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Upgrading from 32- to 64-bit Windows (7, mostly)

I’ve been an online instructor for HP at their online Learning Center for over five years. There, the company offers free, short courses on a whole range of computing topics, including numerous items focused on Windows 7 (the following snippet is cut from the all courses listing there).

Note the various Windows 7 courses available here

Note the various Windows 7 courses available here

Of the items listed, I’m currently teaching the Windows 7 tune-up and migrating from XP to Win7 courses, with a very active bunch on the former, and a reasonably active bunch on the latter.

As you might imagine, the topic of 64-bit computing is one that comes up frequently in both venues. In answering student questions and concerns, and in researching the state of the current marketplace, I’m observing that except for lower end notebook, netbook, and desktop PCs (all-in-ones and under-$500 offerings) it appears to me that the bulk of commercial products come with 64-bit Windows 7 pre-installed. Any machine that can accommodate 4 or more GB of RAM is far more likely to ship with 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional by default these days, and vendors like Dell, HP, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and others are all touting their support for 64-bit Windows 7 operating systems.

When it comes to upgrading an existing 32-bit installation (Vista or XP, usually) to 64-bit Windows 7, a few important observations are in order. First, most experts recommend (and I concur, based on installing dozens of 32- and 64-bit Windows 7 systems) that you plan to perform a clean install of 64-bit Windows 7 versions, and to re-install Windows applications on the new platform. Even though products like Laplink’s PC Mover can take preferences, settings and even some applications from 32-bit XP or Vista to 64-bit Windows, and Windows Easy Transfer can do likewise with setting and preferences, you’re often better off starting from a clean slate (and registry) when making such a move.

Certainly, you’ll want to boot from a Win7 64-bit ISO and run Upgrade Advisor from a 64-bit perspective to see how target hardware fares in that analysis, too: 32-bit drivers remain more forgiving than 64-bit ones (all of the latter *MUST* be signed to work with Win7 64-bit editions) but that can also lead to trouble and/or ongoing instability issues.

I’ve learned to look for rock-solid hardware configurations with workable drivers for all components. For 64-bit Windows 7, this often appears to produce more stable and reliable systems. After fighting with Vista for over two years, that comes as a real relief! My HP students and the various forums I haunt to keep up with the current state of the art, all also appear to validate this perspective. Perhaps 64-bit Win7 can also work for you?

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