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Living With 64-Bit Windows

I've had to listen to one of my colleagues, who's grumpy on ordinary days, curse and complain as he converted his development system to Windows 64.  Now that he's done, he's "all about the AMD64" and never passes up an opportunity to brag to people that he's running Windows in 64-bit mode on his dual Opteron 250s and how blazingly fast it is, and how much he loves it, and how everybody should move to Windows x64 Edition.

I figured there are probably people out there in the community who'd like to learn what he learned (or, more specifically, what I had to listen to him learn), so I took the time to write up some of his experiences.

Rule #1: Plan Carefully
Very carefully enumerate the "stuff" on your existing machine that you can't live without.  That includes hardware such as disk controllers, video cards, network cards, and even sound cards (if you like to crank the tunes while your coding). 

Despite the fact the OEMs and IHVs have had more than two years to prepare, you should assume that it will be hard to find 64-bit drivers for many devices.  When my colleauge upgraded his workstation about 6 months ago, he specifically planned ahead for the 64-bit upgrade and got devices that he knew had "in box" drivers. So, he used an LSI Logic PCI-X Ultra320 SCSI adapter (very stable, and highly recommended), a Broadcom NetXtreme NIC(also highly recommended), and an on-board AMD-8111 audio device (that "just works fine").

It seems he wasn't nearly so clever when it came to video cards, however.  His system uses a pair of Matrox Millenium P650s.  Matrox in its infinite wisdom first announced that it wasn't doing 64-bit drivers for these boards, causing my colleague a minor stroke.  Then they announced -- in April -- that the 64-bit drivers were done.  And everybody here at OSR used to love Matrox.  Past tense there, notice.

Also remember that even when you find 64-bit drivers for your hardware, you should assume that the drivers may not support all the features that the 32-bit drivers support. Or that the drivers might not work quite as well as the 32-bit version.

Rule #2: Plan Yet More Carefully (or, think of the little stuff)
It's easy to forget things that you take for granted.  For example, did you want to be able to actually use your DVD+/-RW drive to burn DVDs after you upgrade to 64-bit Windows??  If so, you'll need compatible CD/DVD burner software.  Older versions of, well, any of the CD burner software isn't 64-bit compatible.

Nero V6 to the rescue!!  If you 're not using Nero, you're using the wrong software anyways.  However, when you make the move to 64-bit, you'll have the privilege of upgrading to Nero V6, which seems to work great.

Probably the funniest part of the update was watching my colleague spend two solid days trying to figure out how to print from his 64-bit system.  Yes indeed, you need 64-bit printer drivers, and you can't expect to automagically get them downloaded to you from that old Windows 2000 print server running on the corporate LAN.  It doesn't know that there even is such as thing as x64.

Again, you'll have to search and scratch for the right drivers. And, even then, you might have to settle for drivers that are merely "compatible."  Here at OSR we have an HP 4250 printer.  The closest x64 drivers were apparently for the HP4100.  Figure out how to install these drivers was a treat.  I got sucked into helping, and eventually someone clued me in to KB 282842 ("How to install a local printer driver for a remote printer").  All very intuitive.  Not!

Consider things like smart card readers (you wanted to be able to use your eToken?), VPN access software (Checkpoint's SecuRemote for example, installs filter drivers),  or anything else that needs to load something into kernel mode.  If there's not a 64-bit version, you're not using it on your Windows-64 system.  Oh, no problem, I'm sure Checkpoint will have x64 compatible software in, ah, 18 months or so.  That's a long time to wait if you regularly need to access a VPN from your machine.

Rule #3: Remember That Dual Core Opterons Are Pin Compatible
Don't buy a motherboard/bios combination that does not support dual-core Opterons.  The dual core chips are pin-for-pin compatible with the single core Opterons.  So, if you want a quad-processor system, you can put two dual-core chips into your system.  Yes, you can still run Windows XP Professional x64 Edition on it (even though it's technically a quad processor, Microsoft only counts the number of chips not the number of CPU cores for licensing purposes).

