Windows 7 forum


Windows 7 32 bit vs. 64 bit

by Chimlim / December 16, 2011 4:41 AM PST

I am getting ready to build a brand new PC. I plan on buying the most up to date hardware for it. I already own Windows 7 32-bit, my question is would it be worth it to buy the 64 bit version? The motherboard I am getting holds up to 16GB of RAM, but would I ever really need more then 4GB? I'm actually leaning towards getting the 64-bit version, but is it worth purchasing a new Windows license just for 64-bit?

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Clarification Request
What Media do You Have?
by High Desert Charlie / December 17, 2011 6:30 AM PST

You say you have Windows 7 32 bit. What exactly do you mean by that? Do you actually have the media (DVD with the media on it)? If so, Is it OEM that came with the computer?

When you purchase Windows 7, in most configurations you get both disks (32 bit and 64 bit). The same Product Key works for both. If you have an OEM or Retail product key, it can be used with the 65 bit media.

Here's a link to download any of the ISO images for Windows 7 -

These are legit links. Just download the appropriate image and burn it to a DVD for installation.

I recommend Power ISO for burning ISO images to DVD.

Good Luck

All Answers

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Well that 32 bit version really is delivering much less than
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 16, 2011 4:56 AM PST

If you look closely that 32 bit version offers apps access to 2.0GB and usually you see the OS actually use from 2.0GB up to about 3.5GB with almost every 32 bit system in the 3.1 to 3.5GB range.

This didn't change from Vista so if 32 bit works for you, keep it and save the bucks for 8.

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Windows 7 32 bit versus 64 bit
by Ron Geiken / December 16, 2011 11:06 AM PST

I have two computers with W7 64 bit, and a netbook with W7 32 bit. Buying the netbook was not one of my best decisions, since it is limited to 2 gig of ram. It was supplied with 1 gig of ram which is not nearly enough. I updated the netbook to Windows 7 home from starter, and also have 2 gig of ram. I also will never buy another computer with less than 8 cores. (i7 is 4 core with hyper-threading making for a total of 8 cores). Windows 7 does a lot more housekeeping than previous versions, and this causes a lot of processor and ram usage for this. My Desktop is 64 bit i7 with 8 gig of ram, and it never slows down when I am using it. My Laptop is 64 bit i7 with 6 gig of ram, and my netbook is a 32 bit with an Atom 4 core processor at 1.5 GHZ and 2 gig of ram. As long as my tasks are simple, this works OK, but don't try to do anything too complicated with it. 4 gig of ram should be the minimum for almost everybody. 2 cores works OK, but 4 cores or more would be preferred in my world. You can even buy some some Laptops with 2 or 4 cores and 4 gig of ram with 64 bit, at about $400. If you only use one program at a time this may be OK, but if you are going to have multiple programs open, more cores are preferred along with 6 or 8 gig of ram. Also this powerful of a computer will be something that you will still be satisfied many years into the future.

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If I were building a new PC
by Doh_1 / December 16, 2011 11:18 AM PST

If I were building a new PC, I'd go 64-bit. Software never gets smaller, whether you need more than 4GB now depends on what applications you are running. Hopefully, you'll be using that new computer for the next 6 or so years, and I would challenge you to guess what applications you'll need to run over the next few years, and how many will need to be up at the same time. However, if you only have a 32-bit OS, you're going to need to upgrade if and when you need more than 4GB of memory, and upgrading is a real pain in the neck. Yes, there are ways to make it easier, but there's always risks, and it takes time.

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Get more than you think you need
by geognerd / December 16, 2011 12:13 PM PST

I would suggest buying the 64-bit license. You don't want to be in the position of being constrained by the 4GB of RAM after only a couple of years. Software won't become less-demanding. It's cheap and easy to add RAM, but you would need to upgrade the 32-bit OS to take advantage of anything over 4GB of RAM. The minimum RAM I would install in any computer now is 4GB; I'd go with 6GB or 8GB to future-proof your machine for the next 3-5 years. And to do that, you'll need the 64-bit OS.

I initially installed 6GB of RAM in my computer when I built it last year, then picked up another 6GB for only $50 a few months ago. The 12GB is overkill, but I know for sure that my computer will be good to go for its whole life in terms of RAM.

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You may already have the 64 bit version
by pierrot.robert / December 16, 2011 10:06 PM PST

Only OEM Windows 7 is 32 or 64 bit.

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It depends
by Jimmy Greystone / December 16, 2011 10:20 PM PST

It depends on what you plan to do with the system ultimately, but in the absence of such info I'd say the 64-bit version leaves the largest number of possibilities open to you. One need only think back to quite possibly the most infamous comment Bill Gates wishes he could take back: Who would ever need more than 256K?

