Vista will drive users to 4GB RAM, and the 4GB limit will driver users to 64-bit

Vista will drive users to 4GB RAM, and the 4GB limit will driver users to 64-bit

Summary: Quick! Come up with three good reasons to switch to a 64-bit desktop OS.

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Quick! Come up with three good reasons to switch to a 64-bit desktop OS. I bet that overcoming the 4GB memory limit (or, more accurately, the 4GB addressable space limit) is one of the reasons you stated (if not, I'd like to hear what three reasons you came up with).

Windows Vista has changed the ballpark that OEMs have to work to. Not only does the new OS like a decent graphics card (if you want to run Aero at any rate) but it also needs considerably more RAM than XP. In fact, even though Microsoft says that a Vista Capable PC only needs 512MB of RAM, personally I think that anyone who who tries to work with Vista on a machine with 512MB of RAM is pushing their luck. Spend your money on the hardware before the software.

Personal note: I really did think Vista would mean the end to OEMs being able to sell cheap, underpowered, mediocre PCs (CHUMPs) but it hasn't, although they are easy to spot because these are the systems running Vista Home Basic.

However, now that 1GB is at the bottom end, that means that 2GB of RAM (an amount that would have seemed lavish not long ago) is middle of the road territory. This means that the 4GB limit imposed by 32-bit operating systems isn't all that far away. In fact, memory is so cheap that not loading a PC up with 4GB seems crazy, especially if you're willing to spend money on Vista. After all, you can load up on 4GB of DD2 677 for $150.

But ... if you're running a 32-bit OS you're not going to see 4GB even if you do spend the money. After everything else has taken its share you don't end up with 4GB, you end up with only 3GB. The OS swindles you out of 1GB. The fix? Jump to 64-bit.

And this is how I see the migration to 64-bit OS happening. Sure, it'll be a slow migration, but as far as I can see breaking the 4GB RAM barrier is the main reason to make the switch. It'll probably start with the gamers and those who like to dabble with photo and video editing because these are the folks who'll need the extra power. Slowly others will follow. And remember, while 4GB of RAM will set you back $150 now, in a year you can expect that price to drop substantially.

Microsoft hasn't made any decisions as to whether the next version of Windows will be 64-bit only, but personally I doubt that Windows 7 will be, especially if Microsoft expect to ship it in a couple of years. I just don't see the market as being ready for the shift. But by the time Windows 8 is ready to make an appearance, we might be ready to abandon 32-bit computing.

Thoughts?

Topics: Windows, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Processors

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43 comments
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  • Not quite.

    I use Vista Ultimate; with 2GB RAM. I've had no speed problems doing a 3D animation render, having a 8.5x11" multiple layer Photoshop project open just for the sake of it, and playing a first person shooter 3D game (UT2004) and still have 500MB available.

    Of course, under XP I could do all that and have two photoshop projects open for whatever reason, but I never worked on more than one.

    I think MS is fattening things up deliberately so people will migrate to this thin client + software-as-a-subscription fleecing (oops, low-cost solution). Keep in mind their 'Software Assurance' package had people buying, but not getting any new OS or Office app for YEARS, Microsoft's actions only seem to enrich their wallets while delaying the goods they promise as benefits for signing up in the first place. With software subscriptions, it'll reduce the need to do fairly much [i]anything[/i] because subscribing every year is more fun than truly owning.
    HypnoToad72
    • You could be so right on your conclusion

      Personally, I have no idea as to what may or may not evolve from MS and their strategy in so far as platforms go. Logically, it stands to reason that whatever 32 bit OS's can do, 64 bit OS's should do better with obvious reason. What I don't really understand is why there is so much reluctance in moving to 64 bit platforms. Anyone have any spins on why 3rd party developers are slow to put out their offerings based on 64 bit platforms ?
      intrepi@...
      • 64 Bit Reluctance...

        [b]Logically, it stands to reason that whatever 32 bit OS's can do, 64 bit OS's should do better with obvious reason. What I don't really understand is why there is so much reluctance in moving to 64 bit platforms. Anyone have any spins on why 3rd party developers are slow to put out their offerings based on 64 bit platforms ? [/b]

        There's little, if any percieved need for 64 bits at this point.

        Back in the day, when we were all using DOS and Windows 3.11, there WAS a noticable jump in how things worked when Windows 95 came out. Of course, at the time we were dealing with 486 and Pentium 1 based systems that were running in the 100 to 200 MHz range. Slugs and snails compared to what's on the market today.

