Q: I don’t know whether you have had any queries about the purchasing of new laptops. I was asked by a friend last week to go with her to advise her on which laptop would be suitable for her. We went to Curry’s to see what they had to offer. They do stock quite a few makes, but the problem was that all but two makes (the ones I didn’t recommend) had 64-bit operating systems installed. Now Windows 7 as you very well know, has only been out on the market (that’s after the release candidate version) for just over a year and it came out with a 32-bit operating system. Why have all the laptop manufacturers suddenly gone for the 64-bit system after only one year? This move has now made a lot of software useless and getting drivers for some of the older equipment, printers etc, impossible in many cases. I know the 64-bit system can look at more than 3GB of memory, but that’s not much use if programs designed for the 32-bit system don’t work on it.
Is it Microsoft once again forcing us users to buy suitable software for the 64- bit system by discontinuing the 32-bit system after such a short time, it never happened to XP where updates prevented software working, so why is this happening, who has made this decision? The only way round this at the moment is to purchase a separate 32-bit operating system (which are still available) for about £150 for the Home Premium version and installing that, but I am told that if that is done, it will void the warranty, so where do we go from here? Any ideas from your team would be gratefully received.
A: It’s a change that’s driven by the hardware industry rather than by Microsoft. 64-bit processors are now commonplace and although they can be run using a 32-bit OS you lose some of the advantages. In particular, and as you pointed out, the ability to access more memory, in fact you’ll get the best from a 64-bit machine if it has 4GB or more of RAM.
For the most part 32-bit software will work in 64-bit Windows without too much trouble. You won’t see much advantage though unless the program is specifically written to exploit 64-bit systems. As yet this only applies to graphics and video tools so you won’t see an improvement in your Web browser or word processor. The biggest problem is with drivers which may prevent you from using older printers and such like on 64-bit machines.
When you buy a boxed copy of Windows 7 it can be installed as either a 32- or 64-bit version, so the answer might be to buy a PC without an OS and make your own choice. This is harder to do with laptops than it is with desktop systems but they are available if you shop around.
Originally featured in PCU140