Microsoft: 64-Bit OSes Gaining Traction

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News Posted: Wed, Aug 6 2008 12:41 AM

Despite our technophile-ness, we haven't seriously considered moving to the i 64-bit version of Windows Vista, mostly because we figure we will have application or device driver woes. However, in a blog post on the Windows Vista blog, Microsoft product manager Chris Flores said that Microsoft has noted a shift in adoption of 64-bit operating systems.

Microsoft has been tracking this shift by tracking the number of 64-bit PCs connecting to Windows Update. According to Flores,
The installed base of 64-bit Windows Vista PCs, as a percentage of all Windows Vista systems, has more than tripled in the U.S. in the last three months, while worldwide adoption has more than doubled during the same period. Another view shows that 20% of new Windows Vista PCs in the U.S. connecting to Windows Update in June were 64-bit PCs, up from just 3% in March. Put more simply, usage of 64-bit Windows Vista is growing much more rapidly than 32-bit. Based on current trends, this growth will accelerate as the retail channel shifts to supplying a rapidly increasing assortment of 64-bit desktops and laptops.
We'd certainly love to be able to address more than the approximately 3 GB of RAM that 32-bit Vista can use. But is 64-bit Vista ready?

According to Microsoft: kinda, sorta. As they said:
Preconfigured 64-bit PCs obtained from retailers or PC manufacturers should work quite well. This is in stark contrast to the experience of many technology enthusiasts who built their 64-bit PC from scratch and may have had to scour the Web looking for drivers. So, unless you really love to tinker with your PC, we suggest you buy a pre-built 64-bit PC at retail or directly from a PC manufacturer.
Obviously if the OEM offers 64-bit Windows Vista as an option on your PC, it's compatible. But what about all those peripherals and what about your favorite programs?

A check of a few printers and scanner shows the following:
  • Epson Perfection 3490: 64-bit drivers and utilities available
  • HP 1320n Laser Printer: 64-bit drivers available
  • Canon PIXMA ip3000: 64-bit drivers available
Software-wise, we just checked a few:
  • NOD32 v3.0: compatible
  • Nero 8: compatible
  • PhotoImpact X3: compatible
  • System Mechanic: not compatible
  • BOClean: compatible (really surprised with this one)
  • Threatfire: compatible
  • HP Upline: not compatible
And just for fun (pun-intended), we checked some games:
  • Crysis: compatible
  • World of Warcraft: compatible
  • Spore: compatible
Makes sense that the newer stuff seems to run without an issue. So, it seems things are not as dire as many may think. In fact, it really tempts us to take a chance, make a system image and try 64-bit Vista on our systems. Of course, as Microsoft says, do we really need to?
But if you only use your PC for a few tasks, and rarely do them at the same time, then you're unlikely to realize a measurable performance benefit today. Of course, buying extra capacity for your future, unplanned needs is always worth considering.

In the future, we expect both compatibility and performance of 64-bit PCs to continue to improve. Most hardware devices have 64-bit drivers today and most software products work unmodified because of the 32-bit emulation technology in 64-bit Windows Vista (called WOW64). But there are some gaps, especially in the long tail of the market, but we expect rapid improvement now that 64-bit PCs are getting so popular.

Over time we'll see more 64-bit-optimized programs hit the market, which promise dramatic performance and experience improvements.
Yeah, future-proofing, there's the ticket. But for most, 32-bit Vista is just fine. If you're getting a new system, and it's available, and you have mostly new peripherals and applications, you might as well go for it. But there's probably little to no reason to change from 32-bit to 64-bit on an existing system.



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While I see the wisdom of pre-built systems for average PC users, geeks and power users should know enough to research driver availability when planning a new system. If you plan to use a 64 bit OS and don't research driver availability, you deserve the woes it will bring.

I used to carry a hammer in my computer tool kit. Just for fixing the packard Bells though.......

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I gotta admit I was a bit apprehensive to rebuild my pc with 64bit vista after reading all the negative press however it proved to be the most harmless installation I have ever done.
All hardware worked first time no probs, also software was all fine including every game I have installed so I really don't see the problem with it unless you're trying to upgrade a 5+ year old pc with lots of extra devices eg. printers/scanners/modems/etc

Games inc. Crysis/Bioshock/Witcher/X3/MTW2/UT2008/CIV4 - all fine 1st time
Hardware inc. Asus soundcard + Nvidia graphics 64 bit - again fine 1st time
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I have been using Vista Home 64 for almost a year and the only program I have had to stop using is ZoneAlarm Firewall. But there are plenty of other Firewalls out with Vista 64 support, and I have actually found Comodo Firewall better anyway.

About a month ago I needed to buy a new laptop for my wife, and while looking around I found one with a huge sale on at BestBuy. It has 4 gigs of ram and Vista64, strait from the store. My wife has no clue what 64 is, and she hasn't even noticed a difference. I would say that makes it pretty close to ready for prime time.

My main rig is for gaming, and don't have a problem with BF2/Project Reality Mod, Crysis, or ARMA. I also help out a lot in my squad's hardware forum, and we all use Vista 64 and recommend it to everyone asking for help with a new build. So far they are all happy as well.
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shanewu replied on Wed, Aug 6 2008 4:11 PM
It's crazy how this snuck up on many of us geeks. I have noticed more forum readers using Vista 64, but what blows me away is that my grandma could go buy a new laptop and be using a 64-bit OS before I ever do!!! I never would have bet on that one in a million years. What an intriguing development. :)

"Everyone always wants new things. Everybody likes new inventions, new technology. People will never be replaced by machines. In the end, life and business are about human connections. And computers are about trying to murder you in a lake. And to me, the choice is easy." - Michael Scott (The Office)

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I have 32bit Vista. I want to put in 4GBs of ram but just don't feel like reinstalling vista. I do run 64bit Ubuntu however.
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I hope in future articles, Mr Santo will take care to distinguish between «64-bit Vista» and «64-bit computing». While there does exist a certain overlap between the two concepts, they are not synonymous....

Henri
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