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Windows 7 64-bit Creeping Up on 32-bit Installs

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 76 comments

More bits, more better.

Upgrading to Windows 7? Did you go with the 64-bit or the 32-bit version? We're guessing that lots of you went for the 64-bit, as that's slowly creeping up to become the majority of Windows 7 installations.

According to data released by Microsoft, 46 percent of all Windows 7 installs are the 64-bit version. This is a huge jump over the 11 percent of 64-bit installs for Windows Vista and the less than 1 percent for Windows XP.

Windows community guy Brandon LeBlanc explained why more bits are better: "A primary benefit of 64-bit Windows is the increase in addressable memory. This makes more 'bits' available to Windows, which means more information can be 'addressed at once. 32-bit architectures have a memory ceiling of 4GB while the 64-bit architecture increases the memory ceiling to approximately 17.2 billion GB or RAM! Windows 7 is designed to use up to 192 GB of RAM, a huge jump compared to limits with all 32-bit systems.

"Essentially, 64-bit Windows allows your PC to take advantage of more memory to do more things. If you are like me and are running tons of apps, you can see a real difference in performance. Aside from the performance gains, there are also security enhancements and support for virtualization as well."

The growth in 64-bit can be attributed to a couple things. One, price of RAM, while not at a low-point right now, is still cheaper that what we paid during the launch of Windows Vista. Secondly, 77 percent of PCs sold at retail in April 2010 with Windows 7 came preinstalled with the 64-bit OS, according to NPD.

We want to hear from those of you who are running 32-bit Windows 7. Tell us why you're still behind that 4GB barrier!

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Top Comments
  • 20 Hide
    Tamz_msc , July 12, 2010 9:22 AM
    The main reason behind this is that Windows 7 is the most stable 64 bit release yet from Microsoft.
  • 20 Hide
    mauller07 , July 12, 2010 9:29 AM
    It also increases the amount of virtual memory addressable by each application from 1.5GB aswell and makes all that graphics card ram fully addressable in your expensive multi card setups :p 

    have to remember all memory in your system is limited by the bit depth of the address space

    7 64bit definitely worth the buy
  • 13 Hide
    palladin9479 , July 12, 2010 2:33 PM
    Ok STOP. The primary reason to use a NT x64 kernel OS (Windows XP x64 / Vista x 64 / Windows 7 x64) has nothing to do with address space, although that is a good side benefit.

    The #1 biggest reason is that the NT x64 kernel was built from the ground up, its completely 100% done from scratch. The NT x86 kernel has much code left laying around from the Win 98 / 2K / XP era, even a few 16-bit DLL's are in there. This is a requirement for the NT x86 kernel to be backwards compatible with software made for previous windows OS's, both 16 and 32 bit. This legacy code and support for undocumented features is what lead to the famous "windlblowz" and blue screen nightmares. It also led to the huge security flaws because the older NT kernels allowed applications access to kernel space memory.

    The NT x64 kernel was built from scratch with a better security model in mind, sand-boxing of kernel vs user processes and preventing user mode programs from accessing kernel memory or otherwise interfering with kernel mode drivers. A NT x64 system is very hard to crash from an application point of view. The application can crash but it won't take the system down with it. A buggy x64 driver can still cause a BSoD or unstable behavior, but that is why MS went nuts with requiring signed kernel drivers and such. Everything in kernel mode must be x64 code, you can't naively load a 32 bit piece of code into the NT x64 kernel, it just won't work. Because of that lots of older HW drivers don't work in Windows 7 and there isn't much you can do about it. They sacrificed backwards compatibility for system stability.

    32-bit applications are executed inside a virtualized system environment. There is a system component called Windows on Windows 64 (WoW64) that creates a virtual environment to execute the 32 bit code in. This includes 32-bit DLL's for DirectX, a different program files folder, and a completely different registry. 32-bit programs are rooted in the WoW64Node section of the registry instead of the main software section. If a 32-bit program crash's all it can do is take down its own bubble, all other programs remain unharmed.

    -That- is the reason you use Windows x64. Not for the memory addressing (2gb application space vs near infinite) but for the system stability and security.
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    Lmeow , July 12, 2010 9:15 AM
    I'm not really surprised, nowadays you need more and more memory and 4 GB is I would think is standard in a 2009/2010 mainstream computer, and for 4 GB you'd need 64-bit.

