64 Bit Computing

There is a lot being said about Windows Vista at the moment along with the normal paranoia keeping users away that usually occurs when Microsoft release a new Operating System.I’m surprised by the number of people I know who have bought a new computer in the last couple of months and paid more to have Windows XP installed on it because of the horror stories they have heard, usually through a chain of half a dozen people.

If I can just clarify to my readership that Windows Vista is a good Operating System and in terms of bugs and security vulnerabilities it’s light years ahead of how Windows XP was this far into its distribution cycle.I’m not saying that you should rush out and buy it tomorrow if you’re happy with XP, but all I am saying is that if buying a new machine and you’re given the choice then definitely go the Vista route.

Other than which edition you’re going to get (Home Basic, Home Premium, Business or Ultimate) there is an equally important consideration in whether you’re going to go for the 64 bit or 32 bit version of Windows and unfortunately this is a consideration that’s often overlooked.

Ultimately your choice may have already been made for you by the system manufacturer; if your system only has a 32-bit processor then you can only use the 32-bit version of Windows.Those lucky enough to be buying a 64-bit processor will have the choice of going for either the 64 or 32-bit version of Windows and as such this article will be focusing on these users.If you’re not sure what on earth I’m talking about here I should probably explain a little more about what a processor is and how it works.

The processor could be considered the most central part of your computer and is responsible for performing the billions of calculations that are performed every time you use your machine.There are a number of measures that can be applied to a processor to determine how powerful it is but one of the primary considerations is how many bits of information it can handle at any one time.My old Commodore 64 could handle 8 bits of data at once, most current PC processors can handle 32 bits and the newer, more powerful models can often handle 64 bits.

I feel that this oversimplification could be misleading as there are of course a million other factors that play a part in the performance of the processor; another important consideration for example is how many thousands of times a second the processor can move these bits of information around.Suffice to say, a 64 bit processor should perform better than a 32-bit processor of similar specification as long as it’s using software written to take advantage of the additional data handling capability.

As these processors are backwards compatible, you can install a 32-bit version of Windows on your 64-bit processor but as a result your machine will not be able to take advantage of this additional data bandwidth and you will be essentially handicapping your new processor; this is where the 64-bit version of Vista comes in to play.Whilst it is true that Microsoft did release a 64-bit version of Windows XP it unfortunately never gained any real support and as such was never developed in to a viable platform.

With 64-bit processors becoming commonplace and with a large wave of support for these new, more powerful versions of Vista it looks like 64-bit computing has finally arrived so now there are important decisions to be made.I think I have explained the primary speed advantage however there are also a number of other benefits from making the switch and rather predictably a large number of disadvantages.As this decision is an important one I plan next week to go over both sides of the argument so that you can decide which version is right for you.


About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.