[AI] The 64bit question
ilovecold at gmail.com
Mon Apr 12 12:49:19 EDT 2010
Should you go for the 32bit or 64bit version of Windows 7?
Ian Paul explains the pros and cons
If you've decided to buy a new PC and you've settled on a Windows 7 system,
you face one more big decision: whether to install the 32-or 64bit version. And
it's a trickier question than you'd think.
You might want to get the 64bit version so you can load up on RAM and
future-proof your PC. But software and hardware designers are still catching
up. Even with your beefy hardware and shiny new operating system (OS), you
might end up having a 32bit computing experience anyway.
The difference between 32-and 64bit systems comes down to this: 64bit machines
can handle more RAM and more data. That's it. Both versions of Windows look
the same; it's just a matter of how much data these systems can handle at
A 64bit system can handle more than 4GB of memory - the maximum for 32bit
machines - and can also process more pieces of data at once. For the average
home PC user, the most significant advantage is being able to enjoy better
graphics, since a 64bit system can process more visual detail than a 32bit
Coming to terms with 64bit
Even though 64bit Windows systems were first introduced with XP and then given a
push under Vista, parts of the computing world are still getting to grips with
the 64bit reality. During the Vista years, most Windows users were still
running the 32bit version of XP. As a result, software designers remained
focused on these customers and didn't pay much attention to what was possible
with 64bit Vista systems. An example is Real's popular RealPlayer, which only
recently released a 64bit-compatible version.
Although you may have a tough time finding applications primed for 64bit
systems, it's rare to come across software that won't work with the more
powerful version of Windows. As a general rule, 32bit versions of software will
work on a 64bit system. But that defeats the purpose of upgrading, doesn't
If you're not sure whether your favourite software will work on a 64bit
system, find out at Microsoft's Windows 7 Compatibility Center (
It's a 32bit web
The most obvious example of a 64bit Windows user living in a 32bit world is
online. Windows users can get a 64bit version of Internet Explorer, but if you
use Chrome, Firefox or Opera, then you're going to have to put up with 32bit.
In fact, if you're a dedicated Firefox user, you may want to think twice
before making the 64bit switch. Although Firefox is supposed to work on a 64bit
system, some Firefox users say they have had to resort to Windows 7's XP mode
just to get Firefox to open, while others could only run the browser in Windows
7 if they were logged in as an administrator.
But even if you're an Internet Explorer fan and want to use the browser's
64bit version, there's one major problem. Adobe Flash - the browser plug-in
responsible for most online video and animation - doesn't have a 64bit
version for Windows.
Since Adobe Flash is present on almost every site you visit, using a 64bit
browser means you'd be dealing with severely crippled if not unusable internet
The alternative is to use the 32bit version instead, and wait for Adobe to come
out with its 64bit plug-in. But you might be waiting a long while, since Adobe
has only one version of 64bit Flash in development and it's for Linux. The
firm has said it's committed to bringing 64bit versions of Flash to both
Windows and Mac platforms, however.
Despite these promises, some users aren't too impressed with living in a 32bit
world. One recent 64bit adopter told us: "The fact that my 64bit Internet
Explorer doesn't work 100 percent is pathetic. I do understand it's an
issue with Adobe Flash, but if I wanted to use a crippled browser, I'd use my
In addition to software, you may find that some of your peripheral devices no
longer work with a 64bit system. If, for example, you're using an XP-era
printer or scanner, it's a pretty safe bet that your device won't be
64bit-compatible. Check out your device manufacturer's support pages to see
if the company offers a 64bit device driver. If it doesn't, you'll finally
have to shell out for that new printer you've had your eye on.
Things might be a little rough for 64bit Windows users right now, but you
shouldn't be left out in the cold forever. Bit by bit, the rest of the
computing world is moving to 64bit systems. Apple's Mac line-up is already
there, and Linux is also forging ahead with 64bit architecture. As more people
move towards the 64bit version of Windows, hold-outs in the software world will
also start making the switch. It's just that, unfortunately for early
adopters, we're not there yet.
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