        Fastforward to today with the average system today running at warp speed compared to what was available then - and there really isn't any noticiable improvement by migrating to 64 bits.

        Secondly, in spite of application and OS bloat, there STILL isn't any real need to go beyond 4 GB. As HypnoToad said, he has plenty of RAM free even with the load he's got on his system.

        What needs to happen before we go too much further - software that's better able to take advantage of the new crop of multi-core chips. We've got 4 core chips coming out and most software today still isn't written to use more than one at a time.
        Wolfie2K3
    • Microsofts Actions

      "Microsoft's actions only seem to enrich their wallets while delaying the goods they promise as benefits for signing up in the first place."

      This is true, unless you happen to be a developer with MSDN Premium or more access. If you happen to be developing the applications that will help push people onto their new platforms, they give you access to the "goods" extremely early and frequently (for example, I have access to Vista x86 and Vista x64, with all the beta builds, Checked/Debug builds, and of course the release versions, in any language you could name.)

      So yeah, MS is deliberately fattening things up and attempting to force people to "move forward".
      wingot@...
  • Apart from video editing....

    ... just what the h*ll would you do with 4Gb of RAM? Other than let Vista eat it up? I've yet to meet a user for whom running out of RAM (at this kind of capacity) was a problem.

    Sure - people run out of RAM at 128Mb, 256Mb and 512Mb.But at 4Gb? Even on AS/400s with their 128bit architecture I don't think I ever needed 4Gb of physical RAM in 15 years, and for an AS/400 4Gb isn't even remotely stretching things (128bit can address 3.2x10^29 GB).

    Also, Adrian mentioned thinking of three reasons to switch and then gave us one. Adrian - what would the other two reasons be?
    bportlock
    • Cheap Ram Drive for Live Distro?

      You can load an entire LiveCD distro in memory for kiosks and limited application use. Need to update the machine, drop in a new CD.

      Great for version control and protection from viruses and malware. System infected, reboot and all is better.
      MisterMiester
    • Hardcore graphic designers, that's who

      I can easily eat up 2GB of RAM, with Adobe's CS, MS Office, Quark, Firefox, iTunes, etc. running. Can't keep shutting down and restarting apps all day long, it's from one app to the other, constantly. I could use 4 GB easily!!
      Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
    • Database developers

      I run Oracle on my XP Pro, 3.4Ghz pentium laptop with 2GB of RAM and I wish the laptop would accomodate 4GB or more. The fact that your AS/400 uses lots of virtual memory is irrelevant, I think. You don't want your database to be trying to use your disk drive instead of fast RAM do you? When I have Outlook, Word, Excel, ERwin data modeler, Toad (one or more instances), and Oracle all running at the same time I don't want to be limited to 2 gigs of RAM!
      dougclind
  • Local custom

    [i]After everything else has taken its share you don?t end up with 4GB, you end up with only 3GB. The OS swindles you out of 1GB. The fix? Jump to 64-bit.[/i]

    I don't know MS' products so that may be true for them, but it's not necessarily true for the hardware. Both Intel and AMD have more than 4 GB physical address space even in 32-bit operation; the limit is on address space [i]per process.[/i] That's a critical distinction, since a lot of servers have been running more than 4 GB since before they went 64-bit.

    For typical desktop and server loads, 3 GB per process (and Linux, at least, can make that 3.5 GB) is more than enough; the benefits of more memory come from the number of supportable processes and the large caches that the extra RAM allows.

    As it happens, my main CPU hogs are the exception: technical computing. Do [u]not[/u], repeat [b]DO NOT[/b] attempt to route a nontrivial integrated circuit in a 3 GB address space. This makes for rather interesting server provisioning in an engineering shop, let me tell you.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Been on 64bit for a while...

    Although I only have 2GB DDR2 800MHz RAM and even when I am running ManDVD to create DVD's of photos, I generally have just over 1GB of RAM free. With the dual core 64bit CPU things get done fast. At least it seems that way to me.

    Anyhow I don't really see average users needing to move to a 64bit architecture with 4GB of RAM to perform basic computing tasks... and if they do, then maybe they need to rethink the OS and applications they are using. ]:)
    Linux User 147560
  • 64 bit software...

