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64 bit and Dell notebook?

I was about to buy a Dell XPS notebook, with a high end processor (6M cache). I couldn't find anything about whether their Vista was 32-bit or 64-bit, so I had to wait until they were in and I called.

I'm not sure if anything I was told was true.

I was told that they don't have 64-bit for ANY notebooks, and only a few servers.

I was also told that they steer away from 64-bit because there are a lot of driver problems with it.

Also note that not only is 4G of RAM an option on some of the XPS line, in some it is the only choice.

I wanted 4G, and of course I wanted the 64-bit Vista to use it.

So, the questions, if anyone knows the answers:
1) Are there special problems with 64-bit Vista: drivers, AV software and system utilities, or any other applications?
2) Is it true that Dell does not sell/install 64-bit Vista, even on their 4G systems, even when buying Vista Ultimate?
3) If #2 is true, then what kind of idiot at Dell makes 4G available (or required) and only sells a 32-bit Vista? Are we back to the old 768K XP systems that could only use 640K? (I know, I'm going back in time, to the 80's.)


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64-bit answers...

In reply to: 64 bit and Dell notebook?

1.) Yes, plenty. In fact, I can name several products from Microsoft, released after Vista, that have significant issues with,, or are entirely unsupported by, Vista x64. That's why Vista x86 (32-bit) is typically recommended for the average user.

2.) Yes, I believe that's true.

3.) The issue right now is that 64-bit has not reached a point of wide-spread adoption. Few people require more than 4GB of RAM and few applications are designed to take advantage of 64-bit processing, so while nearly all processors manufactured in the past few years are 64-bit the software and hardware manufacturers are reluctant to make the switch...they're facing potentially significant rewrites for a small client

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Maybe I had the wrong idea, maybe I should stick with 32-bit

In reply to: 64-bit answers...

Thanks for your prompt response.

So the general recommendation is to NOT use the 64-bit version?

You said "few people require more than 4G...". Am I misinformed? I thought the magic number was 3G, so that's why I'm so upset... that Dell is selling 4G, even standard on some high-end configs, but not allowing it to be properly used.

As far as apps that need to support it -- I was hoping that with virtual memory, as long as the operating system supported it, apps could run 32 bits, not use more than whatever that magic number was for EACH app, but in aggregate the apps would be able to use more than that number. I was figuring that it would be faked through page table entries. Is that not so?

I have some older apps (things like prior years tax programs, for instance), that will NOT be upgraded. I was assuming that they would work, even if I had to somehow set a compatability mode. I guess drivers need to match the operating system, though.

Bottom line, is Dell right, and I should NOT want the 64-bit? And if that's the case, should I only go for 3G RAM? Or is there some reason to go beyond that? Or was your number right, and 4G can be used?....

I just went to Microsoft's site, and with some difficulty I did see a comparison. I think 32-bit IS the way to go:
- It DOES support 4G. If only that Dell rep had told me, I might've bought on the spot!
- 16-bit programs can NOT run on 64-bit windows. I have no idea if any of my older programs are 16-bit, but who knows?
- I think it's more likely that I'll find a 16-bit old program, than I'll find a 64-bit ONLY program. So the 32-bit seems more compatible.

Guess I mostly answered my own questions. If you have any comments, I'd still appreciate them.


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Not quite

Not quite right.

The 32-bit Vista will REPORT 4GB of RAM, but it will be limited to using only about 3GB, maybe a little more, but NOT 4GB. There is a hardware limitation that will prevent it.

I would be very surprised if you found a 16-bit program. The last 16-bit OS Microsoft ever released was DOS 6.22 with Windows 3.11. While a few odd 16-bit programs might have continued to be produced during the early days of Windows95, but unless you're using some EXTREMELY old software, it's all 32-bit. And previous year tax programs and what not should run just fine on Vista x64. With very few exceptions, Vista 32-bit and Vista 64-bit have the same compatibility with 32-bit apps. Those few exceptions will be things like undelete programs or low level system utilities, not things like Turbo Tax.

Honestly, Vista x64 is the way to go. It's a laptop, so unless you have a bunch of add-on cards you plan on using with it, drivers shouldn't be an issue for you.

You may also want to browse the tutorial section of this website once you have your new laptop in your possession:

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More on the RAM front...

In reply to: Not quite

Vista RTM will report the amount of RAM actually usable by the OS.
Vista SP1 will report the total amount of RAM installed.

