Upgrading to Windows 7 64 bit.

This post is going to either be extremely helpful, or just show how far my head has been in the sand for the last few years.

I installed Windows 7 64 bit a few days ago, and my FPS in DarkFall went from 25-40 to 80-150. Which you know, is good, really good actually, and far above expectations. Is Windows 7 just that amazing? Not exactly, although installing it was a breeze, and so far so good in terms of functionality and lack-of-annoyance.

You see my previous operating system was Vista 32 bit, because at the time I purchased the rig Vista 64 was still having driver issues that I simply did not want to deal with. At the time my system had 4 gigs of ram and a 512mb video card (8800GT). It ran everything I threw at it like a champ and for the longest time I had no issues. Then I ‘upgraded’ to a 295GTX, and that’s when the issues started. My overall FPS did not really increase, but I started getting BSOD errors sporadically. I was also getting rather low FPS in DarkFall compared to others with similar or even lesser rigs.

One random day I was talking to a real tech guys at work, someone who builds his own server cluster at home for fun and all that. I told him about my issues and he explained to me exactly how the RAM limitations on a 32 bit system work. I knew it limits your system RAM, but what I did not know is that the RAM limit is actually for ALL memory, be it system provided or from your graphics card. So when I went from a 512mb card to one with 1792mb of memory, all that did was ‘replace’ some existing system memory with video memory (or something like that, tech people feel free to fill in the exact details). With so much spare memory, my system would occasionally get mixed up and hence BSOD errors. This also explained why getting the new card gave me such a limited performance increase.

So if you are still running a 32 bit operating system, and are considering upgrading to Windows 7 64 bit, DO IT! With RAM being so cheap, and midrange video cards packing as much memory as they do, you should be able to easily take advantage of the upgrade. And at $110 (amazing special I think?), buying Windows 7 is a really cheap way to see a very noticeable performance increase. Obviously the amount depends on how badly the 32 bit OS is currently choking you, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say my situation is a rare stroke of stupidity.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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24 Responses to Upgrading to Windows 7 64 bit.

  1. Draglem says:

    Microsoft running a Community development referral program now also? You forgot the link :)

  2. Gemski says:

    If you’re a student the upgrade is only $30.


  3. Maladorn says:

    Now if we could only run games reliably on another OS…

    Looking forward to moving to 64-bit. Was almost ready to write off Windoze, but I keep hearing good things.

  4. Knqui says:

    Are you sure 32bit OS’s limit VRAM? =/

    • SynCaine says:

      Sure? Of course not, but that’s what my friend said, and given my FPS increase, it seems he was correct.

      • Knqui says:

        I’ve just never heard of that before, the 32bit 3GB RAM limit is well known, but a graphics card having “too much memory” to be on 32bit is brand new to me.

        I’ll look into it but I don’t think that’s true.

        • SynCaine says:

          No no, the way I understood it is that the graphic card’s memory counts towards that 3gb limit. So if the system was using 1792mb of memory off the 295gtx, it was only using 1208mb or so of system memory. (Or something like that, I don’t know if it divides it up like that exactly. I was just told the 3gb limit applies to ALL comp memory as a total, so even the 16mb or whatever memory a X-Fi card has counts)

        • sid67 says:

          The RAM limitation of a 32-bit OS is a fact. With a 32 bit OS, there are only so many available memory addresses. These addresses are shared with all devices using RAM, including your graphics card.

          The actual limit is 4GB, but since many 3D vid cards have 1GB of onboard memory — most pre-configured 32-bit PCs only ship with 3GB of RAM.

          You can technically upgrade your memory up to whatever maximum the motherboard will allow, but only 4GB total memory (including the graphics card) can be used.

          A 64 bit OS has A LOT more memory addresses, so this isn’t an issue. This is the #1 benefit of going to 64-bit OS.

          As Syn mentioned, driver problems used to be common for 64-bit OS. This is because drivers are often written to access RAM directly and the memory addresses between 32-bit and 64-bit OS are incompatible.

          With new devices, every manufacturer ensures 64-bit compatibility. The problem is if you have an old external device (like a scanner or printer) there may not be a driver available.

          Although MS has done a good job of creating many compatible drivers for these older unsupported devices. If the device was remotely popular at all, then there is probably an MS driver for it. Or alternately, you may be able to Google a compatible 3rd party driver.