Rule #4: Chill.  Resign Yourself To The Fact That Some Things Will Not Work
No matter how carefully you consider your upgrade, you should assume that some things will just not work.  For example, we rely upon a network monitoring package for the OSR LAN that runs on my colleague's workstation. When he upgraded his system from 32-bit to 64-bit, he apparently assumed that all he would have to do is re-install the application.  Well, the network monitoring software worked fine, but he had to crack the cab files and install it manually because the installer didn't run properly.

Later, he learned that the installer worked when it was run from any directory other than his desktop.  Or so he says.  Go figure.

Rule #5: No 16 Bit Apps!  Who Cares?  Well, You Do.
Windows 64 does not support running 16 bit applications.  In general, this is a very good thing.  However, it seems that many software package installers are actually 16 bit applications!

Windows 64 has special provisions for handling these applications, believe it or not.  And these provisions almost always work.  Almost.

In Summary
To sum it all up: Being on the cutting edge will result in some pain.  Perhaps this hint will save you some of that pain, perhaps not.  In the end, I bet that you'll wind up like my colleague: Always bragging about his 64-bit system.

Did You Do The Upgrade?  How Did It Go?  Got Your Own Upgrade Tips??
Leave us your comments by clicking on the comment link below.  Let us know your upgade tips, too!  Remember "sharing is caring"!


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User Comments
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"RE 64bit Windows"
I decided to upgrade to 64bit windows,but my systems was planned out when I built it. My system is Asus K8n-dl w/ dual Opteron 250,3gigs of Ocz dual channel ecc reg memory,Video Nvidia Geforce 7600 GS, 4 Western Digital 320JD gig Hd, Pioneer Dvd RW 109,2 M-Audio 1010. My system was built specifically for Audio and Video editing. The pain Hector is true. My system ran on XP 32 bit for a year before the upgrade to XP 64. One of the problems I encountered was a compatable antivirus. The two that I have found is Avast and McaFee. Another was the Raid drivers would not work so I am not running RAID. Printers drivers I give up on finding them. Most of all some of my effect plugins for SONAR 5 64bit; BBE Maximizer and Alien Revalver will not run on XP 64. When compared to the time I save in editing and mixdown its less than half the time previously spent. Due to the fact that I have another Dual opteron PC I can live with the lack of support for XP 64.

23-Sep-07, Joseph Runfola

"A refreshing article."
Thanks so much for this article. I've been passively standing by as the 64bit 'revolution' came and went. Prior to real people actually getting their hands on the new operating system every you read in the press was positive. Then once it hit the streets most benchmarks registered little or no gain and anyone I'd spoken to about installing XP x64 merely mentioned their pain.

With that in mind reading your article was a breath of fresh air. It's not hyping the benefits of 64bit, nor is it entirely negative. Because it's so balanced and honest once again I'm fired up to spend some time, effort and money installing this on a new Athlon64 system I'm about to assemble.

It seems a waste to have 64bit instructions you'll never use and finally there's an operating system that supports the 4GB of memory my motherboard gives me the potential of installing.

I'll post back with my findings. I'm a web designer/developer so not quite as technical as perhaps some of the other readers and posters here.

15-Aug-06, Will Bakali

"hungry for 64-bit support"
It's funny you should mention Checkpoint's VPN client software, because right now this is my biggest problem. Ever since my upgrade to Win64 I have not had access to my company's network. I tried to contact Checkpoint's tech support but they entangled me in the "proper support program" and I never got a reply about a 64-bit compatible client. Please tell me you were joking about the 18-months release schedule!

As far as drivers go, I am not unhappy. Almost everything is supported, even my "PS2 to USB gamepad adapter". Of course it took Microsoft several months to release a 64-bit IntelliPoint... On a more important note, Hewlett Packard has announced support for Scanjet 8200 (a professional scanner) but they do not mention a release date. I wonder what is the secret of Epson's people who have already released 64-bit drivers for almost all their products, while HP has left us out to dry. A big hooray to nVIDIA's people who release drivers for almose every OS, even when some OSs are still in a beta stage!

The (X86) suffix to the Program Files directory is something that haunts me. Some installers have a problem with the parentheses characters, and some applications install to the "Program Files (X86)" directory, even when you set the conventional "Program Files" as the destination. Why did Microsoft do that? I know what my processor's architecture is, thank you... What's next, adding (GeForce) suffixes to DirectX's DLLs?

