On Switching to 64-bit

Album Cover: The Future

"Love's the only engine of survival."
Leonard Cohen / The Future

Posted on May 08, 2009 6:04 PM in Computers
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

As I mentioned back in March, I've decided to make the switch to a 64-bit operating system, more specifically, Windows 7, on my main home computer. As I've mentioned since then, the transition to 64-bit has been interesting enough to merit a separate blog post from my general impressions of the initial Windows 7 builds. The following is a laundry list of some of the interesting things I've noticed about making the switch to 64-bit:

  • One of the more immediately noticeable things about switching to 64-bit is that there are very few applications that are actually specifically compiled for the architecture. Of my entire arsenal of applications, the only ones I can remember finding off the top of my head are: Internet Explorer (this one comes with the OS and actually comes alongside the 32-bit version), unofficial builds of Firefox, MySQL, the TortoiseSVN Subversion client and 7-Zip.
  • Whereas the typical 32-bit install of Windows houses many of its important DLLs and other files in the System32 folder, the 64-bit version of Windows also has a SysWOW64 folder that serves a similar purpose.
  • Another interesting thing to note is that any non-64-bit apps, which as I pointed out earlier ends up being quite a few, are stored in a Program Files (x86) folder. Only the 64-bit applications are stored in the typical Program Files folder.

Though I'd only file the above observations under "notables," there have been a couple minor annoyances I've encountered along the way as well. For instance, for whatever reason, when I use the latest version of Notepad++ and I utilize the Find and Replace feature, after closing the associated dialog, a transparent version of the window remains on the screen. It only goes away when I restart the application. However, after posting to a forum about the problem, a solution was offered that makes the problem go away (unchecking the "Transparency" option in the Find and Replace dialog).

Way more annoying, however, was learning that the official version of Google Chrome is nothing short of unusable on 64-bit Windows 7. Fortunately, there is kind of a solution, as long as you're willing to use a cutting edge build of the browser. I've covered that in more detail over at Browsersphere.

Overall, though, I have to say that switching to 64-bit has been relatively painless. If it has anything to do with the performance I'm getting out of my computer, then I'm more than happy with the switch. It's also nice knowing that I can upgrade from a few megabytes of memory to a few hundred. Admittedly, though, I don't see myself making that jump anytime too soon. ;)

If I come across any other interesting notes or oddities about running a 64-bit operating system, you know I'll be sharing it here. In the meantime, though, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend making the switch to anyone, especially if his or her computer's got the specs to really exploit it.

Comments

Ian Clifton on May 11, 2009 at 7:56 AM:

One interesting thing to note about the "Program Files (x86)" folder is that some older apps will fail to install and/or run because of that folder name (including older versions of Photoshop). Fortunately most software is fixed now that the 64-bit switch has loomed on the horizon for a few years.

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qjcfkrpo on May 15, 2017 at 5:22 AM:

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