          The other issue that occasionally pops up is that if a software program is written to access memory without using the Windows API, it might not work on a 64-bit system. If they used the Windows API (which just about everyone does now) or wrote it with a 64 bit OS in mind, then there shouldn’t be a compatibility problem.

        • Draglem says:

          Are you saying that 2 boobs are enough because you only have 2 hands?

        • sid67 says:

          Not really. You also have a mouth… :O

          But ya, there is a mathematical limit to the number of memory addresses.

          That limit also exists with a 64-bit OS but its around 200 Terabytes.

        • Draglem says:

          I guess that is one area where machines will never be human: The need for excess.

        • Graktar says:

          Just a slight correction, though I’m way late to the conversation. The total amount of addressable memory on a 32 bit system is 4 gb, that is for system memory + video memory. However, the total amount of addressable system memory is a little over 3 gigabytes. Even if you had 4 gigs of RAM and a 1mb video card, you’d still only utilize less than half of that final 1 gig of RAM. Video memory takes priority over system memory in using addressing space, so take 4 gigabytes, subtract your video memory, and what you have left is available system memory. A 2gig video card on a 32 bit system is, as Syncaine discovered, a Bad Idea.

          It should also be noted that upgrading to a 64 bit OS is not a sure fire fix. Your motherboard has to support flexible memory addressing or you can end up with video memory being subtracted from your system memory even under a 64 bit OS. Having 4 gigs of RAM, 1 gig video card, and only 3 gigs of available system memory under Win7 64-bit is . . . annoying. Any recent motherboard will support flex memory, but it’s hit or miss on older boards, especially those that are part of a pre-built system.

  5. Derrick says:

    Honestly, Windows 7 is a real winner. While there is validity to the argument that it’s really just what Vista should have been released as; or just Vista Service Pack 2; it’s a slick OS regardless. The best job Microsoft has done to date without a doubt.

    As Sid notes, with any major OS change drivers can be an issue, but to be honest I’ve found Windows 7 to have drivers for every single obscure piece of hardware that I’ve got. Of course, Microsoft has had a lot of time to work on it as 7 uses the same driver architecture as Vista. If 64bit Vista drivers exist – and now they typically do now, though it was a severe problem at Vista’s release – then you’re good to go.

    Anyways, yeah. Going 64bit allows you to gain a lot more out of cheap upgrades – RAM is incredibly cheap, and you can get a very good video card for a really reasonable price these days. In any kind of gaming rig, it’s largely mandatory these days.

    • Hirvox says:

      While there is validity to the argument that it’s really just what Vista should have been released as; or just Vista Service Pack 2; it’s a slick OS regardless.

      Funnily enough, Microsoft has done exactly that with their server OS line: Windows Server 2008 is partially based on Vista, but Windows Server 2008 R2 uses Windows 7 code.

      Just remember that your CPU has to be 64bit compliant as well – you can’t just go throwing a 64 bit operating system on just any hardware.

      Let’s just say that if you have an Athlon 64, Pentium 4 or newer, it probably supports 64-bit. However, there can be some additional snags. For example, my Dell Latitude D820 work laptop has a 48-bit memory controller, and thus the OS can only use 3.25GB of memory, even if does run 64-bit Windows 7 without any other problems.

      And while we’re talking about dramatic upgrades.. Solid State Disks. Sure, they have limited capacity, but if you install your OS and your favorite apps on it, you can say goodbye to loading lag. But don’t throw your old drive away just yet. Those old, big clunkers are perfect for music and video. You don’t really need the drive to read stuff faster than you can listen/watch it.

  6. Bhagpuss says:

    I’m still playing all my MMOs on 32-bit XP on my desktop and I am perfectly happy with that. However, as Syncaine implies, just because you’re happy with what you have doesn’t necessarily mean you wouldn’t be a lot happier with something else.

    Case in point: last week Mrs Bhagpuss’s monitor died. We went to get her a new one and although there was nothing wrong withmine and I was perfectly satisfied with it, I got a bit excited in the store and bought myself a new monitor as well.

    I wasn’t expectng much. I justified the purchase on the grounds that we’d now have a back-up monitor (the Dell one I was using) to fall back on next time a monitor died. I thought it would be nifty to have a Widescreen monitor instead of the old-style one I had, good for watching movies on maybe.

