Which Vista (32 bit or 64 bit) is best for my 4GB memory computer?

By barrett_76 · 23 replies
May 29, 2009
  1. I'm finally getting around to replacing my buggy hard drive and am taking the opportunity to get a newer OS as well (I'm currently running XP Home SP3 which was an upgrade from ME)

    I've read a lot about how 32 bit Windows OS's don't get the full benefit of 4GB of memory due to reserving address space for graphics memory and other devices(http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx/kb/929605) and that the maximum memory available in 32-bit versions of Windows Vista is typically 3.12 GB. Looking at my system info as it runs now with XP, the OS only sees 3.5GB (3584MB) of my 4GB.

    Seeing as how some of the info I was reading is probably outdated and things might be different now, I was hoping I could get a definitive answer from the experts as to what the best version of Vista would be for my computer and make the best use of my memory. 32 bit or 64 bit? (assuming my cpu and other components could run 64).

    I mainly use this computer for gaming (MMOs like Guild Wars and City of Heroes). Here's my rig:

    Mainboard: DFI LanParty 875P-T
    Chipset: Intel i875P
    CPU: 3.0 GHz Pentium 4 630 (EM64T)
    Memory: 4GB OCZ PC3200 DDR 400MHz
    Video Card: 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 GS (AGP)
    Hard Drive: 250 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA (3Gb/s, 16MB cache buffer)
    OS: Windows XP Home Ed. 5.01.2600 SP3
    DirectX: 9.0c
    BIOS: Award (03/25/05) Phoenix Technologies 6.00 PG

    Please let me know if you need more info.

    Thanks in advance,
  2. Route44

    Route44 TechSpot Ambassador Posts: 11,984   +72

    This needs to be under general hardware but as for 32-bit/64-bit OSs and RAM it still remains the same. It still needs to be a 64-bit OS to utilize 4 (or more) gigs of RAM as well as using DX10 capapbilities.

    If your PC does everything you need it to then you are fine. However, what stands out for me is that your motherboard is AGP only which is outdated -- unless of course, again, it runs the games you like and fits the bill so to speak.

    The modern games are very GPU intensive which means if you want to play them you might want to consider a whole new rig and keep this one as your second XP rig.
  3. lopdog

    lopdog TS Maniac Posts: 295

    I switched to 64-bit OS about a year ago, because my new laptop came with 4GB RAM. I'm happy with that choice, but I DO have some occasional problems with drivers and some software.
    You're right about 32-bit OS not being able to use 4 GB RAM. 32-bit Vista SP1 and above will report the correct amount of memory, but still can't take full advantage of it. There is a nice little article about memory usage here.
    But looking at your system specs I don't think you would gain much speed with 64-bit vs. 32-bit, and you might find some compatibility problems with drivers, third party system tools etc.
    My suggestion is to use Vista 32-bit, it will report 4 GB and you probably won't notice the unused ~800 MB RAM.
  4. barrett_76

    barrett_76 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Thanks guys.

    I think I'm going to go with the 32 bit Vista Home Premium, The compatibility headaches won't be worth what would probably be only a minimal increase in memory usage (if any) for this build.

    This computer is about 3 years old and will become computer #2 when I finally purchase a laptop.
  5. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    Well, why not wait for Windows 7 which is almost certain to ship late summer this year? I cannot see the sense in paying for an OS which is certainly inferior to Win7 and obsolete in a month or two anyway??? Look here https://www.techspot.com/vb/topic128390.html somebody using quite a minimum spec on Win7 and is very happy. Apparently, it is possible to download Win7 RC1 and use it free until May 2010.....
  6. lopdog

    lopdog TS Maniac Posts: 295

    gbhall has got a very good point, you should consider to wait until Windows 7 comes out.
    I recently replaced my Vista installation with the RC1 of Windows 7, and it runs a lot better than Vista, even if this is not the finished product.
    And if your willing to try the RC, it's free and legal to download from Microsoft (but remember that there may be some problems with this version, only use it if you know what your doing).
  7. barrett_76

    barrett_76 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Win 7 RC Question

    I wasn't aware Windows 7 release was that close on the horizon and am not very familiar with RCs.

    Like I said, my hard drive is dying and I have just ordered a new one which should arrive next week. I need a new OS to cleanly install on this new hard drive.

