Stay with x64 edition?

April 20, 2009 at 09:58:50
Specs: Windows XP, Q9400/4GB DDR3

I've built myself a new computer. Basic specs are as follows:

Q9400 Quad Core
512MB 9500GT Graphics

Since I have a 64-bit CPU and 4 GB of RAM I figured that I would try to use XP x64 edition. I have access to both that and the regular 32-bit edition.

I've installed the x64 edition and found drivers for most of my hardware. However, some drivers (such as for my scanner) aren't available for x64. Furthermore, some programs act a bit quirky. For example, a context menu item will be missing because 64-bit explorer can't load 32-bit DLL's. Additionally, I don't like the fact that I have to download some software from third parties (i.e. TweakUI 64-bit) and almost no software that I use on a regular basis is available in a true 64-bit edition. Finally, I am a bit confused about the actual state of x64 with MS. Are they supporting it? Why no SP3?

My main question is should I stay with x64 or go back to 32-bit? Most of my search results tell me to go back to 32-bit but many of those are forum posts from 2004-2006. Has x64 XP become more mainstream since then or will I continue to have to deal with "quirks" like I do now? This computer was built to serve as my main desktop for programming, research, etc. so I don't want to waste too much time getting the actual OS/software working, at least in Windows (x64 Linux though...)

My main concern with 32-bit XP is can I make use of my full 4GB of RAM without any ugly hacks?

Thanks in advance.

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April 20, 2009 at 11:06:21
I guess it would depend a lot on how much you need the full 4gb of RAM. Most home users get by perfectly well with 1gb. Adding more RAM then you actually need for your normal workload, does not make your PC perform better.

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April 20, 2009 at 13:37:22
Most software is not avaliable as a native x64 binary, but running a normal 32bit x86 won't mean you suffer any performance hit because of the nature of the x64 platform. Most software I have used seems to work fine that I use. My only problems includes installing iTunes. I have to install the Vista64 version, but I have to modify the MSI files to allow installation, I must then perform other steps to get CD Burning working from iTunes. However, when done, it works really well for me on my old AMD 64 Athlon 3000+. Windows XP x64 is actually Server 2003, not a ported version of XP 32, hence why the kernel version is NT5.2. This is why there is no SP3 for XP x64, because it is not the same as XP 32, and therefore does not follow the same service pack and patch path, but instead the Server2003 path. All in all, I find XP x64 to be very stable, and responsive, though as an average user, I don't really gain any performance benefits from running the x64 version over the x86 version

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April 20, 2009 at 18:41:01
Jnewman, that is the kind of annoying tweaking I am talking about. I don't really want to deal with that kind of stuff when I am using Windows.

What about getting a 32-bit version of Server 2003 Enterprise, which seems to support up to 32GB of RAM? That would solve the RAM issue and the x64 quirks as well. Would there be any problems with that?

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