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Is it worth installing the Ubuntu 9.10 64-bit version over the 32-bit x86 version? I will get the ability to address more than 4 GB of memory, but other than that, how does the 64-bit version fare in terms of performance and stability?

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You can address more that 4 GB in x86 versions using PAE. –  alfplayer Nov 1 '09 at 19:56
    
see also 32-bit vs. 64-bit systems –  Wimmel Jul 8 '11 at 17:47
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6 Answers

You might want to read an article from AMD: Myth and facts about 64-bit Linux

Conclusion from the article:

Use a 64-bit system and stick to the compat layer if you have the need of running certain 32-bit applications.

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Warning - PDF download :) –  bedwyr Mar 27 '10 at 15:18
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Tux radar has a short benchmark test that discusses advantages (and at least 1 minor disadvantage) to using 64 bit. Overall, they are for it:

At this point, using a 64-bit distro is rather like enabling hyperthreading on your CPU - you get a free performance boost for your PC, and if that means you can put off upgrading it for another six months then it's an easy win. As we said earlier, it's a nice bonus. Sure, 5-10% isn't a lot, but when it's across your whole desktop and comes at no cost, why not? If you do use an application that isn't in Ubuntu's repositories, check around first to see if other users have any experience of running it in 64-bit.

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Unless there is some application you use that is 32-bit only, I really see no reason why not to use the 64-bit version. Even if there are no obvious benefits besides >4 GB memory, I don't think there are any obvious downsides to using the 64-bit version either.

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There are two things that made me use 64-bits Ubuntu.

First when using CPU intensive stuff, like encoding H.264 videos, it is really nice to be able to maximise the use of the hardware.

Secondly I want to be able to use more than 4 GB RAM. This is kind of important if you like to play with virtual machines (like VirtualBox), since it is nice to give it 1-2 GB of RAM and really reduces the amount the host has left.

So if you ever had the idea of having 2-3 VirtualBox:s running the same time, 4 GB of RAM is not that much...

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Why not try both and decide for yourself? You can always backup your homedir and migrate it to the version you intend to keep.

I don't know if it's the placebo effect or something else, but I seem to think that 64-bit feels faster on the same hardware.

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It's time consuming to try both, it might be misleading to decide for yourself (trust professional benchmarks), it might be difficult to test upfront and find out all cases when it can go wrong –  user35186 Nov 6 '12 at 18:59
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If you're using 64-bit hardware, you should use the 64-bit version of Ubuntu. You get the best of 64-bit performance and size with the minimum of compatibility problems with 32-bit legacy applications.

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