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With the release of Windows 7 coming up, 64-bit operating systems have caught my attention.

What are the main advantages and disadvantages of installing 64-bit Windows 7? What type of compatibility issues will I face and would i have to install 64-bit software, or will all the applications I have been using in 32-bit operating systems work just the same?

Edit: My computer is only 5 months old, so it supports 64-bit operating systems

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Check out this article for a more extensive overview of 64-bit computing: 64-bit computing, the future and you –  KronoS Apr 9 '11 at 15:59
    
if you have 4gb of ram or more, yes. –  Uğur Gümüşhan Jun 11 '12 at 22:32

10 Answers 10

up vote 34 down vote accepted

Yes absolutely. I haven't encountered any hardware or program issues. All of your 32-bit applications should work fine. Mine have. Windows 7 has got to have the best hardware support Windows has ever had

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He might have to check if he has 64-bits drivers for all his hardware (perhaps not everything is supported) –  Ivo Flipse Jul 16 '09 at 6:22
    
True, but I think even 32-bit drivers will work ok for some hardware. I might be wrong though :p –  Svish Jul 16 '09 at 8:01
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Nope, 32-bit drivers won't work on 64-bit windows. windowshelp.microsoft.com/Windows/en-US/help/… –  Wilka Jul 16 '09 at 13:02
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How does a 32-bit VM help your 64-bit OS load video or sound drivers? –  sangretu Jul 27 '09 at 20:11
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This answer doesn't actually explain why 64 bit is better, just that it's compatible. –  ripper234 Aug 10 '09 at 16:50

The main advantage is of course more physical memory for the computer. The disadvantage is that applications tend to use slightly more memory due to the implementation of 64-bit architecture. Most people going 64-bit usually upgrade the amount of memory anyways so this isn't that big of a problem. If you don't multitask that much it shouldn't affect you either way. The majority of your 32-bit applications should work fine.

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Some hardware, especially if its old, won't work on a 64 bit machine if you can't find drivers for it.

Two pieces of hardware I ran into problems with was my Treo and an older HP laser printer I had.

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+1 This could be a real pain. I know that also many models of Sony Recording Cameras do not have drivers for 64-bits OS –  Drake Jul 16 '09 at 7:32
    
This is a real issue for me because I like buying odd hardware - SNES-to-USB cables, odd game controllers, fancy sound cards, etc –  MGOwen Apr 27 '10 at 2:20

If you're running a new high-end system that you want the following from:

  • Ability to run 64-bit applications
  • Ability to address more than 4 GB of RAM

Then you should install a 64-bit OS.

Really I don't see these days why there wouldn't be any point installing a 64-bit if the system is new or even new-ish.

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Netbooks with the Atom processor can't run 64-bit OSes. –  jasonh Jul 16 '09 at 3:27
    
@jasonh, true, not yet. The next generation of the Atom will support 64-bit though. –  Wedge Jul 17 '09 at 11:34

32-bit is the way to go if you:

  • Have hardware more than a few years old
  • Want to run 16-bit applications.
  • Want to be limited to 3.25GB RAM.
    • Exception: Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition x86 supports more by manipulating memory pages.
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With most modern machines getting released with 4 GB or more these days (or at the least 2 GB), I really wish Microsoft would actually bite the bullet and just discontinue production of 32-bit OSes.

(I know... there are situations where people still need 32-bit... but really, until you force the issue there will always be stragglers.)

These days I'd say, if you are not sure, pick 64-bit (used to be, if you're not sure, pick 32-bit).

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This was too early to do with Windows 7 (in part, it targets Atom-based netbooks, and those can't run a 64-bit OS). Your wish may well become true with Windows 8, who knows. –  dbkk101 Oct 19 '09 at 8:37

I've been running x64 Vista since February, and the only hardware that I've found not to have drivers are digital SLR cameras. There are workarounds for getting the files off (memory card reader, or putting the camera in PTP mode), but you won't be able to do anything like tethered shooting.

Some manufacturers are yet to commit to creating 64 bit drivers as well. As I see it, this is a bit of commercial suicide as it is photographers with fancy DSLRs that make the most out of having large amounts of RAM available...

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Upvoted. Which camera models were incompatible, btw? –  dbkk101 Oct 19 '09 at 8:39
    
Most digital SLRs, if only for RAW codec support [ microsoft.com/prophoto/downloads/codecs.aspx ]. From experience, I can say there are at least workarounds for Canon's digital cameras: photography.angle.uk.com/questions/42/… –  Rowland Shaw Oct 19 '09 at 11:29

Yes. When operating systems move to 64-bit only (Windows 8?) you will have an easier time upgrading than if you have a 32-bit operating system.

For most purposes you won't notice a difference. Everything should run just fine. Almost all recent hardware has 64-bit drivers.

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I wish it was the case that most hardware had x64 drivers, especially things like cameras - See also: superuser.com/questions/4526/… (The irony in that is that it is likely to be professional photographers that are going to gain most, commercially speaking, from being able to use a lot of RAM... –  Rowland Shaw Oct 19 '09 at 11:34

This should help you, even though it is written for Windows Vista. Windows Vista 64-bit - Is it worth the upgrade? This explains the following: benefits & limitations introduced by 64-bit, what to consider when installing the 64-bit version, benchmark results and user experience changes. All things here do apply to Windows 7 as well. I've been using the RC version of 7 for a few months and i confirm that's the case.

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If you have 16-bit applications or any 32-bit application with a 16-bit installer, you won't be able to run it on Windws 7 x64 (except via "XP Mode", VMWare, VirtualBox et al). I ran into this problem once in 3 years of running Vista x64.

32-bit shell extensions won't work because Windows Explorer is a 64-bit application.

You will need x64 drivers for all of your hardware. This is not much of an issue anymore as Windows logo certifications requires manufacturers to provide an x64 driver and all Vista drivers are binary compatible with Windows 7.

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