I suppose many of you are already using Windows 7 RC in a productive environment. Most IT pros, however, will probably only switch to Windows 7 once they can get their hands on Windows 7 RTM. The first question will be whether to install Windows 7 x86 or Windows 7 x64, i.e. the 32-bit or 64-bit edition. This will be the topic for my next four articles. For today, I’ll just share the experience I’ve had with Vista x64. The next three posts will focus on Windows 7.

vista-64-bitA while back, I asked the 64-bit vs. 32-bit question for Windows Vista and later tried to answer it in a more detailed manner in a series of articles. I covered performance, application compatibility, and hardware compatibility issues. German-speaking readers can also check out my article about the Vista x64 vs. Vista x86 issue in Computerwoche magazine. Since Windows 7 is mostly an evolutionary rather than revolutionary release, not so many things will change, and most of what can be said about Vista x64 also applies to Windows 7 x64.

The 64-bit vs. 32-bit controversy ^

A decisive factor in my opinion on the 64-bit vs. 32-bit controversy was the outcome of the 4sysops poll. A whopping 66% of 2000 4sysops readers favored Vista x64 over Vista x86. The outcome of the poll finally convinced me that the time for 64-bit has come, not only for servers but also for desktops and laptops. The next notebook I bought came with Vista x64 already installed.

It has now been ten months since I started using the 64-bit version of Windows for daily work. The most interesting experience I have had is: I haven’t experienced much. Most of the time, I wasn't really aware of the fact that I was using 64-bit.

Okay, I’ll admit that a few times, when I downloaded a tool, there was a 32-bit and a 64-bit version. I also recall that in the beginning I stumbled across a program or two that didn't work at all on Vista x64, even though I haven't had any problem using it on Vista x86. However, these were either old versions of applications which now officially support 64-bit, or they were free tools from the pre-Vista era that hadn't been updated for ages. In the latter case, I always found a worthy 64-bit-capable replacement.

Software compatibility ^

As you all know by now, I am a fat PC (I can't stop repeating myself with all of the web app hype these days). My laptop has two 320 GB hard drives, and I have two external drives with an additional total capacity of 2.2 TB. I should also mention that they are all maxed out. Since I am neither a movie nor music collector, most of the stuff on these disks is software. Of course, I only use a fraction of it for my daily work, but I mention this here to give you an idea of what a fat PC really is. I think, this really says something about the general application compatibility of 64-bit Windows. I mean, if I didn't bump into major software compatibility problems, then it is quite likely that the average PC user won't either.

Hardware compatibility ^

I am not that fat when it comes to hardware (even though my laptop weighs 4 kg). The number of devices and gadgets I use is within reasonable limits. I did have a problem with my old Epson scanner, as there is a Vista x86 device driver but none for 64-bit. I probably would have bought a new scanner if I had needed one often enough. After all, you can get these toys for less than a good dinner nowadays. But since I only need a scanner once a year, I kept my old Epson and used it within a virtual machine. I also had a problem with a Bluetooth headset. Vista x64 crashes the Bluetooth driver every now and then, which didn't happen under Vista x86. However, that problem might have been specific to that headset. I tried a couple of newer headsets and they all worked flawlessly.

Once or twice, I had to disable Vista x64's signed driver checking to install free tools that came with device drivers. One of those tools was OpenVPN. It is a bit annoying to have to reboot to disable signed driver checking, but since I only had to do it every now and then, it wasn't a big a deal.

I have described all of the 64-bit-related issues that I had. I didn't, however, write about the problems I didn't have, because it is so difficult to describe something that didn't happen. The main message of this article is that it is noteworthy that, even though I sit all day in front of my laptop doing all kinds of odd things with it, I have no real 64-bit adventures to tell you about. So from my personal experience, I would say that Windows x64 is ready for prime time.

What are your experiences? ^

Please check out the numerous comments in one of my previous articles for other views. You are also welcome to share your latest experiences in the comment section of this article.

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Okay, enough about practice. We are now ready for theory, which is the topic of my next post.

9 Comments
  1. Lukas Beeler 13 years ago

    I can tell you that in our Windows 7 RC deployment (13 Lenovo laptops, two Lenovo desktops), we’ve only used the x64 version. All of our business software works on x64.

    Driver’s weren’t a big issue – Lenovo ships x64 drivers for everything, except BIOS updates. You’ll have to do them by CD again 🙁

    Printers and MFP devices weren’t a problem – our printer servers have been x64 since quite some time, and the MFPs scan to SMB shares or use digital sending.

