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I've recently purchased Windows 7 Ultimate. I have an AMD Athlon64 X2 5000+ with 2GB DDR2 RAM. I know RAM has gotten much cheaper, I know, I know, but I am not going to be able to upgrade my RAM for about a year.

My question is obviously this; will I get any benefit from installing 64-bit Windows over 32-bit if I'm only using 2GB of RAM?

As I understand, the minimum requirement is 2GB & max is 192GB so if the minimum for 64-bit is 2GB & the minimum for 32-bit is 1GB will I lose performance if I chose to install 64-bit at it's minimum requirement over 32-bit whose minimum is half the amount?

I would like to install the 64-bit edition if only because it's the future. 192GB of RAM! that's incredible! Plus I've heard it simply performs better. But that is with a larger amount of RAM.

I've tried to make this question as easy to decipher as possible. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Don't forget that programs written specifically for 64-bit Windows will be faster, although the effect will only be noticeable for certain types of programs--mainly video and things that do a lot of math like WinRAR. –  Sasha Chedygov Aug 31 '10 at 22:28
    
possible duplicate of How much faster is a 64-bit CPU than a 32-bit CPU? I only mention this, because this question is like comparing a car with a 50 liter tank and a 100 liter fuel tank. They both work, and they can both do the same things, but the smaller tank is faster in some cases (less fuel weight), and the larger tank is faster in some cases (less time spent re-fueling). There is no benefit unless you require the use of 64-bit computing. –  Breakthrough Mar 2 '12 at 13:50
    
You will soon find that Windows 7 runs a lot better starting at 4GB. At which point you will be upgrading both. Depends on whether you want the 32 to 64 rip'n replace headache now or later. RAM's the easy part. –  Fiasco Labs May 25 '13 at 16:50
    
I disagree with the " There is no benefit unless you require the use of 64-bit computing.". a 64 bit OS allows for much more address space randomisation and much more mapping than you can do in 32 bit. YOu really should not use more than 512 MiB with a 32 bit OS. (and 2GiB is way more than 512MiB). –  Hennes Jun 29 '13 at 16:17

8 Answers 8

up vote 18 down vote accepted

I see only three potential benefits:

  • 64-bite applications can grant you a performance boost, when higher numerical precision is needed. If you are only using your pc for stuff like FF or iTunes, you probably won't get a boost but if you are using some scientific or higher-demanding applications, it is definitely the way to go.

  • Drivers are usually more stable since Microsoft requires 64-bit drivers to be certificated which does mean that at least some stress testing was done. 32-bit Windows do not have that requirement so manufacturers tend to be cheap. Unfortunately this also means that new drivers are usually first available for 32-bit version and 64-bit version may come little bit later.

  • If you are developer, it may be useful for testing your application in 64-bit environment. When you have 64-bit Windows, you can test both 32-bit and 64-bit behavior.

Personally, I would stick with 32-bit Windows in this particular case unless you have very good reason.

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The driver issue is reduced because it's impossible to get a "Certified for Windows" logo or WHQL certification nowadays without a 64-bit driver. –  afrazier Sep 5 '10 at 12:24
    
I don't think having a 64-bit operating system allows you to truly test 32-bit and 64-bit behavior, since the 32-bit programs are run under the WoW64 execution layer. The only true way to test it would be in a virtual machine running 32-bit or 64-bit Windows, depending on your needs (you can run both versions regardless of the processor word length of the host). –  Breakthrough Mar 2 '12 at 13:44

The other answers here cover the pros and cons fairly well, but consider this: if you think you'll be upgrading your memory in a year anyhow, and will be upgrading it to 4GB or more, then you might as well install Windows 7 x64 now, so that you don't have to reinstall later. It is not possible to do an in-place upgrade from a 32-bit installation to a 64-bit installation, so you may want to save yourself the trouble and just install the 64-bit version now.

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Another benefit to using 64bit windows is that there are some other architecture changes that go along with the move from 32 to 64 bits - more registers for example. The 64bit operating system will be able to take advantage of those changes.

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In addition to what Josip says, keep in mind that since address pointers are twice wider, memory consumption of 64-bit programs is slightly higher; on the disk as well as in memory.

This is easily confirmed by comparing 32bit and 64bit OS installation images.

