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Vista 32-bit v. 64-bit

Javert
Grafter
Posts: 241
Registered: ‎06-04-2008

Vista 32-bit v. 64-bit

I am hoping to change my computer fairly soon and have seen one that I like, and also a slightly more expensive model.  Most of the differences I can understand but one thing has me puzzled!  One is shown as being Vista 32-bit and the other as being 64-bit.  Could some kind person please explain to me, as simply as possible (I get easily confused!), the difference?    My computer is used only for Home/Office usage – no gaming  - I get confused by Scrabble!  Cheesy
John

7 REPLIES
VileReynard
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Posts: 11,202
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Registered: ‎01-09-2007

Re: Vista 32-bit v. 64-bit

A computer that is 32 bit is "limited" to addressing only 2^32 bytes ~ 4GBytes.
This can be a real problem if you use programs that address huge amounts of memory or large databases.
So you can get 64 bit computers which can access 2^64 bytes ~ 10 million Terabytes or something ridiculous.
These have the advantage that the natural size of an integer is 64 bits, so arithmetic can avoid overflow etc
But this is very application specific.
I don't know about Vista, but other OS's such as Linux allow you to run a 32 bit OS on a 64 bit PC (if you want).
The reason for this is that you will find there are problems obtaining 64 bit drivers for many Vista devices,
You will also struggle with running 64 bit apps in your browser.
E.g. Flash in a 64 bit browser.
However, Linux has the 64 bit side of things mainly sorted out - partly by the use of dual 32/64 bit software.
Vista - have you considered an upgrade to XP?

Community Veteran
Posts: 38,460
Thanks: 1,031
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Registered: ‎15-06-2007

Re: Vista 32-bit v. 64-bit

When I built my last computer I had the same choice. Move my existing XP license over or go 64 bit.
The reason I went 64 bit was primarily that I intended to install 4GB RAM plus a 512MB graphics card (possibly 1GB later).
What you may not realise is that a 32 bit operating system is limited to only 4GB total memory (that is all the memory in the system) so in my case a 32 bit system would only see
http://www.vistaclues.com/reader-question-maximum-memory-in-32-bit-windows-vista/
Quote
The PCI memory addresses starting down from 4 GB are used for things like the BIOS, IO cards, networking, PCI hubs, bus bridges, PCI-Express, and video/graphics cards. The BIOS takes up about 512 KB starting from the very top address. Then each of the other items mentioned are allocated address ranges below the BIOS range. The largest block of addresses is allocated for today's high performance graphics cards which need addresses for at least the amount of memory on the graphics card. The net result is that a high performance x86-based computer may allocate 512 MB to more than 1 GB for the PCI memory address range before any RAM (physical user memory) addresses are allocated.
Quote
So, if your video adapter has 512MB of RAM (like mine does), your maximum memory is going to at most be 3.5GB, because Vista has to use 512MB of that address space to address your video memory. It’ll actually be lower than the 3.5GB because there are other hardware resources that need address space, too. So, it never hurts to fill your computer with 4GB of RAM–you’ll definitely get the max, but you won’t be able to address it all. You probably won’t be able to address much more than 3GB, and you might not be able to address more than 2GB.
Community Veteran
Posts: 1,576
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Registered: ‎13-04-2007

Re: Vista 32-bit v. 64-bit

In simple terms
64 bit is faster(in theory) can use more memory which if you are only writing letters and browsing wont bother you. If you do Video editing or lots of big pictures then you may just use it.
The key thing is a lot of things dont have drivers for 64 bit so before you buy check your printer, scanner and anything else you have to see if the 64 bit drivers are out there. If they arnt then you would have to by new hardware with drivers for most people this is the crucial bit in the decision.
Community Veteran
Posts: 38,460
Thanks: 1,031
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Registered: ‎15-06-2007

Re: Vista 32-bit v. 64-bit

My limited experience is that it hasn't been a problem - now drivers for Vista were but 64 bit Vista as against 32bit vista doesn't seem to add too many other pieces of incompatible hardware. Always a good idea to check beforehand though.
lingbob
Grafter
Posts: 734
Registered: ‎05-04-2007

Re: Vista 32-bit v. 64-bit

I would reinforce what other posters have said about Vista 64-bit drivers (or rather, the lack of them). There are no 64-bit drivers for my HP printer and my Mustek scanner. If I'd have known that before I purchased my copy of Vista 64-bit, I wouldn't have bought it. As HP and Mustek are "popular" hardware manufacturers, I incorrectly assumed that they would be supported. Soooooooo, the moral of the story is - check that all your hardware is supported before parting with your hard-earned cash.
Regards .....
Javert
Grafter
Posts: 241
Registered: ‎06-04-2008

Re: Vista 32-bit v. 64-bit

Thanks for the replies – much appreciated.  From what has been explained here, I think that the 64-bit version is a “no no” for me – as I just want my existing things like my printer (bought 3 months ago) to work!
I have Vista on my laptop and it’s absolutely fine for me – but I can see where it might be a problem for people who are more knowledgeable than me! For anyone who uses their computer a lot I could well imagine it being more of a hindrance than a help – even I find it annoying in that it’s a so overly security-minded.  This is especially aggravating when it wants permission to run a program that’s already on your computer and has been used many time before.
Axisofevi: You asked whether to upgrade to XP.  Whilst I’m still using XP (it’s my computer that’s falling apart!), for my needs Vista is fine and, bearing in mind, that Windows 7 might be available late '09/early '10, I feel that’s the route to take.
Thanks once again.
John
VileReynard
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Registered: ‎01-09-2007

Re: Vista 32-bit v. 64-bit

See "The top five reasons why Windows Vista failed"  -  http://community.plus.net/forum/index.php/topic,71583.0.html
Vista -> XP is suggested as an upgrade path by a couple of people.  Smiley
There are some comments about whether Windows 7 is the way to go.