    The big question is what 32 bit software will run on a 64 bit PC ? None.... it is going to be a little more difficult to convince people to throw out ALL of their software and buy it all new when they get a new 64 bit PC.... Add to that software people are running that is obsolete and they cannot live w/o it... what do they do then ? Will software makers want to redo all of their software for 64 bit version ? Maybe they will be happy to redo it knowing that past sales of 32 bit will be repurchases when people get new 64 bit PC... I don't know.
    redtrain65
    • Wah...

      If I remember correctly, 32 Bit software will run on 64 Bit Windows, the problem was usually driver support. This is what normally killed anything. 32 Bit software just takes a bit longer to run in emulation, but x86 32 bit emulation on the 64 bit x86 architecture doesn't perform as poorly. The same thing had to be done for 16 bit software when 32 bit OSes started to come out.

      If you want to have some fun, try running 32 bit software on a IA64 system.
      nucrash
      • That is what I thought

        Until I found someone that just went 64 bit and got so frustrated that he reimaged back to 32 bit WIndows.
        redtrain65
        • Hardware vendors have 64bit drivers

          If you install 64bit Windows without first downloading the drivers for your hardware, then yeah, you'll probably get frustrated. On the other hand, if you are smart, you download the latest drivers, burn them to a CD and *then* install your 64bit OS.

          New hardware on the other hand has 64bit drivers right with the factory CDs now or links to their website to download.
          MicroNix
    • alot of 32 bit software works

      i run Vista x64 and about 95% of my x32 software runs perfectly, The rest will run but they have issues. Your statement is Totally wrong, now if you would of said Driver support is lacking and that might prevent users from switching, that would be more accurate. That will change though in time as more people switch over to x64 platforms. I remember the same thing happening when Windows 95 first came out, it was 32 bit compared to windows 3.1 16 bit. I knew people that took years to switch from windows 3.1 to at that time Windows 98. It also took years for the software to be written in 32bit, for a long time there was no native windows 95 software besides Office 95. Yes I video edit and cant wait for the next version of Sony Vegas wich will be in 64 bit. You know whats funny is, is that reading some of these replies when you see people say stuff like "Who needs 4 Gig of ram You will never use that much" I remember Bill Gates saying something like "Who will ever need more then 512k of Ram?" Anyways I just wanted to point out that 32 bit software will run in a x64 OS. Driver support is another story, My Konica Minolta laserjet 1350W is not supported in x64 but I found a way around that. My ATI AIW 2006 is not fully supported (Video card part is, TV part is not) and I am hoping for software that will atleast make it compatible with Vista Media Center. None of my webcams are supported in x64 yet but one of them will be soon they say, I have 2 scanners one of them is supported one of them will not be supported ever. I can tell you one thing though, Vista X64 is VERY stable. Not one crash yet.
      NoThomas
      • That's funny ...

        [i]My Konica Minolta laserjet 1350W is not supported in x64 ...[/i]

        That's funny I have that same printer and it's supported on my 7.04 Kubuntu x64 install and my 6.10 Xubuntu PPC install. It works perfect as my network printer, a wireless network printer I might add. :0
        MisterMiester
    • Really?

      I run 32 bit apps right along with 64bit apps just fine. Nice thing about AMD 64bit CPU / systems, they have 32bit code to allow you to run both. ]:)
      Linux User 147560
      • Sometimes it was a pain in the past ...

        Running x32 on x64 depending on what distro you had was a problem because of interaction between the desktop and the pango interpreter. Many times you had to run a chroot environment to get those apps to work.

        But ever since Ubuntu 6.06 it's a thing of the past, so much that after about one month of running 6.06 I deleted my chroot directory. ;)
        MisterMiester
        • We're not talking about Linux here

          Perhaps it was a problem with Linux, but then again the article is talking about Vista, not Linux. Running 32bit apps on 64bit XP wasn't even a problem. But then again, its not Linux.
          MicroNix
    • 32bit apps run on 64bit OS

      WOW32 takes care of running current 32bit apps. Nobody has to throw anything away with the exception of some CD burning software. I've been running 64bit XP since its technology release and run my 32bit Windows apps just fine.

      This is one of the reasons that I can't figure out why manufacturers aren't shipping these AMD64 procs with 64 bit OS. Heck, if Dell is willing to start supporting Linux, then 64 bit Vista support should be a no-brainer.
      MicroNix