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Choosing Between the 32-bit and 64-bit Versions of Microsoft Vista


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Array Systems Inc. (http://www.arraysystems.com) has completed a detailed analysis of Microsoft’s 32-bit and 64-bit applications of Windows Vista Key.

64-bit History

Intel, IBM, Sun Microsystems and AMD are all major computer chip developers and 64-bit technology is nothing new to them. Apart from the fact that the 64-bit chip has “more bits” than the 32-bit chip, the 64-bit chip also has a greater amount of memory, file, disk, and database address space. With 32-bit hardware, you have up to 4GB (gigabytes) of address space compared to 144GB, 262GB, or 256TB (terabytes) of potential address space in 64-bit hardware. Obviously 256TB is beyond current hardware technology: however, it does set the stage for 64-bit processing being the future’s long-term platform.

Intel’s 64-bit processors were jointly developed with Hewlett-Packard in a project known as the “Itanium Architecture” or IA-64. The goal was to develop a new breed of CPUs and depart from the limitations of 32-bit architectures of the early “286, 386, 486, and early-Pentium” processors. To align with the early Intel IA-64 Itanium, Microsoft released a special version of Windows XP identified as the “XP-64 Edition” along with a “Server 2000 Edition” which supported the IA-64 hardware. Neither was widely adopted mostly due to problems with software drivers and the high cost of memory at that time.

Microsoft’s first attempt to mitigate the gap between 32 and 64-bit hardware was to create a “software emulator” which would allow the 32-bit code to operate on an IA-64 CPU. The results were not so good and caused things to run very slow which further reduced the interest in the IA-64 Itanium processor for desktop computers and servers. Microsoft would later rewrite the code so that the Windows operating system would run in either 32-bit or 64-bit code simultaneously, and natively, without any software emulation. The result was increased performance, regardless of which code base was hosted, and later cleared the way for Microsoft to launch Windows Vista in 32/64 bit editions.

64-bit Driver Support

Perhaps the most painful part of adopting 64-bit technology lies in the software supporting the peripheral devices of the computer, commonly referred to as “drivers”. Makers of computer motherboards of late have integrated many sub-components into their products, which have complicated Vista / 64 driver availability and support, often resulting in long delays between “beta” releases. Even discrete components (control chipsets, printers, video boards, sound cards, scanners, cameras, and nearly all wireless and PDA devices) have also suffered as a result of scarce 64-bit drivers in the consumer market, as these products are many in model, and change rapidly each week.

Unlike applications, 32-bit and 64-bit drivers are not interchangeable, nor can they run on the same computing environment simultaneously. So to adopt Windows Vista 64, you’d have to make sure you have all the required drivers lined up prior to the installation. For most consumer and small business situations, it’s simply too early to realistically have a rich set of 64-bit Windows Vista drivers to apply. This is also why upgrading to 64-bit Vista is particularly difficult and demands a great deal of research and patience to achieve 100% functionality.

64-bit Applications

By some accounts this is a chicken-and-egg situation. For the most part, x86 applications (32-bit) are the mainstream. For the mainstream to adopt 64-bit applications there must be a compelling reason to do so. Conversely, unless price-friendly 64-bit equipment is widely purchased by the mainstream, why would developers create 64-bit applications?

Truthfully, 32-bit hardware, with an upper limit of 4GB of memory was seldom reached by anything other than network servers and virtually never seen by PC users. So, prior to today, most 64-bit applications belong to high-end software or that of network servers. In fact, Microsoft Exchange Server Key will require x64 hardware essentially mandating a 64-bit processing environment.

What is changing however is the user-base and pricing wars of PCs. As newer PCs contain the 64-bit single and dual-core processors, end-users can adopt a 64-bit equipment option. Price competition will soon press the 32-bit only systems out of the marketplace so it seems as if everyone will be forced to convert right? Well maybe. Among the first applications to take advantage of the 64-bit technology for the mainstream will be the gaming and multimedia sectors of the computing world.

Bottom of the Line

Mainstream users are best served with the 32-bit applications of Windows Vista and will experience the greatest compatibility with peripherals, applications, and improved features. The use of 64-bit implementations of Vista should be based on need. If you have a special application or operational requirement today that mandates this extended version of Vista, proceed ahead; just be sure to research and resolve potential conflicts and remedies first. Windows Vista 64 will gather increased momentum and acceptance; however the practical return on investment may be years away. As with any new product offering, the key will be testing the Vista environment with current application prior to making an upgrade decision Form windows 7 key Store.

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  • Posted On June 28, 2012
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