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When reinstalling Windows 7, does the language, version, architecture (64-bit or 32-bit) or source (OEM, retail, or MSDN) matter?

Tired of the unstable Win 7 64bit I got when I purchased my laptop (it was impossible to find a powerful laptop with Win 7 32 bits).

Can I legally downgrade from Win 7 64 bits to Win 7 32 bits? The key/activation will work?

Details: Everybody comments about the stability of Win 64. Well, I made a mistake. Is not that Win 64 is unstable (it never crashed). It just works very poor. It feels choppy. Compiling a large program (on an old AMD desktop PC) takes 1.5 seconds on Win 32. The same program compiles on Win 64 in 4-5 seconds in this new and "powerful" laptop. All programs are less responsive.

  • 2
    I really wouldn't expect 32bit to improve anything unless your problem is with a specific 64bit driver, and even there 64bit windows requires driver certification. Mar 24, 2011 at 16:51
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    This isn't a downgrade, it's a sidegrade. The versions are the same. #pedantic Mar 24, 2011 at 19:16

2 Answers 2


Yes for retail Windows 7 licenses.

When you buy the retail DVDs Microsoft gives you both versions, 32 and 64. As long as you only install and license one of them at a time, Microsoft doesn't really seem to care which you use. I have downgraded one system with no issues - though you will have to backup and reinstall everything - but you knew that.

For OEM licenses, at the time you purchase an OEM copy of Windows 7 to be preinstalled on a new PC, you must choose either 32-bit or 64-bit Windows. Your agreement with the OEM determines whether you can switch to a different version; some PC makers support only a single version with specific PC models and will not allow you to switch from 32-bit to 64-bit (or vice versa) after purchase. Source

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    Be warned though - if you have 4 gig of RAM or more you will lose access to some of your memory.
    – Majenko
    Mar 24, 2011 at 16:27
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    that includes any ram dedicated to other hardware in the laptop as well (such as a dedicated graphics card, which not all laptops have)
    – Xantec
    Mar 24, 2011 at 16:45
  • I have 4GB RAM. 3 usable. So there is no difference between 32 and 64 bits because 64 bits programs takes more RAM, and the 1GB I was supposed to gain by using Win 64 is lost because of the size of the programs.
    – Gabriel
    Mar 26, 2011 at 10:56

What hotei says is completely correct and answers your question but I would just like to add some points regarding 32 and 64-bit.

The instability may not be due to Windows 7 64-bit, and could instead be due to the mash of 3rd party software installed by the manufacturer of your laptop. The manufacturers sometimes put a lot less care into their software than they do their hardware as can be found at The HP CPU Assassin SU blog post.

There should be no real reason to downgrade from 64-bit and if anything 64-bit should be more stable due to the requirement of drivers to be properly validated prior to being installed.

If you have 4GB or more of memory then 32-bit will cripple your laptop and you will end up with less memory available for the system to use.

My first recommendation would be to reinstall Windows 7 64-bit from an install CD and only install the drivers from the manufacturer that are actually required to make all the devices work, don't install their "helper" multimedia software or anything else, and see if that is more to your liking and is more stable.

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    This - I doubt the instability is just because you're running 64-bit Windows.
    – Shinrai
    Mar 24, 2011 at 16:38
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    I'd have to agree here. Windows 7/64 on the 2 HP laptops I have works fine. One is OEM version, one is Vista Upgrade from Win7 DVD. Both are stable with the software I use. YMMV.
    – hotei
    Mar 26, 2011 at 3:42
  • I have to wait until Toshiba provides decent 64 bit drivers.
    – Gabriel
    May 18, 2011 at 10:01

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