The difference: 32-bit hardware/OSes are limited with regard to addressing memory, meaning you'll typically only have 3.5GB out of 4GB usable by the OS. (That number frequently ranges from 3.3GB to 3.8GB, depending on the exact hardware configuration.) Vista SP1 will report 4GB, but it won't actually be using all of it. Thus, upgrading to 4GB of RAM isn't entirely worth it with a 32-bit OS, but it's still better than 3GB.


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What's going on with the memory?

In reply to: More on the RAM front...

The range of unsigned 32 bit numbers is 4G (0 to 4G-1). So it appears that it should be addressable.

"Depending on the actual h/w config" -- is that saying that the h/w USES the RAM, or that the h/w needs a mapped address in the real (not virtual) 32 bit address space? The latter would mean that any access to that real address would map to memory mapped hardware, rather than RAM. If so, I would agree that it sounds like the rest is completely wasted... or is there a way that the operating system can somehow reclaim this? Maybe it could've, but they declined, opting instead to build that into the 64 bit version?

What does the 64 bit OS do? Map hardware above the 2G line? (It would mean that everything has to be 64 bit capable.) Or does it map the RAM discontiguously, skipping reserved hardware addresses, and addressing part of 4G of RAM at addresses above 4G?

I'm now in more of a quandry in reading these responses. Apparently I shouldn't consider anything but a 64 bit OS, but also I should not get a 64 bit system yet because I'll hit compatability issues.

Sign me,

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A bit of clarification

In reply to: What's going on with the memory?

A bit of clarification... The details of why and how get deep into computer science and computer engineering theory, so it's really just best if you accept on faith that a 32-bit OS will have a maximum RAM limit of around 3-3.5GB. There are ways to get around that, and Linux has done it, but it most likely involves some really ugly method that will cause problems later for the OS developers. Kind of like the system resources problem that plagued every Windows version up to Windows Me, except the NT and 2000 lines. That was a result of a similar trick employed by Microsoft back when computers started shipping with more than 1MB of RAM, and it had very long standing repercussions.

A 64-bit OS should be able to address exponentially more memory than a 32-bit OS. It's a binary math thing, which I don't fully understand, so ask someone else if you really want to know. IIRC, the upper limit on a 64-bit platform is around 2TB of RAM. Maybe it's 2PB, I tend to get my units mixed up. Point is, it's considerably more than a 32-bit OS. If you want to know more, go find someone with a PhD in computer engineering.

There are some tricks employed in Vista x64 so that even 32-bit apps can use additional memory. Basically the OS silently traps 32-bit memory calls and then reroutes them to their 64-bit counterpart, and does some behind the scenes magic. For that one, you'll want to find someone with a computer science degree who does a lot of OS kernel work if you want to know more.

What I would suggest doing, is looking over all the software you want to run on your new system, then go and see whether or not it will run on Vista x64. It's a laptop, so most hardware concerns won't be an issue. You may need to be a little careful with your peripheral purchases for a while, but it should eventually come to pass that 64-bit drivers are common. It really shouldn't be that difficult to convert 32-bit drivers to 64-bit drivers. Mostly it's just changing some system calls in the code and recompiling it. Assuming care was taken from the outset to insulate the code from assuming a 32-bit or 64-bit platform.

Anyway, take a look at the software you use, and even any hardware you might want to add to the laptop like a printer. Check their compatibility with Vista x64. Odds are the majority of your software will work. I see ZoneAlarm was mentioned as one that doesn't, but I've always considered ZoneAlarm a waste of CPU time and RAM. It's security theater more than anything. A bunch of flashing lights and annoying dialog boxes just to do what the XP/Vista firewall can do equally well, only with fewer resources.

You can then have some time to look, and test, suitable replacements that are compatible should you run into any programs that aren't.

But as someone who's a Vista x64 user, I can say that I have found virtually no programs that will not work. Just one small program made by an independent developer.

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Some different answers

In reply to: 64 bit and Dell notebook?

Some different answers:

1: Not especially. I've been a Vista x64 user for going on a week now, and I think I've run into all of one little third party program that wouldn't work. You do have to be mindful to get 64-bit drivers, and while not every bit of hardware has these, you're pretty limited on what you can add to a laptop anyway, so it's kind of a non-issue. All the hardware on the laptop will be supported. All AV programs have been updated to work with Vista x64, or at least all the major players have. AVG, Avast, Norton, McAfee, Nod32... Some 32-bit utility programs may not work, but generally only the kind that are going to be making low level system calls which should limit the number to a very small handful. There are no fully 64-bit AV programs as yet, but there really aren't any 64-bit viruses yet either. 32-bit viruses can still cause problems, but 32-bit AV scanning engines should be just as effective at picking those up on Vista x64 as any 32-bit version of Windows. I'm sure there's work being done on making the scanning engines 64-bit safe, there's just no big rush given how much money it'll cost to develop and test.

