Buying a New PC: Should I Upgrade to 64-bit Windows?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Rick M. writes:

" Dear Infopackets,

I really enjoyed your article that compared 32 bit vs 64 bit (CPU / Operating Systems); however, I did notice the article was dated back in 2006. Is there a later evaluation of the 32bit versus 64bit? I'm in the market for a new computer and want to make sure the programs on my 32 bit Windows XP will work on a 64 bit of Vista. If so, where do I find it? "

My response:

If you are looking for a new computer, one of the biggest decisions that you will have to make is whether to go with a 32-bit or 64-bit operating system.

On the surface it seems like an easy choice -- 64 bit is newer and theoretically twice as fast, so why would you spend good money on an older, slower 32-bit system?

Unfortunately it isn't as cut-and-dry as that, and the wrong decision could end up costing you more than you budgeted for.

Allow me to explain.

Both Windows XP and Vista, as well as Windows Server 2003 are currently available in 32 and 64-bit versions. That said, the the much hyped "Windows 7" (scheduled for release in 2010) will still support 32-bit technology. (Source:

Microsoft had good reason to do this -- many people who made the switch from 32 to 64 early on with XP and Vista found that most of their software was incompatible with a 64-bit operating system. Even worse off were those with hardware such as printers, scanners that were not compatible with the 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Vista.

If you are planning to keep any of your software to use on your new machine or want to use any of your present hardware in your new setup, it would be a good idea to check with the vendor or manufacturer for 64-bit compatibility.

If you find that you need to replace more than you have budgeted for then it might be best to stick with a 32-bit system -- especially one that is dual core (which effectively has the same power as 2 x 32-bit CPUs).

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