, there have been a couple of issues, the main one being that my scanner does not have a driver for Win7 64bit.

Personally, I feel that for the average home computer, 32bit is fine. You only have to look at the Program Files (x86) folder to see how many programs don't take advantage of 64bit computing, including applications such as Adobe CS3. Also, most home users probably don't need more than 4GB of RAM and a typical socket 1156 motherboard doesn't support anywhere near the max RAM limits quoted by MS - 16GB is pretty typical - but I wonder what percentage of users actually has more than 4GB?.

Guest said:

I am amazed by all these reactions !

It's all for those that want to play games or watch films

There are MANY, MANY, MANY, MANY, MANY, fantastic scientific programs that won't run under 64 bits and those that wrote these precious programs are not willing to do it all over again in another software version

According to me and many others it is all for MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY and nothing else

Guest said:

My experience with Windows 7 64-bit is that it is WORSE THAN USELESS.

Corel PhotoPaint, which I use to make or edit pictures for professional articles, works poorly and often crashes regardless of which compatibility mode I select. Corel Gallery Magic, for which I also paid good money, does not work at all. Windows 7 has also created problems with other software that I use or has rendered it totally unusable (again regardless of compatibility mode). My laser printer also is useless thanks to Windows 7.

The poor design of Windows 7 is underscored by the fact that, if you click on "Turn off computer," the computer will immediately begin to shut down instead of having you confirm the instruction (as was necessary in XP). You could click on "Shut down" by accident when working with a neighboring instruction.

It seems to me that Microsoft put very little thought into this product's compatibility with existing software. I would recommend against buying or upgrading to it unless you absolutely need it. It came bundled with my new computer so I did not have a choice. Furthermore, Office 2010 comes across as inferior to older versions because of its user-unfriendly menu (ribbon) and the fact it cannot (from what I can see) do anything that older versions cannot do.

Bottom line: don't buy this unless you have no choice.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

My experience with Windows 7 64-bit is that it is WORSE THAN USELESS.

In my experience which has been quite vast it is the best OS they have created and I much prefer it to any of the alternatives.

Corel PhotoPaint, which I use to make or edit pictures for professional articles, works poorly and often crashes regardless of which compatibility mode I select. Corel Gallery Magic, for which I also paid good money, does not work at all. Windows 7 has also created problems with other software that I use or has rendered it totally unusable (again regardless of compatibility mode). My laser printer also is useless thanks to Windows 7.

I have never experienced these kinds of stability issues when using advanced drawing programs such as Adobe Photoshop CS4 and CS5 along with AutoCAD. I suspect there is something wrong with your computer hardware or perhaps even drives that are causing your problems.

As for your printer are you serious? Microsoft creates a new and advanced bit of software and the company that made your crummy laser printer cannot be bothered updating the drivers and this is Microsoft's fault? What should they never move forward for the sake of your old laser printer?

The poor design of Windows 7 is underscored by the fact that, if you click on "Turn off computer," the computer will immediately begin to shut down instead of having you confirm the instruction (as was necessary in XP). You could click on "Shut down" by accident when working with a neighboring instruction.

Imagine that, you tell it to shut down and it just does it, without asking you if you are sure. Microsoft is more often than not criticized for all the "are you sure" messages. When I tell my computer to shut down I mean it and I do not want to be second guessed every time I do so. Furthermore in the 2 years that I have been using the OS I have never accidentally shut down the computer, so what's the issue here.

It seems to me that Microsoft put very little thought into this product's compatibility with existing software. I would recommend against buying or upgrading to it unless you absolutely need it. It came bundled with my new computer so I did not have a choice. Furthermore, Office 2010 comes across as inferior to older versions because of its user-unfriendly menu (ribbon) and the fact it cannot (from what I can see) do anything that older versions cannot do.

Other than hardware that has not been updated to support Vista, all hardware should be compatible with Windows 7 (32bit and 64bit). As far as software compatibility goes I have found less than half a dozen programs that won't work and they are all poorly supported music making software which didn't work with Vista either.

I am getting the sense that you are a person that is scared of change. Office 2010 is certainly not inferior to the older versions and it can certainly do everything 2007 did plus more.

Bottom line: don't buy this unless you have no choice.

I am interested, what do you think the readers should buy? An iPad?

red1776 red1776, Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe, said:

My experience with Windows 7 64-bit is that it is WORSE THAN USELESS.

Corel PhotoPaint, which I use to make or edit pictures for professional articles, works poorly and often crashes regardless of which compatibility mode I select. Corel Gallery Magic, for which I also paid good money, does not work at all. Windows 7 has also created problems with other software that I use or has rendered it totally unusable (again regardless of compatibility mode). My laser printer also is useless thanks to Windows 7.

The poor design of Windows 7 is underscored by the fact that, if you click on "Turn off computer," the computer will immediately begin to shut down instead of having you confirm the instruction (as was necessary in XP). You could click on "Shut down" by accident when working with a neighboring instruction.

It seems to me that Microsoft put very little thought into this product's compatibility with existing software. I would recommend against buying or upgrading to it unless you absolutely need it. It came bundled with my new computer so I did not have a choice. Furthermore, Office 2010 comes across as inferior to older versions because of its user-unfriendly menu (ribbon) and the fact it cannot (from what I can see) do anything that older versions cannot do.

Bottom line: don't buy this unless you have no choice.

Wow!...and you're serious?

you know..an abacus does not have any compatibility issues whatsoever.