    Would the Windows 7 RC be a viable solution to install on my new hard drive and serve as my fulltime OS until the full version of 7 releases?

    I've already burned off all my important files from my computer since it started crashing and I was unsure when the HD would die for good. So there's really no concern over potential crashes and loss of data with running a beta OS.

    Can the 7 RC be installed on a clean hard drive, or does it need to be downloaded as an upgrade to a currently running version of Windows? What are compatibility issues with hardware components and software?

    All your advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks
  8. mrturtle

    mrturtle TS Rookie Posts: 43

    Yes windows seven can be installed on a clean hard drive.
  9. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    I also think you may be best with Windows 7. If you are set on Vista for some reason, you could still run the RC of 7 now, and then buy Vista when 7 comes out. I make this comment because in all likelyhood if you buy Vista when 7 comes out they will sell you an upgrade to 7 for like $10. Thats how I got my copy of Vista, I bought XP MCE and paid $10 for an upgrade to Vista Home Premium. So essentially I got 2 operating systems for the price of 1 + $10.

    Or you could just save the $10 and get the real version of 7 when its released.
  10. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

  11. lopdog

    lopdog TS Maniac Posts: 295

    Remember that both Vista and Windows 7 might need new drivers for your hardware, in most cases you can download upgrades from your hardware manufacturer.
    It would be a good idea to run the Windows 7 Upgrade Adviser, this little program will tell you what hardware/software will work/not work if you install Win7.

    Imho, yes. I use Win7 as only OS on my laptop, and so far I haven't had any problems.
  12. barrett_76

    barrett_76 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Making progress

    I ran the Windows 7 Upgrade Adviser. I meet system requirements. The only device issues are my Realtek AC'97 Audio (it recommends I run Windows update after installing Win7) and my D-Link wireless USB Adapter (download latest driver). The only programs it says might need attention are Adobe Reader 7.1 and PowerDVD. No biggie.

    I've noticed that most drivers don't list Windows 7 yet. Am I correct in understanding that if the driver is compatible with Vista then it should be compatible with Windows 7?

    As for the installation, I guess my gameplan is:

    Download the Win 7 RC 32 bit installation file
    Burn the ISO image file to a DVD using Nero
    Install the new harddrive (250GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA 3-Gb/s)
    Restart computer with boot dvd
    Custom install Windows 7
    Get Updates and New Drivers

    I guess I now have to decide if and how to partition my new hardrive. Looks like I have a little more web surfing and research to do.
  13. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    I always recommend in the strongest possible terms to have at least two partitions per HDD, on which to take at least one 'drive image' of the working OS updated every ~3 months, plus as much backing up as seems sensible to you - per day !! In your position, a drive image of the existing setup would be a good idea as well - you never know what you might have forgotten, and you can always delete it after a while.

    BTW check out Foxit instead of adobe reader.
  14. lopdog

    lopdog TS Maniac Posts: 295

    In general, most drivers compatible with Vista will also be compatible with Windows 7. Read more about drivers here.
    The only driver that didn't install on my system was the for my NVidia GPU (8600GTS), but windows update found it and installed a working driver immediately.

    Your gameplan looks ok, just make sure you back up as much as possible, as gbhall said. When it comes to partitions it's all up to you. I use one partition only, others prefer 2 or many more. I suggest you google a little to see what options you prefer.
  15. barrett_76

    barrett_76 TS Rookie Topic Starter

    Just wanted to give a final update and say thanks for everyone's advice (especially the Win 7 bit).

    I clean installed the Windows 7 RC on my new harddrive. It installed so fast and without any issues that I was sure I must've done something wrong. It's such a beautiful, speedy, and intuitive OS that I'm now surfing the web trying to figure out the steps I need to take to keep it
    that way. It's pretty obvious now that the bad hard drive was the cuplrit behind all my woes.

    No more bluescreens.
    No more freezes.
    No more crashing web browsers.
    No more sporadic video playback

    I've forgotten what it was like to work from a smooth and stable computing environment.

    Thanks again. Every bit of reliable computing help I've ever received has been from forums like this one...not from customer support lines or Geek Squad clones, but fellow users.
  16. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    Very good of you to let us know the upshot, and thanks for the thanks !

