Microsoft: 46% Windows 7 installations are 64-bit

By Matthew ยท 39 replies
Jul 9, 2010
  1. Seems that this discussion misses some technical details.

    The number 1 reason for going 64bit is RAM. 32bit Windows can only *address* (aka 'use') about 3.2-3.5 GB of RAM, and on systems with GPUs that have a large amount of dedicated RAM this number can even drop to 2.x GB. This has to do with the address space.
    However, 64bit Windows and 64bit programs usually use more RAM than their 32bit versions - this is due to the smallest available data unit being 64bit instead of 32bit, twice the size! *Some* data structures (not the application as a whole) will occupy up to twice as much memory as 64bit version (compared to 32bit) - I don't have any real world numbers for common applications or the Windows core system, but the factor is surely far below the theoretical value of 2x.
    Another restriction is that on 32bit Windows a single process can only allocate up to 2 GB memory maximum.
    So 64bit Windows is required on systems with more than 4 GB, and/or systems with less than 4 GB depending on the hardware setup in order to be able to actually *use* all of the installed memory.
    On systems with 3-4 GB the increased memory consumption of applications might outweigh the benefit of allowing to use all of the installed RAM.

    64bit software does not magically improve performance, software has to be optimized for 64bit, and significant improvements can only be expected for certain CPU intensive tasks. Adobe Photoshop states that it speeds up 'only some operations' and those not 'equally', and gives a figure of 8-12%.
    At the same time 32bit software will be executed in the WoW (Windows on Windows) environment, and run up to 10% slower on 64bit Windows 7 due to the management overhead.
  2. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,967   +2,524

    Here I suppose, it could be argued that while twice the memory is being used, it would only be used for half the time. (If all went well, or as planned).
    Google "4 GB tuning".
    This could be only partly true. Since x86 applications are installed as such, I don't see them not being able to benefit from the increased RAM.

    Adobe likes to hear itself talk, while making excuses for it's rampant bloatware. However, I've seen it written that Adobe "Premier Pro", is actually capable of lighting up all four cores of a quad CPU.

    The fact of the matter is, that software houses will have to "get cracking" on implementing 64 bit instructions. All Intel CPUs since "Cedar Mill" are x64 capable. Cedar Mill CPUs are for all intents and purposes, antiques. Now, it's not like the software houses haven't been given plenty of time and warning to get on with 64 bit programming.
  3. UglyChild

    UglyChild TS Rookie Posts: 31

    The 64Bit OS doesnt need to have 4GB RAM or more to see the benefit.

    Think of a garden hose you are trying to water your plants with that is 32Bit in diameter . Now imagine watering your garden with a fire hose which is 64Bit in diameter.

    Apple OS has been 64Bit for many years, and people that use Apple OS seen the benefit from the very beginning, before the 4GB became the norm, many many years ago. Before Apple offered more then 2GB of RAM on Apple PC with 64Bit OS.
  4. Bought a new laptop which ran off x64 and the main reason I bought it was to watch sky sports in the kitchen which needed flashplayer x10.1. However, flash 10.1 is not compatible using x64. So I had to return to x32
  5. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,957   +214

    I see this written on many forums, it is very strange so many people believe this because it's simply not true

    Adobe does not have a x64 version of flash out, true, so you can't watch flash in Internet Explorer 64 bit

    But the 32bit browser (which is the standard one) works just fine
    And all the other browsers out there are 32bit, in which Flash works just fine (Opera, Firefox Google Chrome etc)
    There are some testing versions that are 64bit but you wont find those on the normal download pages

    I've been running 64bit Windows for many years now, I prefer the simplicity of Windows XP x64 actually, it is a very nice OS IMO
  6. mistaecko

    mistaecko TS Rookie

    No. That's not how software/compilers and CPUs work. A 64bit environment does not allow data to be processed twice as fast. It allows higher precision numbers, and more effective processing where 32bit data structures are too small, but not in general.
    Google articles that do performance comparisons and you will find performance improvements of about average 10% for calculation heavy applications (encoding, archive packing, scientific calculating) and benchmarks.

    Yes, you are correct. But this is something that requires modification of the Windows kernel and/or executables on non-server versions of Windows AFAIK. Just enabling the /3GB switch will not improve anything, on the contrary, it limits Windows to 1GB kernel space.

    Anyway, for standard users the 4GB OS limit is usually more important than the limit per process.

    I think you missed my main point: 32-bit Windows (non-server editions) can only address 2^32=4GB of 'address space'. The amount of RAM Windows can *address* is further reduced because a fair amount of this address space above 3 GB is used for hardware addressing. Please note that I'm talking about address space, not actual RAM. So the problem is that your PC might have more RAM, but the system has run out of 'address space' to actually access it.
    This is most obvious when you have a video card with let's say 1 GB dedicated memory. In order to allow Windows drivers to address/access this memory, 1 GB of address space is cut off the 4 GB totally available address space, allowing the OS and its applications to use 3GB of physical memory (or even less).

