Should I Upgrade or Purchase Vista 64-Bit (x64)?

   Posted October 15, 2008 by David Kirk in Microsoft Vista

As a follow-up to my popular article exploring 64-bit versus 32-bit versions of Vista, this tech-recipe describes the small subset of users who will receive some benefit from running the 64-bit version of Microsoft’s most recent operating system.

My original article contains a lot of essential information describing the current problems trying to run Vista 64-bit. Be sure to visit the the link above, remember it only takes one incompatible piece of hardware or software to really make the 64-bit transition painful.

If you are not scared off by all those issues, these are some candidates for Vista x64.

Memory Hogs

32-bit versions of Windows caps efficient memory use at under 4 Gigs. Users wishing to use memory greater than this amount will see performance increases with vista 64-bit.

Only New Hardware / New Software

If all of your gear and applications are brand new and updated, you may see some benefit with the 64-bit architecture. Take a while and go through your hardware and software list at Microsoft’s compatibility site. Be sure to select 64-bit when you search.

vista 64-bit search

Even now, I am shocked how much software is not 64-bit compatible.

vista 64x not compatible

Primary Software is Available in Native 64-Bit Versions

Users running primarily native 64-bit versions of CPU monster programs will see the most benefit from 64-bit vista. A 64-bit email program or web browser is not going to be much faster. Rendering huge binary files such as audio or video may be quicker in some circumstances if the application is native 64-bit.

Even CPU monster photoshop is not native 64-bit yet:

Adobe plans to get 64-bit versions of Photoshop software released to customers as soon as possible. Photoshop for Microsoft® Windows® will run 64-bit-native with the next version release….

In early testing of 64-bit support in Photoshop for Windows we have observed overall performance gains in the range of 8-12%. Those who work with extremely large files may realize noticeably larger gains in performance, in some cases as dramatic as 10 times the previous speed.

Most of the “native 64-bit” lists on the internet are inaccurate. Most of the listed applications are really 64-bit compatible and will not run faster than the 32-bit version. Additionally, many of the true native 64-bit software applications have not benchmarked faster than their 32-bit cousins either.


Only a small focused group of users will receive a great deal of benefit from vista 64-bit: users who process huge data files through native 64-bit applications on high memory systems with 64-bit compatible hardware and software.


About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
View more articles by David Kirk

The Conversation

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  • also, a note should be made about the memory overhead that is added when you do run Vista 64-bit.

    if you have 4GB of memory in vista 64-bit; you really will not notice a significant memory boost and in my experience are better running 32-bit if the max memory your system can run is 4gb.

    however if your planning on running 6GB or 8GB of memory, then 64-bit is the only way to go. 🙂

    • Leslie

      I’m currently running Windows Vista Business 64bit on an older, single core Athlon 64, 3gb ram, 8800gt. I’ve run nLited XP for some time on this system without problems. I recently decided to see what I’d get with a 64bit OS, and I must say, I’m happy. It runs everything I’ve thrown at it, from games to CPU intensive apps, with little to no slowdowns.

      I’m not saying 64bit is best for everyone, but if you have the cash and the time, it may be for you.

  • Brandon

    i just bought a new computer running windows 64 bit- I use Verizon games on demand which does not support 64 bit- is there a way around this?

    • jacob

      right click> run in compatibilty mode for xp??

      this may work

      • Brandon

        hmm, no such option available, I have run as administrator, but thats it?

        • Brandon

          I actually found that option in properties, but no luck- seems my kids wont be using that service any longer!

          • Vista 64-bit often will run 32-bit applications successfully. However, occasionally it gets caught up with 16-bit installers or poorly written libraries. This is the key reason that I don’t yet suggest running 64-bit vista except for the situations described in the tech-recipe above. For most people, it is just not worth the trouble.

        • bksys

          Actually there is an option for XP-compatibility-mode in Vista. I’ve installed several apps that way on my new 64bit Vista PC.
          But I’m not sure if that is just in Premium/ultimate edtions only as I have not tried it on Basic Ed.

          1) Right-click the program exec (eg. Setup.exe);
          2) select “Properties”
          3) select “Compatibility” tab
          4) click check-box for: “Run this Program in Compatility mode for”
          5) select “Windows XP” from the drop-down box.
          6) Click “OK”

  • anyma

    I recently made the switch from vista 32-bit to 64-bit and I must say I am very pleased with it, so far so good. Running smooth on my intel 2 core duo dual-core processor with 4gb of ram. I’m satisfied I’ve also noticed no slowdown experienced in switching from program to program like I have seen when i was using the 32-bit of vista. It seems more stable as well, will not be going back to 32bit anytime soon. As for all my old programs there working fine under the 32bit emulation. I say go for it if you have at least 3gb of ram or more.

  • Adobe Photoshop CS4 and Lightroom 2 are both 32-bit and 64-bit friendly for Windows.

    • J. Donner

      Adobe Photoshop CS4 is not just 64-bit “friendly”, it’s actually availabe as full 64 bit application (only the Windows version)

  • DiscoDave

    You can have the best of both worlds: Vista or XP 32Bit running IN Vista 64Bit. With Microsoft Virtual PC ( you can run a 32bit windows install within your 64bit install. (Assuming you have a licensed copy of XP or Vista to install). You allocate how much ram and HDD space as required. It should run most if not all of your legacy applications, save for perhaps the most video and memory intense apps. Give it a try, I use it quite a bit to run legacy applications at work.

    • Joe Foerster

      I think the Virtual PC approach is the best bet. 64 bit computing is not going to go away and I like to embrace the inevitable as soon as possible. Just ordered an i7 system from Dell with 12 GB RAM and 1.2 Terabyte RAID drive. I think anything I want to run in a Virtual PC 32 bit session will be able to get plenty of RAM and disc space to make it run well. I have a Fujitsu s510 scanner I use a lot (which currently does not support 64 bit Vista) and even it will run in Virtual PC if it comes to that. Meanwhile, more and more 64 bit drivers and apps show up every day. The time has come to switch.

  • Jay

    whatever happened to WOW64?

  • Heather

    I purchased a new laptop with Vista 64 bit and so far I hate it. I remote in to work with Nortel Networks – so far, they do have not come out with a version that is compatible with Vista 64 bit… also, the USB drivers to connect my Palm to the computer are also not compatible. I thought of the Virtual PC – but I only have Vista Home Premium and I don’t think Virtual PC will run on this – Are there any downfalls to purchasing the 32 bit Vista and installing on my computer instead of this OS?

    • Anonymous

      I bought a laptop with Vista 64 bit. I use virtualbox (by SUN) to run a copy of XP and my old programs. My virtual box with XPloaded runs faster than my old laptop.