32-bit vs 64-bit Overview...
As this question has been raised numerous times the following is a brief overview of Windows Vista 32-bit (x86) editions and Windows Vista 64-bit (x64) editions.
1.) System Requirements: In order to use a 64-bit operating system you must have a 64-bit processor. (Note: Most processors sold since 2007 are 64-bit.) However, if you do have a 64-bit processor you are not required to have a 64-bit operating systemyou may choose to install/use a 32-bit operating system if you wish. Edge: 32-bit
2.) RAM Limitation: 32-bit operating systems are limited to 4GB of physical RAM, with only 3.2GB to 3.7GB being available for use depending on your exact hardware configuration. This is not a Windows- or Vista-specific limitation, but rather the 32-bit architecture. With a 64-bit edition this limit is greatly increased, to 8GB for Windows Vista Home Basic users, 16GB for Windows Vista Home Premium users, and 128GB for Windows Vista Professional/Enterprise/Ultimate users. Edge: 64-bit
3.) Software Compatibility: Not all software that ran under Windows XP will work with Windows Vista, so be consult the Windows Vista Compatibility Center and/or the programs developer to ensure compatibility. However, 98% of all software which works with Vista x86 will also work with Vista x64 with no decrease in performance or reliability. The exceptions are applications which tightly integrate themselves with the operating system, such as antivirus/firewall software and Windows customization utilities. You will need to check the compatibility of these select applications individually with the applications developers. Edge: 32-bit
4.) Driver Compatibility: Unlike with software compatibility, driver compatibility remains a significant issue. Many device manufacturers have not released 64-bit drivers for their devices, meaning many older (2006 and before) printers, scanners, cameras, MP3 players, etc, as well as some new ones, may not work correctly or at all under Vista x64 when they may work perfectly under Vista x86. Please check the manufacturers website for 64-bit drivers, and Vista compatibility in general, before purchasing the device or upgrading to Vista x64. Edge: 32-bit
5.) Performance: 64-bit computing is designed to offer an increase in performance, generally considered to be between 10% and 20%, for tasks which involve large amounts of computation, such as graphics editing, gaming, video encoding, etc. However, there is little to no benefit from using a 64-bit processor and 64-bit operating system unless the program is specifically optimized for 64-bit use. Thus, AutoCAD x64 would show a performance increase while Microsoft Office or Firefox would not. Edge: 64-bit
6.) License/Media: A retail copy of Windows Vista generally includes only an x86 DVD unless you purchase Vista Ultimate, which includes both. However, Microsoft will ship you a DVD containing either edition for the cost of shipping and handling. Further, note that a retail Windows Vista license works for both x86 and x64 editions, provided youre only using the product key to activate one installation at any given time. This does not apply to pre-installed OEM copies of Windows Vista from HP, Dell, Sony, etc, which are governed by a different set of licensing restrictions. Edge: 32-bit
7.) Upgrading: Note that it is not possible to upgrade from a 32-bit operating system to a 64-bit operating system, or to go in the reverse direction. Any change between the two would require you to backup all of your personal files, erase your hard drives partition, install your operating system and programs from scratch, and restore your files from that backup. You should consider this before the initial installation to avoid a tumultuous transition. Edge: None
Hope this helps,
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