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I have 2GB of RAM on my laptop, which is the max.

Should I install 32 bit version or 64 bit version?

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If 2GB is your max ram are you sure you have a 64bit capable CPU? Most modern 64bit capable systems can take more than 2gb ram... –  Whisk Aug 4 '09 at 7:50
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What are you going to use it for is the most important question –  Ivo Flipse Aug 4 '09 at 8:11
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64 bit machines can take huge amounts of ram, but that doesn't mean the motherboard will have the slots for it –  Chris S Aug 4 '09 at 8:51
    
2GB is a pretty low ceiling or an x64 machine, but I suppose it's possible. The ThinkPad T60's mobo's could only address 3GB regardless of installed OS or RAM –  STW Aug 4 '09 at 13:27
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8 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The Windows 7 system requirements declares 2GB as minimum for 64-bit.
Going by earlier system requirement statements from Microsoft, I would suggest using 32-bit.

If you are attracted to 64-bit (I do not see a reason for that in recent times)
You could upgrade your memory and start with the 64-bit edition.


Other references.

  1. Gizmodo: Why You Should Go 64-Bit With Windows 7
    • If you're not planning on going to 4GB of RAM anytime soon, you might wanna hold back, since you need 4GB of RAM to take full advantage of 64-bit's memory management. That said, RAM is so disgustingly cheap right now, and has such an intense bang-to-buck ratio, you should definitely upgrade to 4GB if you haven't already. Anyone who runs specialized or older gear should probably not jump into 64-bit.
  2. Windows7 Forums: Windows 7: 64 bit vs 32 bit? -- 64 bit pro and cons
    • You can address much more than 4GB of memory [whole idea is, handle more memory]
    • 16 bit applications will no longer run
    • Existing 32 bit drivers no longer work
    • Unsigned kernel-mode drivers no longer work
    • Running some 32 bit applications on a 64 bit OS could actually be slower
  3. The Microsoft 32-bit and 64-bit Windows FAQ
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I don't think there's a black and white answer here, there are pros and cons for both:

32 bit: Pros

  • Better device driver support
  • More 32bit applications

64 bit:

  • Larger available memory space if you have more than 3Gb RAM
  • All compatible device drivers are signed

In your case with only 2Gb ram I'd probably just go 32bit as there isn't significant benefit going to 64bit.

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For any PC with less than 3GB of RAM I would go for 32-bit Windows. If you plan on upgrading your RAM and you are sure you can get 64-bit drivers for all your hardware, go with 64-bit Windows. You probably won't find many Windows 7 drivers yet, but 64-bit Vista drivers should do fine.

32-bit software usually runs fine on 64-bit Windows 7 (and Vista). Since I started using Vista 64-bit (around the time it got released), I've only experienced problems two times and only one was a complete failure. An average user should not have any problems using 32-bit software when 64-bit is not available.

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If you are certain that you won't be upgrading to 4GB+ ram, it doesn't really matter I think. If you have a 64-bit CPU it might be nice to have 64-bit windows too though... especially since it sounds cooler :p

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The biggest issue you should care about is drivers.

Do 64bit drivers exist for your laptop? Check that before you do anything, as lot of hardware companies don't have any available. If you can't find Windows 7 drivers, usually the Vista drivers will work.

Ontop of that, if you are using your laptop for heavy-lifting applications that require a lot of memory, then 64bit is better. Though with 2gb of RAM it's barely going to make any difference for you, as 64bit excels because it can support more than the ~3gb limit of 32 bit windows. So the advantage is once you have more than 4gb of ram.

The heavy-lifting applications usually are 3D software: Maya, 3DS Max, or graphics applications such as Photoshop and Gimp. Also gaming on 64bit gives slightly faster framerates, though that's a product of the processor and motherboard not the operating system. Your existing games may not work on 64 bit Windows.

You are also likely to find some installers refuse to install on a 64bit version too, mostly from dumb installers looking at registry keys.

My choice would be stick with 32 bit Windows 7, as a laptop (atleast one that only has 2gb of RAM) is probably not going to be used for any of those applications, or gaming.

If you want another opinion Tomshardware has a few threads on it.

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Yes, I have all the drivers for both 64 and 32 bit. –  AngryHacker Aug 4 '09 at 21:08
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It used to be that 32-bit was recommended unless you specifically needed 64.

I think these days the reverse goes. Unless you have hardware that does not have supported 64-bit drivers, or you have applications that are absolutely not going to work on 64, I'd say pick 64-bit.

It is only a matter of time before you put more memory into the machine. Also, since 64-bit has a larger addressable memory space (even if there is no physical memory available to cover it), some applications will actually work better because they can provide apps with more virtual memory.

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If you planning extend RAM to 4GB+, it's better if you install 64bit version.

Or if you want virtualizing 64bit OS in virtual machine.

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VMware supports 64-bit guests in 32-bit hosts (w/hardware virtualization technology) but doing so is pretty painful w/only 3 GB RAM. –  bk1e Aug 8 '09 at 22:42
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64 bit handles ram more effectively than 32 bit (i.e. u need to have more than 4gb)

Word of caution though before you install make sure that you can locate 64bit drivers (for your laptop) and 64 bit compatible software (depends on what software you use) especially if you are going to be running 3D applications.

If all the above parameters are certain then I'd say go with the 64 bit version

Edit: Atleast in terms of 64bit Windows Vista i have seen a marked difference in performance of 3D applications (3D Max and Maya) when compared to the 32 bit version (the configuration of the computers the OS was installed on being the same)

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How does 64-bit handle RAM better? The only performance difference is that the CPU's registers are twice as large in 64-bit mode, but in practice that doesn't really account for a speedup at all. If you don't need 4+ GB of RAM, there is no point in using a 64-bit operating system. –  Sasha Chedygov Aug 4 '09 at 8:08
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sources? the wording makes the post sounds like misconceptions. –  svandragt Aug 4 '09 at 8:18
    
edited the post hope that clears up the confusion .. –  rzlines Aug 4 '09 at 17:38
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