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.
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A 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.