Monday, December 15, 2008

vista x64 - an evolution coming near you

Full 6GB of goodness

1 or 2 years ago, we observed the prices of memory (DRAM) fall. We thought the initial fall was temporary, some expert users even part-timed as investors, buying up more memory sticks than they need. But when they hoped to sell it off later, the prices slid even further. Now, you can get a basic 2GB stick at only S$30. This price level was unheard of, only until recently.

now new desktops and laptops offer a minimum 3GB of memory, some vendors even pump it up to 4GB. You may ask, why 3GB - because of the 32 bit operating systems that most of us use can only address up to 3.2GB of memory, the remaining portion is sitting idle unless 64 bit editions are running.

what other factors to upgrade?

for software developers, the increased horsepower gives momentum to virtualization, which is the emulation of additional platform(s) on an existing base platform. Using a selected operating systems as a base, we can run some other systems on top of it, saving computing resources, electrical energy, real estate space, etcetra.

the technology behind this evolution is; surprise surprise, AMD64, from AMD (duh). Initially created by AMD, it was later adopted by Intel for the mass consumer segment, after the Intel-HP IA64 initiative failed to gain traction. The greatest selling point of AMD64 is the support for both 32 and 64 bit computing by adding 64 bit support on top of the x86 architecture, which IA64 failed miserably. Demands for increased performance and better support for 64 bit drivers and applications should accelerate the adoption further.

what are the benefits to the average user? Besides removing the memory addressing restriction, there are some improvements on operating system security, such as the Data Execution Prevention (DEP), requirement for more reliable signed device drivers, and finally better preparation for future operating systems, such as Windows 7 which should be more 64 bit oriented in future.

how to go about doing the upgrade? Since a Vista product key should work on both 32 and 64 bit editions, there is no extra cost to move between the 2 architectures unless you're upgrading from older Windows versions. Hardware wise, minimum requirement is (only) a 64 bit capable processor plus 64 bit signed drivers for any internal and external devices you plug into the system. Factor in your ancient stuff, such as USB scanners, printers, keyboard/mice combo, card readers, etc. All of these shouldn't be a problem if they were purchased in the last 2 years.

software wise, except for Starter edition, all other editions from Home Basic to Ultimate have 64 bit counterparts. Just get hold of the 64 bit DVD installer, legitimately through Microsoft or not-so-legit through Bukit Timah.

Microsoft - compare editions
Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows: Windows Vista feature focus: x64 support
Windows Vista 64 bit computing

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