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Not to mention that 64 bit version needs some 4 gigs of space on disc more than 32 bit version, for a start. –  Rook Sep 1 '10 at 0:55
    
While memory consumption does generally increase, you can still use 32-bit registers in 64-bit programs, negating this issue (obviously pointers do double in size, however). Furthermore, there is no intrinsic reason for a 64-bit program to take up more disk space, since no pointers are hard-coded, and most instruction opcodes don't change (or increase in length - x86 is a variable-length instruction set). See this question for more details. –  Breakthrough Mar 2 '12 at 13:48
    
Good point. Thanks for clearification. –  Andreas Mar 2 '12 at 14:29

If you'd said you had 3 GB RAM I'd have said put on the 64 bit OS. With 2 it's a toss-up. Win7 will run in 2 GB but it's not going to be real happy about it. Personally I'd use the 32 bit OS for the next year.

I doubt you will lose anything significant by that choice and if it turns out the latest-greatest widget you want REQUIRES 64 bit you can always change. But be prepared to change back. That new toy may have a bigger memory footprint than you can tolerate.

Luckily installing Win7 is relatively painless these days (just did one a few hours ago). Took longer to load the patches/hotfixes/updates than it did to load the OS.

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If you have a 64 bit operating system, you will have a mix of 64 bit and 32 bit applications and WILL have certain conflicts as a result. Also if you have any really old (in computer years) applications, they probably will not work in a 64 bit environment at all - they will not even install in many cases. I have a Windows 7 32 bit desktop with 4 GB installed ram (3.2 recognized) and everything runs smooth and quickly. I recently bought a new laptop with Windows 7 64 bit and 2 GB ram. (I did not realize that the laptop was 64 bit until I got it home and out of the box.) I had so much configuration difficulties and generally "flaky" operation with the 64 bit system that I had to wipe and install the 32 bit version. Unless you are going to utilize the additional capabilities of a 64 bit system over a 32 bit system (huge, HUGE graphic files, etc.) a 64 bit system is kinda like living in the deep south and buying a 4 wheel drive vehicle and never driving it off a paved highway. It is just one big waste that you never finish paying for.

In a single sentence: "Unless you have a specific need for 64 bit, 32 bit will serve you better. "Microsoft themselves makes this general advice regarding their 32 bit or 64 bit Office 2010.

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Just to provide an example to the contrary, I've been running Windows 7 x64 on my laptop (with 4 GB of RAM) for several months, and have yet to run into a single problem caused by having 64-bit windows. Indeed, this system has been more stable than the previous one I had with 32-bit Windows 7 (and 2 GB of RAM). Everyone's experience will be different, but it is possible for 64-bit Windows to run as well or better than 32-bit Windows. –  nhinkle Nov 30 '10 at 4:51
    
Thanks - I'm having plenty of problems with Win7 64bit whereas on my last computer (t410s vs now a t420s) I had very few problems and in that case I was running 32bit. Given the similarity in hardware I can't come up with any explanation except the OS version - so I'm going to wipe this machine and get onto 32bit.. Thanks for a small amount of reassurance that this may not be a bad idea.. –  stevemidgley Oct 1 '11 at 19:45
    
@SteveMidgley the problem is due to the software you're using, or the drivers for your computer - not the operating system. I have experienced zero issues switching to 64-bit, aside from some driver-incompatibility with older hardware, and older programs that no longer function correctly. In either case, if you experience any of those problems, it's acceptable to go back to 32-bit - but as I re-iterate, it's a problem with the software running under the OS, not the OS itself. –  Breakthrough Mar 2 '12 at 14:23
    
@Breakthrough After having some more years of experience with Win7 32 and 64, I can definitely tell you that on some hardware the 64 bit version blows up with bluescreens, whereas the 32 bit version doesn't. Now it may be the underlying problem is with software applications blowing up the 64 bit version, but that seems like a pedantic point. Running the 32 bit version of Win7 will on some hardware result in the end user experiencing fewer OS crashes (and in my case far fewer). –  stevemidgley Aug 23 at 0:05

I am running Windows 7 64 bit with a Turion 64(X2) processor and have not had any problems with system or programs. And I am only using 1 GB. ram at present. Yes, I know that more ram will be in order and am working on it.

Some say that Windows 7 should not really function with less then 2 GB. but obviously it is as that is what this was typed on. It is not as fast as it could be, with more ram. But it functions well for what it has.

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I find (repeatedly) that with low RAM (2-3GB) Win7 32 bit boots faster and seems "snappier". Same thing for 4GB, although on lots of machines, Win7/32 will only use 3GB. No serious issues with a clean install on decent hardware. I often recondition older machines that were running XP.

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