Whether you choose to continue using Windows XP, Vista, or are ready to upgrade to Windows 7, you have an important question to ask yourself before you even begin the install: Are you ready for 64 bit?
There are a lot of things to look into before the upgrade. At one time Nvidia graphics cards had no 64bit legacy drivers at all. Today however, it is common practice for there to be a 64 bit driver for nearly every piece of hardware out there. The best way to ensure compatibility is to check for drivers prior to making the switch if the 64bit drivers are available you should have no problems. Old devices which are still functional such as the Sound Blaster Live series and below will not have a 64bit compliant driver which is unfortunate.
What is there to be gained by going 64bit? The simple answer is double the address space and 4 times the maximum memory capacity. That is to say that with double the memory registers you effectively square the total amount of addresses utilizing the original 32bits of space and the new 32 bits together.
A standard 32 bit OS is only capable of supporting 4 gigs of memory (RAM) and the 4 gig limitation includes your video memory. This means if you have 4 gigs of ram and a 1 gig GPU you are losing 1 gig of memory due to a lack of registers.
There was a time when compatibility was an issue; however, today software compatibility is your least concern. If you are running a 32bit processor (Pentium 4 and below/ Athalon 3,000+ and below) you definitely don’t want a 64 bit O.S. On the other hand, in terms of gaming greatness; I’ve seen with my own eyes the dramatic increase in frame rate Windows 7 is capable of when running in 64 bit mode.
A few great examples of 64 bit over 32bit include Overlord II, Crysis,, and Crysis :Warhead. In overlord II with all settings maxed I was getting 15 FPS (or less) before the switch to 64bit Win 7. I now play the very same game at a steady 30-70+ FPS using the same hardware.
Crysis and Crysis warhead were not initially designed to be 64bit capable, however, there is a current patch available to bring them into 64bit mode and utilize those extra stacks. Using this patch and a 64bit O.S. you can expect to see an increase of 5-15 FPS in game on max settings. (Mostly due to heavy use of physics processing) The games of today are becoming more and more realistic and this means more calculations per second are needed in order to keep up with the demand of the physics processing lighting and AIs.
Another advantage of a 64bit platform includes double the stacks at a processor level. This means that you may carry 8 instead of the original 4 commands over to the processor at a time without dropping the old stacks. This is very important in today’s multitask driven market. These extra 4 stacks allow you to fully utilize the second core that can be found in many of today’s computers and nearly all 64bit compliant systems. At this point in time the better question to ask is why wouldn’t you move to 64bit?
Windows 32/64 FAQ
Windows 32 VS 64 Softpedia