A few years ago, upgrading to a 64-bit operating system was something that only enthusiasts would do. These days, 64-bit is the industry standard and virtually any computer should be running a 64-bit operating system. There are various reasons to upgrade, but it is also not a decision to take lightly. The following tips serve to better prepare you for making the step from Windows Vista or Windows 7 to a 64-bit edition. For maximum compatibility and future-proofing, you should ideally install Windows 7 64-bit.
Reasons for Upgrading
Not only is 64-bit now the industry standard computing architecture, but it will also be the only option available in a few years time. Windows 7 is set to be the last operating system that Microsoft will make available in a 32-bit version as well. Virtually all computer hardware available today is compatible with 64-bit. Almost all CPUs these days can use 64-bit instruction sets.
With regards to performance, there are many situations where you will not notice a great deal of improvement, if any. Due to technical constraints, you cannot use more than about 3.2 GB of memory on a 32-bit system. For many of today’s games and applications, 3.2 GB of RAM is not really enough to get the best performance. With a 64-bit operating system, you will never need to worry about memory limitations. In addition to this, many of the latest graphics cards are not suitable for 32-bit systems.
Most software is still programmed in 32-bit, but this is starting to change. Since a 64-bit version of Windows can run almost any 32-bit application, compatibility issues rarely arise. You cannot run very old 16-bit programs from the Windows 3.1 era in a 64-bit environment, but for the vast majority of us, this is not a problem. If you want to run old 16-bit games, there are emulators and virtual machines available anyway.
How to Upgrade to 64-Bit
You cannot upgrade to 64-bit without reformatting your computer. In fact, you should not use an upgrade installation in any cases, even where it is possible. Upgrading Windows rather than doing a clean install will often lead to having an unreliable and inefficient computer.
Before you upgrade to 64-bit, you should make sure that your computer is fully compatible with it. Virtually any modern computer is compatible, though if you have components installed which are more than about 5 years old, they could pose problems.
You will also need new drivers for your hardware. 32-bit drivers will not work on a 64-bit operating system. There are a few 32-bit programs which will not work on a 64-bit operating system as well. These mostly include certain antivirus programs.