PC users with current 64-bit hardware, such as Athlon 64 CPUs, may not yet have had the opportunity to test out the hardware with a 64-bit operating system. Microsoft has made the evaluation version of Windows XP 64-bit Edition available for download from its Web site.
The challenge may be finding 64-bit drivers for your hardware, and few manufacturers have yet released proper 64-bit drivers for their devices. I tested 64-bit Edition on a QDI Alacritas 520-K8 notebook, which features an AMD Athlon 64 3200+ CPU.
The install process of 64-bit Edition is identical to that of Windows XP, and the interface of the new operating system is the same as the current Windows XP platform, with no new features. Users will find this familiar if they migrate to the new operating system, and companies that switch to the new system will not have to retrain their staff.
The real advantages will come in high-end applications, where 64-bit Edition will be able to address much more memory than the 32-bit version. Up to 16GB of RAM and 16TB of virtual memory will be addressable, which helps applications pump substantially more data to the CPU at a more rapid rate.
In terms of compatibility, 64-bit Edition will be able to use emulation to run 32-bit applications; they will run with their own 32-bit DLL files, allowing a happy co-existence and causing no difficulties. We experienced no problems running many of our current everyday applications.
Microsoft Windows XP 64-bit Edition
[Trial version, not rated]
With no changes to the looks of its interface, Windows XP 64-bit Edition should bring great performance to current desktop activity without increasing the learning curve.
Price: Free for download