    In a year or two, when larger companies might start thinking about maybe using Windows 7, they should really go with x64. Our internal laptops have 4GB of RAM (8GB isn’t economical), office desktops have 4GB (don’t need more), developer workstations have 8GB or 16GB.

    One big question: All those other people reading this – when you tested Windows 7 x86, why did you choose to go with it? Why not test x64 directly? What were your reasons?

  2. Claus Valca 13 years ago

    As our corporate enviroment doesn’t support x64 bit hardware or OS (yet) there still isn’t any strong incentive to even bother.

    Yet at home all three of our laptops have had tantalizing x64 bit stickers (AMD) on them for years. Yet the OEM Vista and/or XP OS loaded on them were x32 bit versions. Couple that with the Vista x64 word-of-mouth horror stories about lack of x64 bit drivers, it was enough to sour this Windows geek on the prospect of even bothering.

    Yet when Win 7 beta/RC versions were released and I had the change to (VHD) dual boot our Vista systems with a x64 bit flavor of Win 7 I jumped at the chance.

    Amazingly all the laptops I installed Win 7 x64 bit on accepted it with grace. I didn’t have to hunt up any third-party drivers to support the laptop’s hardware. All was well. No post config software/application issues.

    Amazing. So when Win 7 “Family Pack” hits the shelves you better believe I will be loading it up on all out laptopns, at the x64 strength.

    Not only does it seem ready-for-primetime, x64 Win 7 seems ready for home consumers as well.

    Sweet!

  3. Paul Morris 13 years ago

    I thought I would let you know and brag that I am using Vista x64 on my new laptop I purchased from the US has there was not what I wanted in the UK. Vista x64 runs perfectly on my new Sager i7 975 with 1.5Tb hard drive and I am not joking. Fantastic quality and speed!

  4. Lukas, I think those who prefer 32-bit just fear compatibility issues or simply have no 64-bit CPU.

    Claus, I am curious if OEMs will share your view. I somehow think that most of them will still sell 32-bit.

    Paul, I absolutely agree. Vista “was” a fantastic OS. 😉

  5. Paul 13 years ago

    Havent really used 32 bit Vista. Using 64 bit atm, and its great, with 8 GB DDR 2 ram. Only had probs with trojan remover which doesnt work with 64 bit. A bluetooth adapter, which loaded the drivers OK, but the program that came with it doesnt detect the adapter. Thats cool, I’ve still got XP 32 bit on the other 2 PC’s here.

  6. Farren 13 years ago

    I have had alot of compatibility problems with x64 in general. Alot of old apps, especially games, will not run or install, despite continuing updates. E.g. Starcraft – installer will not run, yet copy-pasted version of the game runs fine. Alot of old apps would run if in Compatibility Mode there were an option to run with only x86 instructions.

    As for hardware I have had troubles with this as well. Purchasing a new USB wireless LAN adapter, D-Link, a company with good reputation, did not provide any x64 drivers at all, and forcing the x86 drivers would not coax the device to run. This was purchased in late 2007, several months after Vista x64 was released. (Not to mention the fact that it also didn’t support x64 XP, which had been around for much longer.) To this date they still have not updated the part to support ANY x64 system. I had to re-work my network just to get the one x64 computer on the network, switching 2 systems which had previously been plugged in over to wireless at additional expense (compared to the one x64 system).

  7. Paul, interesting that you also had Bluetooth issues. I am beginning to wonder whether my problems were also related to 64-bit.

    Farren, it seems to me that your compatibility problems are about consumer products. Since this is a blog for admins, I didn’t really cover games etc. but I guess I should have mentioned that 64-bit can still cause problems for consumer software and hardware.

  8. Paul 13 years ago

    Re: Bluetooth. Yup, I dont think the drivers are the prob.

    Its an ASUS adapter, the ASUS site says theyre for Vista 64 bit (the drivers probably wouldnt install, if the drivers werent 64 bit anyway, but they do). The program that came with it (CA Magic Mobile), I would say is the prob (it wont detect the adapter). I could probably use Bluesoleil (which would probably detect the adapter). BUT, since I dont use credit cards etc, there’s no way to buy it..To see if it would work

  9. costelodc 13 years ago

    I am using Vista x64 and win 7 x64 RTM and I can say that right now are available almost all the software that I use. Certainly for whom using a laptop only for internet there is no question of the software or drivers that can be found easily on the web. old software may be used in compatibility mode. Vista is a bit slow compared to win 7.

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