    Encouraging to find that nobody seems to have any real issues with Win7 RC1. Maybe MS are getting it right for once (sound of heavy thumps as multitudes of readers swoon away).

    On second thoughts, this is really Vista, with two years of proper development behind it.....ho, hum
  17. SNGX1275

    SNGX1275 TS Forces Special Posts: 10,742   +421

    RC1 broke my TV tuner (Hauppage PVR-250). It worked in the public beta, and a couple builds between that and the RC, as soon as I installed the RC though I lost all the audio on TV. Audio works for everything else, and shows I recorded in the beta play on RC1 with sound, but I don't get any sound on live tv, or any recordings I make now.
  18. elektrisk

    elektrisk TS Rookie

    Wait for Win7. If you don't want to, go with 64bits.
  19. gobbybobby

    gobbybobby TS Guru Posts: 555   +9

    I have vista 32 With 4 gigs of ram had no idea it would not be able to use it all, will windows 7 32 be able to handle more ram, or should I upgrade to Vista/7 64bit (you can do it for £8 I think.)
  20. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    No, 32 bit processing is a limit on memory for ever because 2 to the power 32 = 4,194,304 bytes or 4Gb. Of this, under present designs, some is lost to cache, especially video cache and effectively 3.2 Gb is the most available.

    Should you upgrade to Vista 64? Why bother? You would be able to use very slightly more of your 4Gb memory than you can under Vista 32, and certain processor functions, especially video functions, are a little faster. On the downside, you will have a great deal of trouble finding reliable drivers for a mass of current hardware, not to mention when Win7 arrives very shortly, Vista instantly becomes obsolete. You should wait patiently for a short period then buy Win7 64-bit

    That's bad luck. I am sure you will keep looking for a new driver, even a new Vista driver, and keep both MS and Hauppage aware. I also note there are two updates for Vista KB966315 and KB967632 for TV and media centre in June patch Tuesday. So something needs fixing in Vista - expect a Win7 patch?
  21. alarinn

    alarinn TS Rookie

    Vista 64 thoughts

    If you intend to go with Vista 64, make sure it's Ultimate. Ultimate edition has a few bonuses for 64 bit processing like enhanced caching. I can't say that for Windows 7. I do have W7 64 bit RC1 installed and like everyone has said, it's so easy a caveman can do it blindfolded. It's very responsive. I think by the time W7 comes out, all versions of Vista except for Ultimate 64 are history. Don't bother with Vista 32 at all. Stay with XP Pro or W7 RC1 until W7 comes out.

    Now, I really hope Microsoft gives us Vista owners a discount for being their beta testers for Vista:) If they did that, W7 will be the dominant OS by Christmas.
  22. gobbybobby

    gobbybobby TS Guru Posts: 555   +9

    Ok I will wait for Windows 7 64Bit. But is is not possible to upgrade from vista 32 to 7 64. If I pay the £8 to change from vista 32 to 64, then I could upgrade to 7 ultimate (64) for a smaller fee.
  23. gbhall

    gbhall TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,431   +77

    There is absolutely no reason to suppose that an update price will be effected by changing from 32 to 64 bit processing during the upgrade.

    On the other hand, there are nasty rumours going round to the effect that MS don't (at the moment) intend to be generous about upgrade pricing. This might be fud put about by the likes of Dell and HP who are not happy with what they are being told about their OEM pricing allowances.

    On a side note, nobody has to wait for Win 7 64 - read the earlier posts in this thread - especially #10. Creating a dual-boot system with Vista and Win 7 is quite simple. In fact maybe someone will confirm that the Win 7 installer can actually resize your existing OS for you to make an extra partition for Win 7 and will create the dual boot aoutomatically. You possibly don't even need any additional software tools.
  24. gobbybobby

    gobbybobby TS Guru Posts: 555   +9

    I am duel booting with windows 7 64! But after an update all my games run in half screen. I don't know why, I have set them to run in full screen, and tried settings in game, I gave up in the end and have gone back to vista. It worked with build 700 but after build 7100, half screen. My games don't really need 4 gigs of ram (yet) so I will wait for windows 7 64, hope I get good price upgrade, I got my vista ultimate for £100 so I won't be too fussed if the upgrade price is another £100.
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