64 bit or 32 bit?

  chocolate cake 12:12 06 Jun 2010

I need to get a PC for a my 70 yr old parents to replace their clunky 10 yr old model. It's for their 50th anniversary. In the latest mags there are opportunities to choose 32bit at no extra cost.
Can anybody explain what are the differences between 64 and 32bit (Windows 7) and what are the advantages that 32 bit or 64 bit offers? Essentially I want to know which would be the better system to choose.

  johndrew 12:18 06 Jun 2010

Perhaps this will help you decide click here

Personally I would opt for a 32 bit system as, if the problems with XP and similar are anything to go by, drivers and other problems should be fewer.

  chub_tor 12:49 06 Jun 2010

I've just switched from 32 bit Win7 to 64 bit and I have been impressed as to how smooth the procedure went. I can now make full use of my 4Gb RAM, I had a few problems with drivers that were soon fixed with downloads and now my system seems very stable and subjectively a little faster.

  SirMetal 16:01 06 Jun 2010

I would recommend you go for 64-bit.

The technology is mature enough to work with most programs now. You can even run 32-bit applications on your 64-bit system, so I recommend that you go for the 64-bit system.

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit!

  Dark Mantis 16:34 06 Jun 2010

Yes I would have to agree, go with the 64 bit versions. For a start you get more futureproofing as 32 bit versions of applications and programs are phased out. You would also get a faster more stable system.

  morddwyd 18:39 06 Jun 2010

I have 64 bit on all three of my machines with no problems and greatly increased speed.

  HWJC 20:40 06 Jun 2010

As far as I know there's still no Flash for 64-bit, so on a 64-bit windows you have to use the 32-bit version of Internet Explorer to get to any flash-reliant site, like youtube. While this is still the case I would not support the suggestions that 64-bit is sufficiently mature in the market-place, particularly as it's intended for 70-y-o parents who may (or may not) be confused and frustrated by this technicality. Personally, it's been driving me crackers for the last year or two with 64-bit Vista and W7 machines here.

Breaking the 4Gb RAM limit is the obvious major plus of 64-bit (I'm enjoying that part at least). While there are other small differences I'd make the entire decision based on whether the benefit of using more than 3.3Gb RAM is bigger or smaller than the confusion\frustration of flash limitations. If they can cope with the latter, go 64-bit, if they can't (one way or another) go 32-bit. The rest is of little practical concern.

One other note: If the old machine is 10 years old and peripherals are of a similar age (Printer\monitor\external webcam\freeview card etc), you need to be very sure Vista\W7 drivers exist to continue to use them. Some of the 5-y-o peripherals I wanted to retain failed on the driver front, with the manufacturer declaring they had no intention of ever making drivers available in future (a promise they adhered to). This is not so much a 32\64-bit issue, but an XP\Vista\W7 issue. Where updated drivers were issued it's very likely they would only run in 32-bit mode.

I guess the final factor to note is that the learning curve from XP to Vista\W7 is big enough already without the extra confusion of driver support and flash.

While I personally would always upgrade to 64-bit, I'm very conscious others will struggle - only you will know the people involved and how they'll respond to a gift upgrade that might seem to be a backward step in terms of usability.

Good luck!

  john bunyan 20:52 06 Jun 2010

I am as old as your parents and am happily running 64 bit windows 7 on a 3 year old PC. Big advantage is you can install and use more than 3 gig RAM. All my programmes work, the ones that are only ok for 32 bit work ok.(For example Photoshop CS4 will only recognise the Twain scanning settings in 32 bit) Do check their other hardawre "likes" 64 bit with the MS compatability tool.

  HWJC 21:25 06 Jun 2010

Yes, I didn't want to disparage people just for their age, but I didn't quite know how to put it above. Some of that age easily run rings around me while others struggle. Blame me for poor use of words.

I have a similar issue with my brother's 12+ year old computer, where his current view is that taking 20 minutes to start up his aging trundler is just a good opportunity to make tea (which is unarguable to be fair). I'm trying to put an upgraded motherboard and faster chip in my old XP machine to give to him (which was a belting good machine until I fried the CPU) but he thinks the £50 cost is over the top.

Some people you just can't help...

  morddwyd 07:29 07 Jun 2010

"on a 64-bit windows you have to use the 32-bit version of Internet Explorer to get to any flash-reliant site, like youtube. "

All the more reason not to use IE8.

However, if you have to use it I am sure that using the 32 bit version of this or any other programme is not going to be very noticeable.

There is no discernible difference that I can see, and any perceived inconvenience is more than outweighed by the advantages of a 64 bit o/s

  chocolate cake 22:15 07 Jun 2010

Thanks to everyone who replied and took the time. I don't come on this site too often any more but am always impressed by the willingness and knowledge that users here display.
I'll go with the 64bit, at least if they have problems with it it will hopefully be minimal and as a bonus I will get to spend more time with them.
Thanks again.

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