32-bit means it can only “see” 2^32 (2 to the 32nd power) = 4GB.
The computer has to be able to see the (usable)RAM + VRAM + other devices on Motherboard, etc.
e.g. If you have 1GB VRAM and “other devices” takes up 0.3GB, you will only be able to use a max of 2.7GB (4 - 1 - 0.3 = 2.7) RAM.
In this case, if you install 3GB RAM, you waste 0.3GB…if you install 4GB RAM you waste 1.3GB!
If this is any indication that 64-bit is the wave of the future and 32-bit will be “obsolete”…
(July 30, 2008) There appears to be a shift taking place in the PC industry: the move from 32-bit to 64-bit PCs.
We've been tracking the change by looking at the percentage of 64-bit PCs connecting to Windows Update, and have seen a dramatic increase in recent months. The installed base of 64-bit Windows Vista PCs, as a percentage of all Windows Vista systems, has more than tripled in the U.S. in the last three months, while worldwide adoption has more than doubled during the same period. Another view shows that 20% of new Windows Vista PCs in the U.S. connecting to Windows Update in June were 64-bit PCs, up from just 3% in March. Put more simply, usage of 64-bit Windows Vista is growing much more rapidly than 32-bit. Based on current trends, this growth will accelerate as the retail channel shifts to supplying a rapidly increasing assortment of 64-bit desktops and laptops… PC Accelerators built into Windows Vista, such as Windows SuperFetch, improve performance by keeping commonly used programs in memory, even when the program is closed. More memory capacity on 64-bit PCs allows SuperFetch to do its job more efficiently. http://windowsvistablog.com/blogs/windowsvista/archive/...
Considering this, SuperFetch is probably the most significant feature that distinguishes Vista from all other OS's for users of all walks. Many other features won't be noticeable or even used by the common person (unless you’re a developer using WPF/WFC like in North Face Kiosks etc., or use many DX10 software). So why not take advantage of it since RAM is so cheap?
For kicks, here’s a video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tKj_zscwNE
Consider that many workers like to have, say 20 windows open and do not shut down in order to save time in the morning (even Monday morning), they can now leave 40 windows (or more) open. Also, the more RAM they have, the more stuff can be SuperFetched and Auto Disk Defragmenter and whatever can run more efficiently in the background when AFK too.
For the above scenario, workers will probably “lock” Vista with the S3 sleep more because they can resume in 5 seconds anyway, or it will just auto-sleep after a period…translating to a huge savings on energy consumption.
All these are big bonuses from having a large amount of RAM (which is dirt cheap these days as well as cheaper going forward). Costs associated with driver/equipment upgrade for 64-bit compatibility may be more than made up for in productivity savings by having more RAM.
A May 2009 survey by Valve Corporation indicated that 39.9% of gamers are running Windows Vista or Windows 7 beta (46% of which are 64-bit versions). http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey/
Some interesting hardcore Vista 64-bit info:
...all 64-bit versions of Microsoft operating systems currently impose a 16 TB limit on address space and allow no more than 128 GB of physical memory due to the impracticality of having 16 TB of RAM. Processes created on Windows Vista x64 Edition are allotted 8 TB in virtual memory for user processes and 8 TB for kernel processes to create a virtual memory of 16 TB. http://zone.ni.com/devzone/cda/tut/p/id/5709
To put things in perspective, this is what 64-bit does...
What are the advantages of 64-bit computing?
In early testing of 64-bit support in Photoshop for Windows®, overall performance gains ranged from 8% to 12%. Those who work with extremely large files may realize noticeably greater gains in performance, in some cases as dramatic as ten times the previous speed. This is because 64-bit applications can address larger amounts of memory and thus result in less file swapping — one of the biggest factors that can affect data processing speed. http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/photoshop/faq/?...
I suppose in a certain sense 32-bit and 64-bit are "feature comparable". But in terms of "power capability", which I assume is one of the most important factors for most ppl, you would not come close to 64-bit. 4GB of RAM is like $40. It's only going to go down in price as well as more powerful and smaller transistors are made.
To me, time is money. The less you have to wait for your up-time (including time you have to manually launch stuff), the more time you save. A computer is meant to multi-task and that chews up RAM. You will find that you close less windows as you get used to the extra power. On top of that, Superfetch only works if you have spare RAM…saving you even MORE time. And if you use 64-bit apps, that can scale ten-fold according to some studies.
If you are at a "family computer”:
- you don't have to "log off" all the time
- your family just wakes it from S3 sleep so you don’t lose everyone’s state
- you switch users to your pre-existing email, favorite sites, etc. already up
- you save loads of time which you can use to do other important things not even computer related
If you can attach terminals to the above computer, it would be like a small mainframe.
Now, I wouldn't open up Photoshop with 40 pictures on edit mode and leave it, but for just the simplest things, it counts.
If you are at a “work computer”:
- the above principles also apply, except you can open many more windows and don't have to find you document again, etc. Just remember to always save, just in case!
Of course hardware needs to support 64-bit, S3 sleep, >4GB RAM, etc.
This is mostly standard on new computers, but if you have an old machine…you need to do your research…or just toss it in the garbage.