    I recommend the wikipedia articles on '64-bit' and 'Physical Address Extension' for an introduction to the technical aspects of 32-bit vs 64-bit.

  7. mistaecko

    mistaecko TS Rookie

    Sorry, we are not talking about a memory bus here, where your analogy would maybe fit.
    Let's rather compare it to a school kitchen handing out food on dinner plates: if you change the size of the plates then you will not necessarily speed up the whole process. If some of the kids are very hungry and usually required more than one plate before, then you might achieve some improvement by handing out larger portions on one bigger plate. ;)
  8. I have been running a 64bit since windows XP, why has it taken so long for people to get on the bandwagon.
  9. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,957   +214

    Actually I think most users that run into this limit do so with applications
    Case in point are many recent games that will crash as soon as over 2GB are addressed in the virtual address space

    Another example would be the CAD program I use at work, I ran into the limit so activated the 3GB switch and also modified the executable so it was actually able to make use of the new memory limit, these Anandtech articles are a great read on the subject; (In this order)
  10. gobbybobby

    gobbybobby TS Guru Posts: 554   +9

    PC came with 4 gig of ram and Windows vista ultimate on disk 32 bit only. Would be 64 if had disk!
  11. mistaecko

    mistaecko TS Rookie

    Good to hear of actual experiences! But I wonder what your total system RAM is? Why did you not go with 64bit Windows - I assume you didn't upgrade to Windows 7 yet, right?
  12. Archean

    Archean TechSpot Paladin Posts: 5,690   +96

    That was one major reason we switched to x64 OS on all CAD machines at work years ago. Just imagine, opening a very very large topograhic survey drawing on an x86 OS, and you'll know what i mean, because there is a good chance either your system will crash or it will slow down to a near grinding halt and even a simple task would take ages to complete. I don't need to add advantages we noticed with other softaware like SAP etc as well. Anyway, I think days of x86 OS are numbered, in fact it may be a good 'strategic' business decision on part of MS to outline its future strategy and prepare its customers/users to x86-less future, perhaps even scrapping any plans for x86 future windows, because it is not just worth it any more considering the rapid evolution of hardware and corresponding software.
  13. timljh

    timljh TS Enthusiast Posts: 34

    there are still problems for software developers to adopt 64-bit many of the IDE are still in the 32-bit world... we as the developers are forced to do so in 32-bit....
  14. Per Hansson

    Per Hansson TS Server Guru Posts: 1,957   +214

    mistaecko; my case on the games where from a perspective of testing mostly
    I made a Win2K patch for Crysis
    My gaming system has had 8GB RAM for 2 and a half years now, and I've been running Win XP x64 for as long
    I've also run Vista x64 which I really didn't care for, so it saw little use
    Now I do have Win 7 x64 installed but I have been too lazy to set it up the way I want, that's why I still dualboot to WinXP x64 instead... (Funilly I used the BETA version much more extensively but then when I switched to the final release I have been too lazy to set it up with all programs etc that I want...)

    As for my work PC it was a Dell with XP x86 32bit, I told them I wanted to upgrade it to a 64bit OS but they where hesitating
    However luck struck in a strange way when it's harddrive failed, then I got them to install XP x64 on it, and they also put another HDD in it and said I could install Win 7 x64 on it after some persistence on my part :)
    I am happy that I managed to get all the CAD CAM programs I used to work, had to run without UAC tho, but for work Win7 really is miles better than XP, I can really notice myself how much more productive I am due to the new layout of stuff
    And also the simple fact that it's also a x64 OS gives my 32bit CAD programs access to 4GB virtual address space, so now I can make more complex pieces
    That is untill the software developer starts to listen to my request to make a real 64bit version so it can address however many terabytes virtual address space the 64bit OS allows :)
  15. mistaecko

    mistaecko TS Rookie

    Thanks for the insight! I understand now that there are quite a view software fields where the 'per process' limit matters: CAD, 3D, games and probably others.

    So having a PC with 3-4GB RAM and running software that requires more than the 2GB per process limit is a tough situation for sure. Switching to 64bit Windows 7 will allow the process to use more than 2GB without extra configuration or tweaking work, but will also have the whole system and applications use more memory due to the 64bit and/or the WoW overhead.
    That is the interesting question to me, because the 3-4GB are still a very common configuration nowadays.

    In such a situation both the 3GB switch or Windows XP 64bit seem to make more sense than Windows 7 64bit IMHO. Or rather upgrade to more than 4GB and go with the latter.

    Sorry for my late response, have been busy.
Topic Status:
Not open for further replies.

Similar Topics

Add your comment to this article

You need to be a member to leave a comment. Join thousands of tech enthusiasts and participate.
TechSpot Account You may also...