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I currently have a 32bit version of Windows XP Professional on which I have installed the following 32bit software:

  • Chromium 13
  • Adobe Photoshop 7
  • Office 2003 Professional
  • Altiris 6
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Management Studio
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional
  • VirtualBox 4
  • Sophos AntiVirus 9

I have 3Gb of RAM and apparently the computer has a 64bit processor. This is not enough RAM for my day to day usage needs. I personally believe I need 6Gb+, probably around 8Gb, so I can have many virtual machines open, plus photoshop and or visual studio. At the moment, if I open 1 virtual machine, 1 complex photoshop file, the 3Gb is all used up.

So my question is, if I install Windows XP Pro 64bit, I know my computer can theoretically handle 8Gb of RAM even though a max of 4Gb is recommended by the manufacturers because of the included 32Bit os, will I have any problems reinstalling all the old 32Bit software listed above onto the 64bit os? Or will I have to get 64bit versions of all the software?

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Your going to have lots of problems with xp 64 bit... not many drivers are available for it either. May I suggest windows 7 64 bit? Everything you listed above will run fine with the exception of sophos and Altris both of which I have never used, but I assume they will work fine as well. – Not Kyle stop stalking me Apr 28 '11 at 12:30
+1 - I agree with everything @Kyle said. – boehj Apr 28 '11 at 12:37
+1 Avoid XP 64 bit for reasons noted – Dave M Apr 28 '11 at 12:47
I'll join in with 'avoid XP-64'. – Shinrai Apr 28 '11 at 15:15
up vote 6 down vote accepted

As Kyle mentions, Win XP 64bit is ugly and drivers in particular will be problematic.

Go with Windows 7 64bit, which supports 16gb-192gb depending on the version.

Out of curiosity, why does 1 VM require so much RAM? Photoshop is hungry for scratch space, but unless the applications running inside the VM have similar consumption patterns, you should be able to load more than that within 3gb.

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@BigChief, I have tried setting up the VM's with 512Mb RAM, but they quickly run out of RAM space when in use, so I generally set them up with either 1Gb or 1.5Gb. As you know, Photoshop is a RAM hog. It will easily take 1Gb for not so complex files. – oshirowanen Apr 28 '11 at 13:30
@oshirowanen: What exactly are the workloads running inside the VMs? I assume they're running Windows XP as well? – BigChief Apr 28 '11 at 14:12
Unfortunately, I don't have a second license to run Windows XP as a VM. My most used VM is running Linux as my development environment for website coding, website design, and database design. This one uses the most RAM has a have a lot open one once. The next one is also Linux, but it is a drupal environment, and they have recommended that the VM has 1Gb for smooth operation. Finally, I have a VM which is a copy of our live RedHat server, so before making changes, or going live with any new developments, I always test in the third VM. – oshirowanen Apr 28 '11 at 14:50
I always have vm1 open which I have running with 1Gb RAM, it gave me a lot of RAM problems with it was set to 512Mb. So the windows xp host uses about 512Mb, the vm1 uses 1Gb. I try not to open photoshop at the same time, because the computer slows down too much when it has to access virtual memory. So when I need to use photoshop and/or visual studio on windows xp, I have to shut down the vm1... So I am constantly having to shutdown, vm1, photoshop or visual studio, becuase 3Gb ram is not enough to have all them running and just switch between the 3. I use all 3 extensively throughout.. – oshirowanen Apr 28 '11 at 14:54
.....the day... – oshirowanen Apr 28 '11 at 14:54

I would avoid Windows XP 64 like the plague. It was the first attempt as a home 64-bit OS from Microsoft and it shows. As Kyle mentioned 64-bit drivers can be tricky to find as it was never really supported well.

You should have no problems running all your current applications, but each 32-bit application you run will itself be limited to somewhere around 3GB of memory though this means that you will be able to use more memory overall as the operating system is no longer limited to 4GB.

Most VMs have both 64 and 32 bit versions and will install the correct version for you and so they are typically only limited by your guest OS. I.E. 32-bit guest = 32-bit limitations such as 4GB of RAM usable, 64-bit guest, all is right with the world.

As Both Kyle and BigChief mentioned Windows 7 supports plenty of RAM and most hardware has drivers for it now.

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Not entirely sure what you mean by your second sentence. Do you mean that 32bit applications on a 64bit applications will only be able to use 3Gb of the 8Gb RAM. For example, Photoshop 32Bit can only use 3Gb of the 8GB RAM, but I can have a another 3 1GB VM's open along with Photoshop, using a total of 6Gb, still leaving me with 2Gb of RAM? – oshirowanen Apr 28 '11 at 13:33
Each 32-bit application will be able to access up to about 3GB of ram, so photoshop will be able to use up to 3GB, Office will be able to use up to 3GB and any other software will be able to do the same. Your VM software should be more intelligent and will run each guest as a separate process and so each one of them will have their own memory limits, effectively allocate whatever you like to each one on a 64-bit host OS, just keep in mind that a 32-bit guest OS will only be able to "see" 4GB of RAM. When running a 32-bit Guest VM then it's basically a waste to give it more than 3GB. – Mokubai Apr 28 '11 at 14:22
Thanks, that makes sense. – oshirowanen Apr 28 '11 at 14:56
Just to clarify, as you are going to be upgrading to a 64-bit OS your operating system will be able to "see" and allocate whatever memory it likes to applications, it's the 32-bit applications themselves that will have the memory limitations and they will be on a "per-process" basis. – Mokubai Apr 28 '11 at 15:13

Go with Kyle's reccomendation of Windows 7 x64/64 bit. I would get Professional edition or Ultimate, that way you can run programs in XP mode if needed, join a domain, RDP into other machines....

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RDP is available for all versions of Windows. Some of the better features are only available in Ultimate though. – Shinrai Apr 28 '11 at 15:18
Yes, The only versions with the "server" of Remote Desktop is Professional and Ultimate/Enterprise. Home Premium does NOT have this. It has Remote Desktop Connection, meaning it can connect to other PC's, but it is not able to be connected to. – djl236 Apr 28 '11 at 15:43
Right, which the opposite of what you said, hence my comment. :) – Shinrai Apr 28 '11 at 15:57
lol woops, sometimes my hands type faster than my brain is thinking.... – djl236 Apr 28 '11 at 16:22

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