Software compatibility has not been an issue so far. I was not happy to say goodbye to Mcafee VirusScan, but I now use ESET's NOD32 which is fast, reliable and quiet. Don't let the name fool you - there's a 64-bit version, all right. Applications work, multimedia codecs work, and games work, with very few exceptions.

Oh, and I'm having a great time with the large HDD capacity support. I no longer have to worry about splitting a 300 GB hard disk. Microsoft decided in the early DOS versions that the main way to organize data would be the directory tree, not partitioning. I happen to agree with this - all the way :)

I think many major companies are much less enthusiastic about supporting Win64 than they should be. Win64 is more than a secondary project and it needs to be supported. Some companies will not care until most users move to 64-bit, and most users will not move to 64-bit until they have a proper support base.

19-Jan-06, Dimitrios Thomadakis

"Dual Boot"
Many of the 64-bit hardware platforms x64/AMD seem to run the 32-bit OS and Hardware just fine. Worst case, you could setup a dual-boot configuration (one 64-bit OS and one 32-bit OS). Then boot into the 32-bit OS version when you need to use that application or piece of hardware that doesn't have 64-bit drivers yet.

31-Oct-05, James Hunter

Liked your summary, but dont forget security.

Im a total beliver in AMD64 now - Intel have got to be very worried - anyway, my old antivirus just wouldnt work. It appears that only AVAST will do the job for 64. Very basic GUI though. Time will tell how good Avast is.

However for all the install drama (not much really), the performance results (bottom of the range AMD 64 3000+ compared to P4 2.8GHz) have been so good Ive converted all 6 PCs at my office (engineering office) to 64 - its just such an improved experience and so cost effective. Interestingly there is a fresh hungry look in the eyes of my staff. Its clearly been a huge productivity gain at least in part to their enthusiasm..

And the upgrade path is a good one, 1 to 2yr out from here todays top of the range X2s will be dirt cheap.. a simple CPU replacement and were looking at double if not more performance hit.

do the math... Im smilin =:-)

18-Oct-05, Robert Chauval

"Think about the LAN"
My firewall (a SonicWALL) enforces the use of a special version of the McAfee anti virus. When you browse the web from a new workstation you get a web page from the firewall offering to load the anti-virus and stating that there is no net access without the anti-virus. If you do not load the anti-virus the firewall blocks the path to the Internet.

If you are running 64 bit Windows the firewall and accept the offer you will download and partially install the X86 anti-virus drivers. The installation gets far enough to corrupt the install of Windows but not far enough provide any way to uninstall it.

SonicWALL support told me that they (or McAfee) will fix the bug someday but it is not a priority. (It is acceptable to not have a 64 bit version of a program yet. It is not acceptable to corrupt 64 bit systems because your automatic installation doesn't bother to check the running version.)

10-Sep-05, Edward Dekker

"Windows x64"
Running Windows XP Pro x64 on Dual core Pentium D 730/ 945 Chipset.

Printing to Brother HL 12xx + was no problem!

All in all it looks good. About the same experience as in the article. Additionally: IEEE 1394b on x64 suffers from the known issue of speed limitation to 100 MBits/s (see also MS KB8855222). No fix available for x64 :-(

06-Sep-05, Robin Mitra


27-Aug-05, talker rhq

"good stuff"
planning to go for one in a few weeks.

15-Jul-05, Guru Prasanna

"New PC Install"
I assembled a PC for a customer and thought I had my bases covered, however, the customer informed me when I was calling to setup the appointment, that he wanted this pc away from others, and therefor needed wireless added on.

Guess what, can't find a single pci wireless nic with 64 drivers. Bought a D-Link in hopes that it would install, and of course, it did not. No real great loss, as I can swap the current pc and make his the destination point for the cable modem...ie hardwire his to the MSI motherboard's Nic. Would have rather been able to do it as originally intended, now this 'bleeding edge' pc, will seem to him to be a step back, instead of a step forward. Yeesh!

03-Jun-05, George Pinkasiewicz

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