2: No. I just bought an Insprion 530 desktop at Best Buy. It came with 6GB of RAM and Vista x64. They have several other models that had more than 4GB of RAM which all presumably would be running Vista x64.

3: I think you just ran into an idiot salesperson to be honest. There's a lot of misinformation floating around out there about Vista x64, and 64-bit operating systems in general. It's new, and thus scary to people, so they recoil in fear. A 64-bit OS is a good thing to have. The big feature is the support for additional memory beyond 4GB. Actually more like 3-3.5GB after you take into account reserved areas. However, multimedia apps, like video encoders, and games, will see pretty big improvements in performance on a 64-bit OS. A lot of games will have at least some bits that can be run in a 64-bit mode, even if most of it is still 32-bit. Video encoders should see somewhere around a 1.5X speed increase assuming the encoder is a 64-bit app. All that mostly useless Vista eye candy should see a bit more pep on the x64 version as well.

If the system ships with 4GB of RAM, then you should be sure to INSIST on Vista x64 being installed. I do know for a fact that Dell preloads systems with Vista x64, because I'm using one to type this message.

If you want proof, here is a link to the very system I bought.

Scroll most of the way to the bottom, and you'll see it's listed as coming with Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit with SP1.

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Oh, that's a desktop :(

In reply to: Some different answers

I THINK what you got must qualify as what that salesman was calling a server. It looks like such a great system and a great price, until I noticed thta. (I know, you DID say it was a desktop.)

I was going for the T9300 Core 2 Duo, you have Q9300 Core 2 Quad.

Your find had me interested in trying to go to Best Buy for it... I wanted to order from Dell because I like to customize it a lot, and I get an employee discount through my company. But it was a desktop. I checked the notebooks, I found one with 4G and 64-bit Vista, but the processor had only 2M cache, it was only 13 inches, etc. But it does seem like the Dell rep was wrong. Unless maybe Best Buy does that on their own.

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In reply to: Oh, that's a desktop :(

Yeah, it is a nice little system. Very hard not to brag about it in every post I make. I think it's a special version of the model only sold at Best Buy, because Dell's site will only offer Inspiron 530s with up to 4GB of RAM. Don't know, don't care... My old system didn't survive the manhandling UPS gave it when I moved to California, so I needed something kind of right now.

Anyway, I would just say that Vista x64 is the way you want to go. If by some fluke you run into a 16-bit app, which I would be VERY surprised if you did, since Microsoft started phasing out 16-bit apps with Windows95, some 13 years ago. When it comes to 32-bit apps, both versions of Vista should have nearly identical compatibility. And the differences will be things like undelete programs, not programs such as Turbo Tax.

Vista x64 will generally give you more options for the future. Laptops won't have much in the way of add-on hardware options, so given that all the stock hardware will be supported by Vista x64, you're good there. Most major hardware vendors have gotten on board shipping 64-bit drivers as well. You might have to be a little careful with any PC Card add-ons or USB hardware devices you want to add, but for the most part, I wouldn't anticipate any great difficulties.

You can look around to see if there's a better deal at Best Buy or one of the other big box retailers, or play with options on Dell's site. Either way, I'd say go with Vista x64. With all the eye candy crap in every version except Home Basic, you should see a pretty big improvement in performance with the 64-bit one over 32-bit. The 64-bit version of XP suffered from driver problems and some app compatibility, but XP x64 was never really intended for mass marketing. It was more of a dry run for Vista x64, and available for people with rather specific needs. Of course a bunch of people rushed out to get this OS without really taking the time to understand all this, and Vista x64 has gotten a bad rap as a result.

I'm not really a big fan of Vista... I consider it a rather poorly done copy of OS X, but at the same time I don't find it to be nearly as bad as a lot of people claim it to be. It's very different from XP, but only different, not necessarily worse.

Moral of the story: You can't always trust that a sales rep knows what the hell they're talking about. Dell does indeed load systems with Vista x64, and that is what I would strongly recommend you get on any new system, no matter how much RAM it may have.

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Not entirely true...

In reply to: Some different answers

1.) PC Tools, Computer Associates, and ZoneLabs products are NOT supported on Vista x64, only Vista x86. (I believe there's one other as well, but cannot member which one off hand.) When three (or four) of the top twelve do not support Vista x64, including the top two that provide free versions of their software, I consider it a 'problem' worth noting.