I recommend this model. its variable speed.

***This is the standard model, you can however upgrade to the Bronze age package. *****

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Wow!...and you're serious?

you know..an abacus does not have any compatibility issues whatsoever.

I recommend this model. it works at any speed.

Now that sir is seriously funny haha

Guest said:

Kind of caught yourself out with the losers bit. Especially when you're posting on a social network.

hahahah

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

So it's pretty much recommended to purchase the Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate?

Guest said:

Anyone wondering what the verdict is 3 years later? I am seriously ticked at my 64-bit system. It serves a dual purpose as an HTPC and general computer (no gaming.) If you're heavily into Media Center you can't do half the things you could in Win7 32bit. It won't play mkv, iso, zip or many avi files without serious tweaks and hours of filthy words thrown at it.

It also does not take kindly to registry tweaks, particularly those from .reg files. So all of my good old XP tweaks that worked beautifully in Win7 32-bit need to be hand converted 1-by-1 to add the extra matching 64-bit keys. Batch scripting .reg files is a no-go too.

Sandboxie isn't even worth using in 64-bit because you have to disable most of the security it provides to get it working.

IE8 in 64-bit version isn't worth opening. It will often refuse to work or just crash. I couldn't even get through a common browser benchmark. Not bothering with IE9 because of rumored problems.

Most browsers plugins don't work with 64-bit (Gecko and Webkit included,) or they have beta versions that, once again, crash. Although, no problems with Java 64-bit yet.

Most programs are still 32-bit. The ones that offer 64-bit versions make you install, and often run, the 32bit version right beside it. (I have 5 (out of 154) 64-bit programs installed right now. So much for NEEDING 64-bit.)

You can have more ram -- and it REQUIRES, not only more ram, but more hard disk space, more virtual memory, more cpu power, more cooling, more everything...... and I mean A LOT more. I've actually seen Chromium eat 6Gb of ram by itself (I'll stick with Firefox x86 thanks.) My Windows system folders are more than double the size of my 32 bit system (NOT including the page file, which is on a different disk. Hibernate is off. Thank goodness tech is cheaper now.

Virtual machines are nice... I could do that with PAE in 32-bit though. Not a bonus.

Better security? Microsoft's definition of security is, prevent the user from screwing up his computer so he doesn't cost us more money in tech support. Win7 64-bit is even more locked down than 32-bit. My computer, my screw ups, Microsoft. I know how to backup! However, documentation might help a little.

One thing does run better: MPC-HCx64 plays HDTV (.wtv files) much more smoothly than MPC-HCx86. However, 32-bit Media Center plays them just fine, and much better than MPC-HC so I'm not impressed.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Anyone wondering what the verdict is 3 years later? I am seriously ticked at my 64-bit system. It serves a dual purpose as an HTPC and general computer (no gaming.) If you're heavily into Media Center you can't do half the things you could in Win7 32bit. It won't play mkv, iso, zip or many avi files without serious tweaks and hours of filthy words thrown at it.

It also does not take kindly to registry tweaks, particularly those from .reg files. So all of my good old XP tweaks that worked beautifully in Win7 32-bit need to be hand converted 1-by-1 to add the extra matching 64-bit keys. Batch scripting .reg files is a no-go too.

Sandboxie isn't even worth using in 64-bit because you have to disable most of the security it provides to get it working.

IE8 in 64-bit version isn't worth opening. It will often refuse to work or just crash. I couldn't even get through a common browser benchmark. Not bothering with IE9 because of rumored problems.

Most browsers plugins don't work with 64-bit (Gecko and Webkit included,) or they have beta versions that, once again, crash. Although, no problems with Java 64-bit yet.

Most programs are still 32-bit. The ones that offer 64-bit versions make you install, and often run, the 32bit version right beside it. (I have 5 (out of 154) 64-bit programs installed right now. So much for NEEDING 64-bit.)

You can have more ram -- and it REQUIRES, not only more ram, but more hard disk space, more virtual memory, more cpu power, more cooling, more everything...... and I mean A LOT more. I've actually seen Chromium eat 6Gb of ram by itself (I'll stick with Firefox x86 thanks.) My Windows system folders are more than double the size of my 32 bit system (NOT including the page file, which is on a different disk. Hibernate is off. Thank goodness tech is cheaper now.

Virtual machines are nice... I could do that with PAE in 32-bit though. Not a bonus.

Better security? Microsoft's definition of security is, prevent the user from screwing up his computer so he doesn't cost us more money in tech support. Win7 64-bit is even more locked down than 32-bit. My computer, my screw ups, Microsoft. I know how to backup! However, documentation might help a little.

One thing does run better: MPC-HCx64 plays HDTV (.wtv files) much more smoothly than MPC-HCx86. However, 32-bit Media Center plays them just fine, and much better than MPC-HC so I'm not impressed.

OK, so I posted a reply to the above quote, albeit an edited form of the quote. The post was removed?

What's with the "you don't have permission to access the page" error? Am I banned again?

Said something wrong, Software error, locked thread?

Not to worry, I removed my subscription to the thread, it's proving more trouble than it's worth.

Guest said:

I have 32 bit and 64 on my Lenovo desktop with 8G of Ram. Realplayer would not allow automatic download detection of videos like YouTube. I called their support and found that it is not yet compatible with 64 bit system. Now I run Realplayer using 32 bit, and everytlhing else using 64 bit.

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