Who knows what you may or may not need 6 months from now, or a year, or two years. Unless you've mastered divination, in which case why are you here asking us, I'd go with whatever route leaves the largest number of options open to you. If you don't need them, no real harm done (aside from maybe overpaying a little), but if you do end up needing them, it's a whole series of headaches avoided. Just for starters, there is no way to "upgrade" from a 32-bit OS to 64-bit OS, you have to completely reinstall the OS. So, imagine some day you find you really need more than 4GB of RAM, but you have a 32-bit OS. Now you have to reinstall the OS and all applications. Compare that to simply adding more RAM to a system with a 64-bit OS.

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If you're building the PC, you will need to use the retail
by Steven Haninger / December 18, 2011 6:13 AM PST

version of Win7. The one I bought, which was an upgrade, came with both 32 and 64 bit disks. Yours should as well but you only get to load one of them....your choice.

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64 bit isn't as Perfect as People Say
by ghicker / December 22, 2011 2:23 AM PST

I've been on 64 bit since the beginning of Windows 7 and it is not quite the beautiful ideal picture that you hear in these forums. First, most programs are not written to handle the extra memory (4+ GB). So the majority of your programs won't see any additional usage of memory and therefore no real benefit from your upgrade. And in some cases the extra memory and 64 bit OS causes compatibility problems with programs and they become unstable (locking up & crashing more often). Look at the MS Windows 7 compatibility tool and you will find several cases where the application is compatible on 32 bit but not on the 64 bit version.

Second, many developers and software companies are focusing on the shift to mobile devices (phone and tablets). And the mobile devices aren't as powerful and massive as desktop computers, so the applications are written to utilize less space (memory) and ARMS architecture. I do not see a massive shift by software companies to fully utilize the capabilities of a 64 bit Windows 7 OS. Some have certified that the programs are "compatible" for 64 bit, but that only means that they will run on 64 bit (not that they will use the extra memory).

I just re-built a second computer for my kids and this time I chose to install the 32 bit Windows 7 OS. So far, it has been more stable than my Windows 7 64 bit machine. I have 4 GB installed, but the OS only recognizes 3.x of the memory. In day to day use, the 32 bit feels equally as responsive and fast as my 64 bit. If I were to run a benchmark program, I'm sure my 64 bit would score much better...but in real life, there isn't much difference. And I would argue that 32 bit is probably more stable due to a lack of support from software vendors. Don't get me wrong, I think 64 bit is superior technically and hopefully the future...but the future is not here yet and it looks like it is shifting a different direction (Mobile OS).

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Two comments.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 22, 2011 2:27 AM PST

I think this says a lot about the state of how Windows continues to test folk's mettle when it comes to self built machines.

Do you think it's time for Microsoft to mandate standards so you don't have to guess what drivers to find and install?

And no disrespect meant but when I read this, it said something about the machine, not the OS.

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But if you think about it
by Jimmy Greystone / December 22, 2011 9:07 PM PST

But if you think about it, none of that really needs to happen for you to still benefit. Maybe not benefit as much, but still benefit.

Using a simplistic example, let's say you have a computer with 12GB of RAM, and 4x32-bit programs which are all capable of using the maximum 3GB for a Win32 program. We'll just assume the OS is living in its own dedicated pool of RAM, because it's a simplistic example. On a 32-bit version of Windows, you'd be limited to running only one of these programs, because you'd be limited to 3.5GB of RAM. On the 64-bit version, each of these programs can carve out their own 3GB space, and all four can be running quite happily. So while it's not quite the same as having a 64-bit program which can allocate considerably more RAM for itself, you will still see at least some limited benefit to running 32-bit apps on a 64-bit OS.

And it's something of a misnomer that people get stuck in their heads that a 64-bit OS is supposed to be faster or really noticeably different. It's not. It can be faster at specific tasks, but mostly it's a necessary step to clear the path going forward from a technical standpoint. It's quickly becoming the case that 4GB of RAM is the bare minimum you want installed, and that's where a 32-bit OS tops out. It's actually a bit less than that since we need something for protected mode operation in the CPU to prevent Program A from writing to a bit of memory being used by Program B, causing a General Protection Fault (GPF) that anyone who used Windows 3.x probably remembers not so fondly, but that would likely be a cure worse than the disease. Sure, MS could have simply implemented PAE, which is in almost every CPU dating back to around the P4 or earlier, but that's kind of an ugly workaround, where a 64-bit OS is really the more elegant solution.

So if you're expecting a 64-bit OS to be twice as fast because it's processing twice as many bits at a time, you're going to be sorely disappointed. That was never the reason for the shift, it was always that we've hit up against the technical limits of a 32-bit platform and need room to grow. If there were a real focus on improving the efficiency of programs, like they had to do in the early days of computing where every byte of memory counted, we might be able to stave things off another couple of years, but efficiency has its limits when people are wanting more and more memory hungry multimedia functions, and games that are nearly photorealistic. If we stayed with a 32-bit platform, then there wouldn't be any real room for future innovation. What we have now would be about as good as it would ever get. You might be fine with that, but what about everyone else who uses a computer? I for one like to see the constant evolution of things. Sometimes it's not always for the best, but we learn more from failure than success.

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