Beyond that, I have a few new products from Microsoft, including a fingerprint reader and Bluetooth headphones, which are unsupported outside of the x86 family. I have read of the complaints from owners of numerous Lexmark, HP, and Epson all-in-one owners who purchased a printer to go along with their new Vista computer just to find no 64-bit drivers. And I know from experience that Vista x64's insistence on signed device drivers prevents some software from being installed.

As you said, programs like TurboTax aren't going to have problems on a 64-bit OS, but there are still plenty to be had.

2.) Yes, it is true. BestBuy arranged special configurations for models they sell. Dell does not, however, offer them for sale directly through their website or over the phone, so the representative was correct when speaking of what Dell could offer through that channel.

3.) Could you provide some statistics/sources to support the performance claim? Vista x64 excels at pure mathematical computation, but has repeatedly fallen short of Vista x86 in graphical performance benchmarks, in large part thought to be an issue with the existing drivers. When taken at a whole most of the benchmarks I have seen/run have indicated the differences are negligible, with most users being unable to notice a difference unless running programs such as AutoCAD.


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In reply to: Not entirely true...

Well, you still have other options available for security software. Avast, AVG, Norton, and McAfee all have been updated to work. I already addressed my unimpressed state over ZoneAlarm in an earlier post.

And people who rush out and buy things without checking to make sure they will work first deserve what they get IMO. Of course the owners of all three models probably don't realize just what a blessing in disguise it is that those things don't work. The one Lexmark printer I've ever own, mysteriously died on me after being left turned off for about 2 weeks. HP makes nice laser printers, but their inkjets are as big a pile of crap as anyone else's, plus their drivers are dreadful no matter what the model. Epson has never really been a major contender in the printer world for a reason.

There is actually a way around the signed drivers thing. You can either hit F8 at every boot, and there's an option to disable driver security checking, or there's a little program called ReadyBoot Plus which basically just automates hitting F8 every time you boot and selecting to disable driver signing checks. It adds about 10 seconds onto your boot time is the tradeoff.

On point two... I figured as much, but didn't care so much.

Onto point three... It's real simple. Most graphics work makes heavy use of 64-bit variables. On a 32-bit OS, you have to do 2x32-bit operations for every 64-bit variable. A 64-bit OS can do those operations directly, eliminating the overhead associated with a 32-bit OS. The catch is, the program and OS have to both be 64-bit.

Video encoders should see a significant boost, audio encoders, programs like AutoCAD and Photoshop... And games which have some kind of "64-bit enhancements" in them. I don't do a lot of PC gaming, so I couldn't provide you with a list. Someone said FarCry is among them. Never played it, only vaguely know it's yet another FPS, so can't verify the info personally.

I don't really trust benchmarking programs. There's entirely too many ways to screw up the data collection and taint the results. These can range from the unintentional, to the malicious. Microsoft will routinely pay to have studies done that shows Windows is better in some way than Linux or some other OS. If one research outfit doesn't produce the results they want, they'll keep shopping around until they find one that does, and we'll never hear about the 50 or so other studies that were either inconclusive or didn't produce the results Microsoft wanted. So there's often a financial motive. Then there's the possibility that someone prefers say AMD chips over Intel, so they might skew the tests in such a way as to be favorable to AMD chips. Like create a custom benchmarking program that makes heavy use of 3DNow! extensions which Intel chips don't support. It might be a subconscious effort as well, and the person isn't even really aware they're doing it. Then there's cases where ATI and nVidia have been caught putting special code into their drivers that detects benchmarking programs being run, and skews the results.

Instead, I like to look at the way things should be. Apps that use 64-bit variables will have less overhead on a 64-bit OS, which translates into increased performance. That's just a fact. Yes, poorly optimized drivers may affect this negatively, but that is transitory. Over time, the optimizations should improve.

I can say that a friend of mine bought an HP system about a year ago. It has an Athlon64 X2 CPU, I forget the clock speed offhand, but it has 3GB of RAM. From a cold boot, it takes his system several minutes to boot and reach a usable state. Mine takes around a minute to a minute and a half after I added all the software I use regularly. I don't think mine is significantly faster in terms of clock speed, and this was even before I configured Vista to use all 4 cores to speed up the boot process. I know for a fact that my friend is quite competent with computers too, so it's unlikely that it's due to some malware infestation he's oblivious to, or anything similar. So, there is really very little to explain the rather poor performance of his system relative to mine.

