Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why Do I Need a 64 Bit OS?

Except in very specific circumstances anyone installing Vista should be installing a 64 bit version. The day of 32 bit Windows is over. Once you’ve used a computer that can use lots of RAM you won’t want to use one that doesn’t have lots of RAM. The OS is really irrelevant here. Running a 64 bit OS with 8GB or more is just a better experience. This is true for every current OS I’ve tried. All current computers are 64 bit capable. Most can use at least 4GB. Many can use 8GB or more. Even if you initially don’t have a lot of RAM you still want to install 64 bit from the start. There isn’t a noticeable performance penalty. When you do install more RAM, at least with Windows, there is no way to upgrade from 32 bit to 64 bit. A clean install is required. This can be very painful if you have a lot of programs installed. The procedure is to backup everything. Back up everything again. Install 64 bit Windows, erasing your old install in the process. Install your programs. Restore your data. Restore all your program settings. I just did this on my laptop. It took around six hours. I’ve got way better things to do than spend six hours staring at my computer just to get it back to where I started. The payoff is I can now use all 4GB that I have installed. If I’m just checking my email or doing some word processing I don’t see much of a difference. If I start up a virtual machine to test something in XP, click on a link to a video that was in an email, start a video call on Messenger, and then decide to edit a picture I see a huge difference. If you go to 8GB, this laptop only goes to 4, the difference is startling. As you load up tasks you don’t see much of a slowdown. Everything is usable. RAM is one of the least expensive upgrades. Install a 64 bit OS and upgrade your RAM. You won’t be sorry.