Just as quickly as Windows Vista became the only operating system choice at the big-box stores, it seems that the 64-bit version of Vista is becoming the pre-installed version of choice. It has gotten difficult to find a Dell or HP computer at such stores as Best Buy, Circuit City or Costco that doesn’t have an edition of Vista 64-bit installed.
What is the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Vista?
Without getting too geeky, 64-bit operating systems can use more RAM. 32-bit systems are mathematically limited to 4 GB of RAM. This total includes the video card memory, as well.
For computers, such as mine, with 4GB of RAM and a hefty video card installed, only 3-3.5 GB of the RAM will be recognized and utilized.
So 64-bit must be better than 32-bit, right?
In the long run, it will allow for more powerful computers. Unfortunately, real estate agents making the switch to a 64-bit platform could experience a lot of compatibility issues.
What types of issues should I expect when switching to 64-bit Vista?
Before going to a 64-bit system, do your homework.
Make a list of every peripheral that you own (printer, scanner, digital camera, web cam) and every piece of software that you could not do without.
Once you have that list, go to each manufacturer’s website to determine 64-bit compatibility. Hardware will need compatible drivers. Software may need patches to work.
If the manufacturer doesn’t offer any real answers, Google it. A quick search for “Vista 64-bit compatibility with…” can provide a wealth of information. Forums are filled with real-life accounts of computer users and their 64-bit experiences.
Be prepared to find out that a peripheral will need to be replaced or a newer version of a program will need to be purchased to be compatible.
What was my switch to 64-bit Vista like?
My computer seemed to be the perfect candidate for an upgrade from 32-bit Vista Ultimate to the 64-bit version. It has 4 GB of RAM and a video card with 768 MB of memory. On the 32-bit platform, only 3.2GB of memory was recognized. Seemed like a waste of money to have bought all that RAM for only 80% to be utilized.
After careful deliberation, I decided to jump into the 64-bit world. My reasoning: if 64-bit systems are being sold to mainstream users and my hardware and software are relatively new, it should be a safe switch. Besides, I wanted to use all of my RAM (or go all out and install the maximum 8 GB of RAM).
I did my research. I went to manufacturer websites, did Google searches and even directly contacted tech support for a few questionable pieces of equipment.
Overall, my experience was dreadful. Even with my careful research, I ran into issues:
- Spysweeper isn’t compatible and had to be thrown out.
- My iPod corrupts each time I sync. I now use my XP laptop to sync via my network.
- A BIOS update was required to keep a USB card from freezing my computer.
- Symantec spent a total of 9 hours remotely controlling my computer to get Norton Internet Security 2008 to work.
- Outlook won’t shut down.
- The system won’t hibernate anymore.
- Acrobat needed a patch before it would create a PDF.
While some of these issues will eventually be resolved (through countless hours on my part), they are definitely affecting my productivity and computing enjoyment.
I would not recommend anyone go through this hassle. The performance boost is not substantial enough to justify the time and energy spent.
What to consider when purchasing a new computer?
Eventually, you will need a new computer. Should you find a system with 32-bit Vista or go with 64-bit versions?
Before you know it, 64-bit computing will be common place. The progression is inevitable. Purchasing a 32-bit computer now will only lead to regret in the near future when everything is running on 64-bit.
Luckily, many of the upgrade problems that I ran across won’t be an issue for computers purchased with 64-bit Vista pre-installed.
Just as I recommended for real estate agents making the jump to Windows Vista, do your research and expect to pay more on your next computer purchase. The extra money isn’t for the computer (new computers are ridiculously cheap these days), it is for new peripherals and software.
That 6-year-old printer might print just fine for you, it may not be 64-bit compatible and need to be replaced. Your copy of Acrobat 7 might suits your needs for PDF conversion, but a purchased upgrade to 8.1 or newer is required to run on a 64-bit computer.
When budgeting for a new computer, expect to spend nearly as much on software upgrades and new peripherals as you do on the computer, itself.
The good news: 32-bit computing has been the standard since 1995, so 64-bit technology should be around for awhile.