32bit or 64bit Ultimate with 4GB of 800Mhz RAM?

I'm upgrading my computer to Vista Ultimate, including upgrading the RAM to 4GB of DDR2 800. I am trying to decide if I should go with 32 bit or 64 bit on the OS. I know that 32 bit will only let me have about 3.5GB, but I've also heard about bugs and compatibility issues with 64 bit.

Would you recommend that I go with 32 bit Vista Ultimate or 64 bit Vista Ultimate?
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  1. 64 bit Vista is stable, drivers are readily available (on recent vintage systems), it runs 32 bit software perfectly and right now it's hot and getting hotter and is a very popular choice with the typical gamer/enthusiast. There are no particular bugs exactly, just the very occasional compatibility issue.

    On 32 bit you will only see about 3.5 available ram if you have a video card with very little video ram - most enthusiast systems get about 3 gig of the 4 installed. If you are going 64 you might want to go ahead and get 8 gig since ram is so cheap.

    You might want to post your system specs if there is any chance it is old enough or underspec enough to run into issues.
  2. I am not a gamer. Does 64 bit offer any real advantages? What does the video card have to do with the RAM seen? 8GB of RAM is a huge overkill for an average user like me.
  3. The OS has to reserve some of it's 4 gig total address space for devices other than your system ram, one of these other devices is the ram on your video card and with many cards having 512 and up video ram this will take a substantial chunk out of the 4 gig.

    The 4 gig limit has to do with what the operating system can handle - what it can address. On a 32 bit MS consumer level OS 4 gig is all it can address. Since your system ram isn't the only thing it needs to stash data in it must reserve some addresses for the other devices which have addressable memory on them.

    Eventually programmers will actually write more programs that can be processed in 64 bit chunks and this will speed up processing to a degree but at this time almost all programs are still written for 32 bit processing so having a 64 bit OS is more of a theoretical advantage for down the road. However, it is the only practical way to to have 4 gig or more of ram right now and this is the #1 advantage by far. Vista 64 has no problem with 32 bit software, it simply runs them in a 32 bit mode.

    You will need 64 bit drivers for all your hardware but unless you are running older devices this should not be an issue.

    Scotteq posted some nice links on the subject, you should read through this thread: http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/237712-44-what-difference

    And this: V64 Questions and Answers: http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=511

  4. So, if I have 4GB of RAM on a 32 bit OS, I still use the 3.5GB normally? So, the 4GB to 3.5GB difference would not really be noticeable for an average PC user like me?

    How far down the road will 64 bit programs be? Would you really suggest that I should go to 64 bit now, or is it a few years away?
  5. Yea, you go ahead and install 4 gig and you'll end up with anywhere from 3 to 3.5 (+/-) gig of usable ram which the OS uses normally. For everyday computing needs there is really no compelling reason to go to 64 bit. On the other hand there isn't much reason not to go to 64.

    True 64 bit processing may still be a ways away - don't hold your breath. If the prospect of using 4 or more gig of ram isn't all that appealing I wouldn't worry over it. Either choice will be fine.

    Some people perceive Vista 64 to be a faster, stabler OS than Vista 32 - opinions vary on this and I don't know if there is anything proven. All of the numerous programs I use run flawlessly on it so I freely recommended it. I run 8 gig of ram ind vista keeps it at least 1/3 full even when I am doing nothing - this is the aggressive precaching feature called superfetch. It seems I can run a very large number of programs simultaneously and they all snap to very quickly.

    edit: I did here that the next adobe photoshop version may be 64 bit - so it may be that some major 64 bit programs are around the bend
  6. Thank you for all your help. I'm going to have to give it some more thought, but you made me understand it better. Thanks.
  7. We're going to start seeing a lot more 64-bit software in the next year or two. Having a 64-bit version of Windows available at the same time as the 32-bit version instead of a couple years later is making a difference. As soon as we start seeing more OEM PCs pre-loaded with 64-bit Windows, we'll start seeing a lot more 64-bit software.
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