64-bit Ready or Not

September 25, 2007

Vista busy cursor The processors in most modern computers can run 64-bit operating systems but very few PC users actually install something like say Vista 64-bit.

It’s not surprising really. There is no real benefit over 32-bit for the vast majority of purposes and, as things stand today, 64-bit computing is plagued with compatibility problems. Currently, you are only really obliged to go to 64-bit if you are doing something that needs vast amounts of RAM (maybe some graphics or video applications), and would be constrained by the fact that the maximum RAM addressable under 32-bit computing is less than 4Gb.

The 64-bit versions of Vista are reckoned to be more secure than their bit-challenged stablemates. This is true. Microsoft have continued their policy of keeping their bread and butter versions of Windows reasonably backwards compatible (although many Vista users might disagree) and that means 32-bit Vista has inherited many security compromises from its long line of predecessors. Not so 64-bit. Microsoft feel less behoven to worry about backwards compatibility with an OS which remains the province of that small minority who can’t run their over the top video applications without mountains of RAM. 64-bit Vista is far more stringent in its certificate checking than 32-bit Vista, and that is enough to break a lot of applications.

At some point, though, sticking with 32-bit will no longer be an option. Remember how Windows XP was happy as a pig in a poke with 128Mb of RAM? But now even 32-bit Vista Home Premium needs at the very least 1Gb of RAM, and for best results you would do better with 2Gb or 3Gb. What about the next incarnation of Windows, codenamed Vienna, due out in only around two years from now? Might not the RAM requirements have gone up again substantially? It would typical of Microsoft to pile on the features with new software, with corresponding resource demands beyond the capabilities of the typical PC of the day, then wait for the hardware to catch up. That’s what has happened with Vista (apart from the features). But next time around the cycle, when you need more than 4Gb even for everyday applications, you really will no longer be able to put off going to 64-bit.

If the divide in application compatibility between 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows is still present at that time, well the transition could be a very painful one.

There is a need to think and plan ahead, and I shall be exploring this broad topic in more detail in coming posts.

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  1. I, like many others, am not happy with this development. I noticed an increase in speed with 8gb of RAM but then my computer started crashing.. So I’m back to 6gb..
    I fondly remember my Amiga with 1mb of RAM..

    Is it possible to run adobe programs on Linux? I’d gladly abandon Windows..

  2. Even though is hard, people should start using 64 bit technology, if something dosen’t work properly, they should make it work, that is how 64 bit technology will come. A better option than Vista 64 bit is Linux 64 bit, the new version of Opensuse solved the compability problems with my network card.

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