A while ago I added a 4th gigabyte of RAM to my system in the hopes of squeezing out a little bit more performance out of my (relatively) dated PC (running Core 2 Duo E8200 CPU), however after checking the system properties I was rather annoyed to see –>> 4.00 GB (3.00 GB usable), meaning that the additional gig was a complete waste as the system was unable to utilize the extra RAM. The reason for this being a limitation with the 32-bit architecture that the operating system uses. This brings us to the topic at hand, a solution is needed and given the fact that my CPU uses a 64-bit design the logical conclusion point to rectifying my RAM issue was to upgrade to a 64-bit version of Windows, something that I’ve been very apprehensive about due to the amount of incompatibilities with the majority of software out there, but regardless of that I pressed forward and upgraded to a 64-bit version of Windows 7 and the result was rather pleasing.
Well the first and most obvious thing after installing the 64-bit operating system was that it now registered all 4 gigs of the RAM and with that came a noticeable performance increase, not only does Windows initialize faster, but games like Skyrim and Need for Speed: The Run were running at a much higher frame rate. The second thing I noticed is that apart from the typical Program Files folder there was an additional Program Files (x86) directory, which I never anticipated. This means that any of the old non-64-bit software is automatically allocated to the Program Files (x86) directory negating any compatibility issues. So I was pretty pleased that I could use all my old software though obviously I did need to download a few new versions of certain applications and drivers such as a 64-bit version of the ATi Catalyst suite and iTunes. In case you were wondering x86 is the designation for an operating system with a 32-bit architecture and x64 (technically x86-64) is that of its 64-bit successor.
So apart from being able to support more than 4GB of RAM, a 64-bit architecture also has an added benefit of being more secure, this is because most malware and malicious code is written for 32-bit software, and writing code for 64-bit is a bit more difficult considering that you have to write to address 64 bits (integers) instead of 32 bits. Encryption, in this sense, will be more effective. So all-in-all, it was definitely worthwhile switching over to a 64-bit operating system, I’m only sorry it took me so long to do so.