Of course this is getting away from the original topic. So I would again suggest that the original poster check on the compatibility of the programs they wish to use on their new computer. Separate them into two categories. One for programs that you absolutely cannot replace, and those that you can either do without, or could substitute for another if necessary. Same with hardware like printers.

If all the must-keep items are supported, then you can press on with Vista x64 without any real fears. You also have a little time to seek out and test replacement programs for those that may not be supported, but aren't critical.

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dell sells a few vista 64 systems directly

In reply to: Not entirely true...

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Thank you all

In reply to: 64 bit and Dell notebook?

I had a "chat" with someone at Dell. The bottom line is that THEY are not equiping notebooks with 64-bit Vista (resellers such as BestBuy may, but not Dell directly). They have 64-bit available for few if any servers only.

I was told that there were some drivers still not available for 64-bit. I'm sure that if I could force them to put on 64-bit, ANY support issue would instantly be because of that.

I wsa told that there is another reason that 4G is significantly better than 3G: Dual channel access to the memory. With only 3G, being 1G+2G, at least some of the memory (he said some, I'm not sure if it's all) would not be dual channel. He claimed it made a significant difference.

Yes there's downside of not getting the 64 bit access, at least from windows. Many apps, while they may run on 64-bit, likely do not take advantage of it. And there will be incompatibilities. I've heard enough stories of problems with Vista, adding 64-bit only increases the risk. (This is partially rationalization, since I can't get it, but that's the facts.)

Thanks again.

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If it were me

In reply to: Thank you all

If it were me, at this point I would hold out until a version with Vista x64 WAS available. It will have the largest number of long term options. If there were an easy way to switch to the 64-bit version from the 32-bit, it wouldn't be an issue, but it requires a complete reinstall at present.

So assuming your current laptop still works and still meets your needs, I'd hold out a little longer, or possibly look to see if Best Buy or some other place is offering it. Another option is looking at other brands, such as Toshiba or Lenovo.

But that's just me. I'd just hate to see you kneecap your long term potential on the system. I've heard all the stories about Vista as well, and from my experience, most of them are vastly exaggerated or the result of someone buying a cheap HP/Compaq system with questionable hardware quality. Or maybe I just got lucky.

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Thanks anyway

In reply to: If it were me

My current computer does not meet my needs. I suppose a complete reinstall might help some of the problems, but it is a 4 1/2 year old Dell notebook -- powerful at the time, but pitiful now.

I like the fact that with Dell I can tweak almost everything (well, obviously not 64 bits). I'm getting a model with what today looks like a decent discount, plus some employee purchase extras. I think Vista Ultimate 32 bit and the processor with 6M cache should last me at least 3-4 years -- at that time I'm sure 64 bit will be everywhere.

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I wouldn't count on it

In reply to: Thanks anyway

I wouldn't count on it, but the choice is yours I suppose. Given that the requirements for acceptable performance pretty much quadrupled between XP and Vista, and that Windows 7 is now going to be based on Vista instead of the minimalist redesigned version of Windows that's apparently been in the works at Microsoft for a while now... You may well find yourself stuck.

But, I suppose you're the one who has to live with it, so you can do whatever you please. Hopefully thing's will work out.

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I got the 32-bit version

In reply to: If it were me

My 4 1/2 year old current notebook is really bogged down, and I couldn't wait. So I ordered the 32-bit version last week. It came Monday; unfortunately this weekend is the first time I'll get power it up.

Separately, I got a 1T One Touch 4+ drive. The backup software it came with specifically said that it didn't work with Vista64!

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Reply- 64 bit and Dell notebook?

In reply to: 64 bit and Dell notebook?

Mine is a desktop,Currently i'm using Vista Ultimate 64 bit with service pack 1. I did'nt find any problem with it. Infact it is much more better than 32 bit version of vista or 64 bit version of XP. Obsolutely no compatible issues. FYI i'm posting my system configuration.

Processor : C2D E8400 3ghz
Mother Board : Gigabyte EX38DS4
Memory : 2*2gb DDR2 800mhz
Graphics Card : XFX 8800GT
DVD Drive : Samsung

I use my system mainly for hardcore gaming, ethical hacking & online file sharing. It works well. In my experience There is no special problem with 64-bit vista drivers, system utilities or any other applications. Currently i'm using NAV 2008, previously i was using Bitdefender. Both worked well in vista 64-bit.

I beleive 64-bit version of Vista is available with Dell Laptops. I got it confirmed thru 2 of my friends working for Dell support.
Also check out the link below. All the Laptops displayed comes with Genuine Windows Vista Home Premium Service Pack 1 64-Bit.

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