Windows Vista:To install 64-bit or 32-bit Version? (x64 vs x86)

Deciding which Vista version to install can be a difficult decision and can really limit what you can do with your system. Here are practical hints which should help a user decide which version to install.With the gaining popularity of 64-bit chipsets/processors, many users now have the ability to run either 64-bit versions (x64) or 32-bit versions (x86) of software and operating systems.You can only install the x64 version of Vista if you have a 64-bit processor.

For those with 64-bit processors, it seems obvious that installing the x64 version of vista would be ideal. The x64 version has increased security based around the 64-bit structure and programs compiled for 64-bit processors will likely run faster.
What's the problem with installing Vista x64 on a 64-bit system?

1. Most hardware does not currently have 64-bit drivers.
Out of all the boxes that I have installed x64 Vista on, I could always get it to boot up. However, the lack of 64-bit drivers for many hardware devices typically left me without any chance of burning DVDs or listening to audio. Networking devices and card readers were frequently not supported as well. Vista x64 is pretty but it's not very fun without network access or audio.

2. In Vista x64, any driver that is not properly signed will not be able to enter the kernel and will fail to load.
Think how many times you have ignored that warning that a certain hardware driver is not properly signed. With vista x64, if your driver has not be blessed by Microsoft, it will not work. Forget about it.
3. Vista x64 currently does not backward support most x86 (32-bit) drivers.
For the most part 64-bit systems run 32-bit applications very well. However, vista x64 doesn't run x86 drivers… at least at this stage.4. Vista x64 does not support 16-bit software.
You may think that you never, ever run 16-bit software. However, XP actually handles this legacy fairly well.

5. Very little x64 software currently exists.
x64 software runs better on a x64 system with an x64 OS. Currently, however, there is very little x64 software out there. If you have that magical combination, you do get a nice performance boost. Currently, however, this combination is way to far ahead of the curve.


Most users with 64-bit hardware should install the 32-bit (x86) version of Vista. Vista x64 is the turning point for operating systems as they transition to 64-bit. Currently, however, the majority of users will be very disappointed by installing Vista x64. The lack of 64-bit drivers for most current hardware will be very disappointing and frustrating to most users. Why push for 64-bit now anyway? The performance gains promised by 64-bit will not be seen for years until 64-bit compiled versions of software is the norm.


34 comments so far

  1. targetlife on


  2. Robert on

    Yep, sounds right. Use 32-bit Vista for now. I was concerned that I’d be buying a nice new PC and then have to upgrade in under 3 years time for the ’64-bit revolution’. However, all you need is visit the MS website and order the free 64-bit Vista DVD (try searching for “Vista Alternate Media”). You can then keep that disk for say a few years and then re-install Windows when you need to – hey, isn’t normal to need to reinstall Windows sometimes anyway?

  3. Marcy on

    I have read that once you activiate either your 32 bit or 64 bit version of Vista that you are “locked” onto that version and that you can NOT use the other version. That for me is where the confusion is. If I use the 64 now, then I have it for years and will not have to shell out another couple hundred for it later. But if I use the 32 now I will have less driver problems… Microsoft is in it for the money, that’s for sure.

  4. Matt on

    Way to rip off someone else’s work…

  5. Rosie on

    I thank you for your comment.

  6. SPRTN on

    You will not be locked into the version of Vista that you install, but installing the 64-bit version is nuts. I had lots of problems with it (most browsers wouldn’t work, and popular apps like Adobe Premier 3.0 did not have 64-bit drivers available), and I wound up formatting and installing the 32-bit version of Vista, which has alot more support. And when I compared game benchmarks between the two, there was almost no difference in performance at all.

  7. Al on

    Some of Microsoft’s own hardware/software doesn’t support their 64-bit OS’s. The fingerprint reader is a good example. No offical response from Microsoft either.
    MS didn’t do any developement on drivers for XP64 after the release, I doubt they will do Vista either. I think the 64bit version is just a show piece to rival linux.

    I wonder if Win Server 03 EE is 64bit?

  8. Bah on

    Can anyone tell me how Imay know if I have a x32 or x64 processor?
    Thanks a lot!

  9. Bah on

    To the above question: I mean 32 or 64 bit processor.

  10. charles on

    ^^^ easy google your processor..

    any dual or quad core processors are all 64 bit..

  11. Mohammed on

    I have 64 bit processor(AMD Athelon 3800 64×2 processor) and Windows Vista (Home Premium) DVD. How would I install 32 bit Vista operating system to my PC. It doesn’t give any choice of 32 bit or 64 bit during installation

  12. Mallard27 on

    Mohammed, If you want to install the 64bit version of vista, you have to go to the below website and purchase, for $10, the 64bit DVD.
    I just installed it and am heavily considering reinstalling 32bit.

  13. Doofus on

    Why the hell would you use Vista at all with your current hardware I will never understand that, it was developed for next generation hardware. It’s not operating systems fault if your hardware is not Vista ready, thats just plain common sense.