    Typo, should be '17.2 billion GB of RAM!', not or. ;) 
  • 20 Hide
    Tamz_msc , July 12, 2010 9:22 AM
    The main reason behind this is that Windows 7 is the most stable 64 bit release yet from Microsoft.
  • 20 Hide
    mauller07 , July 12, 2010 9:29 AM
    It also increases the amount of virtual memory addressable by each application from 1.5GB aswell and makes all that graphics card ram fully addressable in your expensive multi card setups :p 

    have to remember all memory in your system is limited by the bit depth of the address space

    7 64bit definitely worth the buy
  • 8 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , July 12, 2010 9:41 AM
    Quite simple. We STILL don't have a lot of 64-bit apps out. However, I am one of the 46% that DO have the 64-bit version of Windows 7. I decided there finally was a need for it, however, I don't have 4 GB of RAM (only 2 GB). I will upgrade when need be. With the kind of RAM I got, the upgrade is only $60 or so. Can you imagine how much 2GB of DDR2 ram would've costed 3 years ago? It's obviously cheaper now and I STILL don't need it. They need to discontinue 32-bit OS's. At this point, though, 128-bit OS's might be a waste.
  • -9 Hide
    avi85 , July 12, 2010 9:56 AM
    I have 32-bit, my laptop only has 3GB...
  • 10 Hide
    Blessedman , July 12, 2010 10:32 AM
    arokia I would say you have a RAM issue more so than a soundcard issue as I know the X-Fi cards are 100% 64bit compatible.
  • 2 Hide
    Mark Heath , July 12, 2010 10:34 AM
    If that includes upgrades, then it could well be that more than half of fresh installs are 64-bit.
  • 0 Hide
    aznshinobi , July 12, 2010 10:38 AM
    Yea, not really surprised either,now a days basic desktops/mainstream desktops have the standard of 4gbs+ of ram.
  • 6 Hide
    NeatOman , July 12, 2010 10:51 AM
    The average user (lite user) with a 2GB machine will see more benefits with 64-bit version with a clean system (no bloatware) because of its low latency nature.

    I did an experiment a year ago with my sisters computer (2GB, Athlon x2) and ran 64-bit first, then secretly switched to 32-bit later (about 2 weeks). She came to me about a week after the switch and told me why her computer seemed slower since i "took a look at it" (FYI she never shuts down, only sleep). Since then i instal 64-bit on all my clients PC's with 2GB+ :) 

    FYI 64-bit also runs on 1GB using about 640MB with active antivirus, with about 300MB "stand by" and 80MB "free" if you need to run 64-bit.
  • 5 Hide
    xrodney , July 12, 2010 10:53 AM
    During Vista launch there was still too many problems with drivers that either didn't exist for 64bit or were in buggy beta stage.
    Now most of devices except really few specialized old ones (used mostly in industry) support both 32 and 64 bit and all except few rare 32 bit applications can run in 64bit windows. They still are limited in use to 2GB memory space, but none say there cant be running more of them utilizing all of ram.
  • 2 Hide
    nukemaster , July 12, 2010 11:14 AM
    I have both 64 bit 7 and Vista. I am glad to report I have had very few problems with it. I have had more issues with the release of dual core then 64-bit Vista/7. 64-bit XP on the other hand was just plain bad.

    I like others went 64-bit for more ram(in a consumer version on windows.).
  • -9 Hide
    Anonymous , July 12, 2010 12:00 PM
    FYI

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_Address_Extension#Microsoft_Windows

    "However, "client" versions of 32-bit Windows (Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7) limit physical address space to the first 4 GB for driver compatibility [2] and licensing[14] reasons, even though these versions do run in PAE mode if NX support is enabled."

    The memory ceiling in 32bit Windows has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that it's a 32bit OS, assuming the OS in question supports PAE... and I would assume Win7 32bit does.
  • 8 Hide
    dacman61 , July 12, 2010 12:14 PM
    They should've never released a 32-bit version of Windows 7. Sometimes you just got to cut the cord on older systems. I hope they finally do this for Windows 8 in the future.
  • 2 Hide
    hixbot , July 12, 2010 12:22 PM
    I'm using 32bit windows 7 because I only have a 32bit processor (P4 2.53ghz northwood), with 3gb of DDR-266 RAM.

    Runs like a charm after you disable %90 of the services you don't need, and make sure not to overload it with unneeded background proccesses.

    dacman61 if they never released a 32bit version, they would of lost %54 of their sales.
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