64-Bit Versions of Windows Vista

The differences between 32-bit (x86) versions of Windows Vista and 64-bit (x64) versions are more complex. But here’s the weird bit: Though virtually every single PC sold today is x64-compatible, virtually every single copy of Windows Vista that goes out the door on those new PCs is a 32-bit x86 version.

If you do manage to purchase a new PC with a 64-bit version of Windows Vista preinstalled— and yes, they are out there if you look hard enough—that PC will come from the factory with all of the 64-bit hardware device drivers that are needed to support whatever add-ons and peripherals ship with the machine.

Consumers who are building their own PCs or adding Windows Vista to an existing PC have an additional issue to consider that is outside of the basic capabilities discussion covered in this chapter: Should you purchase a 64-bit version of Windows Vista? After all, 64-bit versions of Windows Vista can access far more RAM than 32-bit versions (up to 128GB as of this writing, compared to less than 4GB of RAM in 32-bit versions). In addition, 64-bit versions of Windows Vista are nominally more secure than 32-bit versions. Does that mean that 64-bit versions of Windows Vista are “better”? Not exactly. Though 64-bit versions of Windows Vista are widely compatible with the hardware and 32-bit software that Windows users have been using for years, these products simply aren’t as compatible as 32-bit versions of Windows Vista. For very many people, compatibility is the most important consideration when it comes to upgrading their PC, because they want everything they’ve been using to continue working. Moreover, few people need 4GB of RAM today, let alone more than that.

Here’s my advice. Typical consumers should stay away from x64 versions of Windows for the lifetime of Windows Vista. There will be niggling hardware and software compatibility issues on Vista x64 because Microsoft requires hardware vendors to ship different drivers for the 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) versions of Vista. Guess which one is easier? Though hardware and software compatibility has already improved dramatically since Vista first shipped, typical users will be frustrated by the one or two incompatible applications or devices that are likely to appear. It’s just not worth it. Not yet. Put another way, if you have to ask—that is, if you’re unsure whether you should be using Vista x64—then the answer is still the same: You shouldn’t be running Vista x64. That said, Vista x64 is considerably more viable than it was when Vista first appeared; and it’s moving quickly into the mainstream, though it’s not quite there yet. Maybe by the next version of Windows.

For the coming year, gamers, digital-content creators, CAD-CAM workers, science and engineering users, and other power users who run into the 4GB ceiling in 32-bit versions of Windows are ideal candidates for Vista x64. These types of users understand the risks and limitations of the x64 platform and don’t need my advice anyway. Enjoy the headroom.

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, 64-bit software isn’t magically faster than 32-bit software. That said, 64-bit PCs running a 64-bit version of Windows Vista and native 64-bit software can often outperform 32-bit alternatives, but that’s because you can add far more RAM to the 64-bit machine. Systems with massive amounts of memory just aren’t as constrained and can operate to their full potential.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows Vista Secrets SP1 Edition

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