Is it 32 or 64 Bit Vista?

Deciding which Vista version to install can be a difficult decision and can really limit what you can do with your system. Here are practical hints which should help a user decide which version to install. I decided to write this guide after installing 64-bit and 32-bit vista systems on several test boxes. With the gaining popularity of 64-bit chipsets/processors, many users now have the ability to run either 64-bit versions (x64) or 32-bit versions (x86) of software and operating systems. However, if you only have a 32-bit processor, your choice is easy…

You can only install the x64 version of Vista if you have a 64-bit processor.

For those with 64-bit processors, it seems obvious that installing the x64 version of vista would be ideal. The x64 version has increased security based around the 64-bit structure and programs compiled for 64-bit processors will likely run faster.

What’s the problem with installing Vista x64 on a 64-bit system?

  1. Most hardware does not currently have 64-bit drivers. Out of all the boxes that I have installed x64 Vista on, I could always get it to boot up. However, the lack of 64-bit drivers for many hardware devices typically left me without any chance of burning DVDs or listening to audio. Networking devices and card readers were frequently not supported as well. Vista x64 is pretty but it’s not very fun without network access or audio.
  2. In Vista x64, any driver that is not properly signed will not be able to enter the kernel and will fail to load. Think how many times you have ignored that warning that a certain hardware driver is not properly signed. With vista x64, if your driver has not be blessed by Microsoft, it will not work. There is a workaround this but is not straight forward.
  3. Vista x64 currently does not backward support most x86 (32-bit) drivers. For the most part 64-bit systems run 32-bit applications very well. However, vista x64 doesn’t run x86 drivers… at least at this stage.
  4. Vista x64 does not support 16-bit software. You may think that you never, ever run 16-bit software. However, XP actually handles this legacy fairly well.
  5. Very little x64 software currently exists. x64 software runs better on a x64 system with an x64 OS. Currently, however, there is very little x64 software out there. If you have that magical combination, you do get a nice performance boost. Currently, however, this combination is way to far ahead of the curve.

Windows Vista Benchmark from 64-bit-computers.com

Windows Vista Ultimate 32-Bit 64-Bit
Integer Performance    
Emulate 6502    
single-threaded scalar 47 45.8
multi-threaded scalar 46.7 62.1
Blowfish    
single-threaded scalar 106.5 118.7
multi-threaded scalar 106.5 119.6
bzip2 Compress    
single-threaded scalar 160.1 172.3
multi-threaded scalar 157.6 95.3
bzip2 Decompress    
single-threaded scalar 129.1 139.4
multi-threaded scalar 133.6 143.9
Floating
Point Performance
   
Mandelbrot    
single-threaded scalar 108 77.6
multi-threaded scalar 108.1 98
Dot Product    
single-threaded scalar 50.9 150.9
multi-threaded scalar 50.6 150.2
single-threaded vector 124.4 196.5
multi-threaded vector 122.2 196.6
JPEG Compress    
single-threaded scalar 104.8 103.9
multi-threaded scalar 105 103.1
JPEG Decompress    
single-threaded scalar 97.8 115.3
multi-threaded scalar 97.9 114.4
Memory Performance    
Read Sequential    
single-threaded scalar 139.2 137.6
multi-threaded scalar 143.3 142.7
Write Sequential    
single-threaded scalar 110 109.9
multi-threaded scalar 116 115.1
Stdlib Allocate    
single-threaded scalar 129.2 92.2
multi-threaded scalar 126.9 92
Stdlib Write    
single-threaded scalar 40.9 88.2
multi-threaded scalar 42.1 96.8
Stdlib Copy    
single-threaded scalar 59.7 100.3
multi-threaded scalar 66.4 105.5
Stream Performance    
Stream Copy    
single-threaded scalar 103.9 106.2
multi-threaded scalar 104.5 106.2
single-threaded vector 97.3 96.3
multi-threaded vector 95.7 95.1
Stream Scale    
single-threaded scalar 118 118.3
multi-threaded scalar 115.3 116.1
single-threaded vector 97.2 98.9
multi-threaded vector 95.6 97.1
Stream Add    
single-threaded scalar 95.1 97.8
multi-threaded scalar 91.5 93.3
single-threaded vector 107.4 108
multi-threaded vector 103.4 103.7
Stream Triad    
single-threaded scalar 84.1 90.2
multi-threaded scalar 81.3 87
single-threaded vector 86.4 87
multi-threaded vector 83.1 83.2
     
OVERALL: 99.8 110.7

Conclusion:

64-bit version is faster than 32-bit, but most users with 64-bit hardware should install the 32-bit (x86) version of Vista. Vista x64 is the turning point for operating systems as they transition to 64-bit. Currently, however, the majority of users will be very disappointed by installing Vista x64. The lack of 64-bit drivers for most current hardware will be the major frustration to most users. Why push for 64-bit now anyway? The performance gains promised by 64-bit will not be seen for years until 64-bit compiled versions of software is the norm.

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