Windows 7 brings 64-bit computing to the forefront

About 46 per cent of Windows 7 PCs worldwide are 64-bit, Microsoft says

After a slow start, a larger number of PCs are using the 64-bit version of Windows 7, and the OS will soon become the norm as users move to 64-bit computing, Microsoft said on Thursday.

Around 46 percent of PCs worldwide are running a 64-bit edition of Windows 7, said Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc in a blog entry, citing data gathered by the company in June. That compares favorably to its predecessor, Windows Vista 64-bit, which was installed on only 11 percent of PCs worldwide more than three years after its launch.

A larger number of PC makers are installing 64-bit Windows 7 as the default OS on PCs, LeBlanc wrote. Most PCs include processors capable of running on 64-bit applications that can also address larger amounts of memory. The memory ceiling for 32-bit operating systems is 4GB, which could limit the ability to run computing-intensive applications that need larger memory sizes.

"The ... price of memory has dropped over the last several years making it easier for OEMs to up the amount of memory in the PCs they ship," LeBlanc wrote.

Chip makers Advanced Micro Devices and Intel introduced 64-bit x86 chips many years ago for client PCs, after which Microsoft first started offering a 64-bit version of Windows XP, but adoption was slow. Today, most of the x86 chips are capable of running 64-bit applications.

A larger number of devices and applications are also compatible with 64-bit Windows 7, which has helped speed up adoption, LeBlanc said. The applications generally perform faster than their 32-bit counterparts, he said. The 64-bit Windows 7 is also capable of running 32-bit applications.

As a proof point of growing 64-bit adoption, LeBlanc pointed to a document on Intel's migration to Windows 7, in which the chip maker said the 64-bit OS provides more addressable memory and security benefits.

However, the chip maker in the past has admitted facing migration challenges to Windows 7.

Intel worked with Microsoft to develop Windows 7 into a stable operating system, but has cited application incompatibility, lack of system readiness and privacy control issues as challenges in migrating over from Windows XP.

For example, the chip maker said it had many legacy 16-bit applications, which Windows 7 no longer supports. Intel also had challenges addressing the way in which Windows 7 deals with 32-bit programs, which are saved in a different path, leading to problems with applications looking for specific files.

The company has established a safety net to run applications in virtualized environments or Windows 7's Windows XP mode feature. Though a challenge, the move to 64-bit computing was necessary as it would prepare the company to meet future computing needs, Intel said at the time.

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