  14. john on

    yo um i have an msi k8n nforce 4 mobo amd atholon 64×2 2 gigz of ram pny nvidia 86oogt i installed the 64 bit version of home premium and every software problem i have seen is from stupidity to get adobe to run click on the compatability tab under properties and click win xp it emulates the old os for the program all my drivers and software work except for msi live update 3 wich updates ur bios and most people dont need that ne way if u need a serious update ur manufacturer will recal ur mobo and charles llok at it again the athlon x2 is available as a 32 or 64 but the 32 will run a 64 os like all the 32 bit intell chips they team them up and they act like 1 each taking half of the instruction setand u can activate ur vista copy again if u deactivate the old 1 b4 reinstalling

  15. Paul Dibussolo on

    I ran both x32 and x64 of windows vista. I can tell you I like the x64 version better just seems way more responsive. But I did have problems get my printer installed.

  16. Criação de Sites on

    The windows vista 64bits requires more memory RAM than 32bits version.

  17. Coruco on

    Thanks all for your comments. This really took some of my frustration away.

  18. Lori on

    For Vista you can check your system type by going to the control panel, then click on System and Maintanence, and then click on System. Scroll down to your computer’s system information, where it will say “System Type: 32-bit or 64 bit”

  19. Mariusz on

    The questions asked and statements made above (how can I tell if I have a x32 or x64 processor? ha, ha) lead me to believe that you guys are better off discussing your favourite character in a soap opera or raising cows than talking about computers. Please do not ridicule yourselves

  20. lloyd rolle on

    32 is mutch slower than the 64, but some time it is easer to find what you are looking for on the 32.

  21. TehBuG on

    this article is COMPLETELY wrong.

    the Stigmatisim agenst x64 vista origionates with the Fiasco that was XP Pro x64.

    i have been running vista since it was first available (legally) online. the 64 bit version of Vista Ultimate.

    First: all my Hardware worked. all my hardware had drivers. the only 3 programs that diddnt work were Visual Studio 2005 (the SQL server included with it kills vista)
    Ati Tray Tools (the unsigned driver crap.)
    Tuneup Utilities (was XP version. got vista version and it worked again.)

    Seccond Misconception of Vista: its not slower than XP, your system just sucks with it.

    sorry. im not creiticizing. vista REQUIRES a minimum of two gig of ram. it sais 512, but at that your paging constantly.

    my machine with 2 gig of ram runs smoother on 2gig in vista than it ever did in XP. my games also run the same speed, IF NOT FASTER. (this is due to games coded in x64… like HL2 (x64 mode), UT2004 x64 edition or UT3.

    So, honestly people. x64 runs 86 apps. it takes full advantage of your hardware. it is raster by NATURE.

    x64>>>>>>>x86. get out of the past.

  22. frogger3140 on

    n by da way i hav a mac book air(using intel core 2 duo processor (compressed) 1.6 ghz using 64-bit mac os 10.5 n it runs good but windows vista 😛

  23. frogger3140 on

    windows vista 64 is just some :p 2 show-off linux :p

  24. frogger3140 on

    correction: windows vista 64 is just some 😛 2 show-off linux 😛 cause 😛 linux 😛 does not 😛 hav a 😛 64 bit os 😛 n it looks sleaaker n nicer (in the looks) on x64 but other things 😛

  25. excop on

    You all realize that when Microsoft designed Vista, it was the x64 they built first then x32. Another thing, in order for a company to get their hardware drivers “Signed” for 32-bit Vista, they are REQUIRED by Microsoft to provide x64 drivers. No x64 driver, no signed 32-bit driver. Ever notice the hardware you install in 32bit vista that complains the drivers aren’t signed, if you look for the 64 bit drivers there non existent?

  26. Pencemen on

    At the time this was posted (June 13, 2006) over 2 years ago, I would have agreed with 361 Degrees. But Now I believe its time to re-visit this topic because Vista x64 has come a long way since it came out… X64 supports 16EB of ram, yes, EB (exabytes) in other words, 120000GB of ram.

  27. Taekwondodo on

    Although most apps appear to work on my Vista x64, there are two that do not. VMWare Server and Cisco VPN are critical enterprise apps that I am unable to even install. Plus I am unable to print to my canon photo printer which is shared from an XP Pro PC. So in my experience x64 is sadly *still* not ready for prime time. I’m close to ‘upgrading’ to XP Pro and losing 1GB of my RAM.

  28. Thanks all for your comments.

  29. MOUSSA on

    Hi, i have not problem with X64 , my laptop is DELL XPS1340 and PC is INTEL E8400
    all software work nice with best performance and good speed.

  30. Site Compras Coletivas on

    windows vista 64 is just some :p 2 show-off linux :p

  31. Site Compras Coletivas on

    You all realize that when Microsoft designed Vista, it was the x64 they built first then x32.

    • acompanhantes bh on

      32 is mutch slower than the 64, but some time it is easer to find what you are looking

  32. compras coletivas on

    I have learn a few good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting.
    I surprise how a lot attempt you put to make any such magnificent informative site.

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