    My format went to Widescreen and my resolution went from 1280×1024 to 1920×1080. I was stunned. I jsut sat there staring. EVERYTHING looked different. I had to log into all the games I play and run around just to see HOW different. Amazing improvement.

    BUT… and it’s a big one…

    A few days later and I have forgotten how things used to look. Nothing looks amazing any more. It all looks great, but then I thought it all looked great before. Emotionally it now feels much the same as it did with the old monitor.

    There IS a massive difference, but it’s not possible to retain the awareness of that difference. You accustom to the new standard very quickly. Of course if I had to go back to the old standard I would suffer, but I feel that, had I never changed, my material experience would be largely similar.

    I am entirely in favor of upgrading to the best standard affordable, but at the same time I am aware that, psychologically, the benefit from doing so may actually be minimal.

  7. marty says:

    Sorry, but no. The “g

  8. marty says:

    Sorry but no, (and sorry for the mis-post, you can delete that please, i hit the submit button accidently).

    Video memory is used by lots of things, including texture maps and to do matrix conversions in faster memory than the on board RAM, otherwise you might as well use the dreaded “shared memory”of a crap on board video. It isn’t directly accessed from RAM, nor written to. The GPU on a modern video card is a pretty powerful CPU, optimised to do matrix mathematics.

    The “missing” area above 3GB are the addresses swapped out for system related access, just as in the olden days (ie the late 80s) when 640K to 1M were all interupt space and you couldn’t load programmes into that space. The amount varies on different systems.

    You got BSOD’s in Vista because a lot of manufacturers didn’t release proper drivers for Vista.

  9. Matt says:

    Just remember that your CPU has to be 64bit compliant as well – you can’t just go throwing a 64 bit operating system on just any hardware.

  10. null says:

    Your tech guy is half right, but either I suspect you are misquoting him about the “spare memory mixing up the system” bit or he was oversimplifying it. Computers don’t get mixed up unless they are told to get mixed up :)

    Your PC’s bios reserves memory addresses for the memory on your PCI devices (vid cards, sound cards, etc). On a 32 bit system, these reserved addresses must be below the 4GB mark since that is all a 32bit cpu can address unless some kind of remapping is done in the BIOS (the memory hole option) or software (like Windows PAE).

    If your 32bit system has 4GB of main memory, the memory addresses that were reserved by the BIOS are hidden to the OS. The address ranges that are reserved are known as PCI hole’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PCI_hole). You can go to the Device Manager and view the reserved addresses by expanding the Memory tree. On 64 bit systems, this isn’t an issue as the PCI devices are addressed beyond main memory.

    So, yes your 1792MB vid card by itself reduced (unless your bios or vid card remapped automatically for you…they do that these days) your available main memory by 1792MB. It doesn’t affect the physical main memory, it was just that your system was unable to use the memory. Your BSOD’s were likely driver issues that were cleared up by a fresh OS install, just statistically speaking. Not enough info to diagnose otherwise.

  11. Brian Inman says:

    I am tempted to upgrade to windows 7 64 bit, but I don’t know if that means I have to reload all my programs. I am not really in the mood for all that.

    • sid67 says:

      XP/Vista 32 only upgrades to Windows 7 32 bit. You CAN upgrade to 64 bit, it just needs to be a clean install. Which means that you would need to reload everything. That’s assuming, of course, that you have a 64 bit CPU.

  12. Damage Inc says:

    Ok, so my question is, how did you upgrade from a 32 bit OS to a 64 bit. I’m currently running 32 bit XP and when I checked Windows 7, Microsoft said I had to go to their 32 bit version.

    Is it possible to go from 32 bit XP to 64 bit 7?

    • SynCaine says:

      Assuming you have 64bit-compatible hardware, yes. When you buy Windows 7 you get a DVD with the 32bit version and a second DVD with the 64bit version. For me, going from Vista32 to Windows 7 64, I had to boot up from the 64 bit DVD and do the install that way (fairly quick and easy actually). You then get a folder with all your old files on it. I assume stuff like pictures and Word docs still work, but not having any of that I just deleted the whole folder and re-installed the few programs (xfire, vent, DarkFall) that I use.

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