64 Bit Computing #2

Last week I started talking about 64-bit computing and the possible advantages that it could offer.For those of you that missed my last article, you’re probably best off downloading a copy at www.computerarticles.co.uk as otherwise this one article by itself may seem incomplete.

I focused specifically on the speed increase that could potentially be realised by installing a 64-bit Operating System if you’re lucky enough to have a 64-bit processor inside your machine.This is because such an OS would allow the processor to address more memory and handle more data per clock cycle than a 32-bit equivalent.

It is true that there have been 64-bit versions of Linux around for a while now along with a fairly unsuccessful 64-bit version of Windows XP.It is most likely however that you will be considering Windows Vista as your next Operating System we’ll focus on the 64-bit version of this OS today.

Along with the potential speed increase, there are a number of fringe benefits such as better security, however all this comes at a cost.There are unfortunately a number of downsides that you should be aware of before taking the leap:

Vista 64 has no support for 16 bit Windows applications

For most people this isn’t a problem as it would be very unlikely that you would stumble over any old 16 bit (aka Windows 3.x) code anytime in the near future.This point is still a consideration, however as 16-bit code does have a habit of turning up in the most unlikely of places; outdated application installer code, for example.

No compatibility with existing 32 bit drivers

In the 64-bit version of Vista you do have in install the appropriate 64-bit driver for any hardware that you own, although Vista does come bundled with a huge library of supported hardware straight out the box.I have installed this Operating System on several computers without a hitch however you may have trouble getting Vista to recognise any older or possibly more obscure hardware that hasn’t had a 64-bit driver written for it.

No support for unsigned drivers

The driver issues are made worse by the fact that you won’t be allowed to install any driver that hasn’t been signed off by Microsoft as being compatible with Vista 64.This, in my mind is a good thing as dodgy drivers are a major cause of system crashes and any measure that can curb such eventualities can only be a good thing.

There is currently very little 64-bit software on the market

Whilst it is true that you will most likely benefit from a modest performance increase in the actual Operating System performance it is worthwhile bearing in mind that at present very little 64-bit software actually exists.As a result you will probably at present spend most of your time using 32-bit software which will immediately ruin the chances of any performance gains.

Taking in to account the above factors, I am unable to recommend the 64-bit version to all of those with compatible machines.The transition from 32 to 64 bit is a huge one and as such, whilst such complications are unavoidable and certainly unexpected, they still have to be taken in to consideration.

I personally made the switch approximately a month ago and so far haven’t had any problems whatsoever but there is no escaping the fact that for some users’ compatibility may be the deciding issue.It is very likely that the next version of Windows will be 64-bit only so the switch will have to make the switch sooner or later but whether that time is now is completely up to the individual.


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