64-Bit Momentum Surges with Windows 7

64-Bit Momentum Surges with Windows 7

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Are you running a 64-bit edition of Windows 7? There is a high likelihood you are. As of June 2010, we see that 46% of all PCs worldwide running Windows 7 are running a 64-bit edition of Windows 7. That is, nearly half of all PCs running Windows 7 are running 64-bit. Compared to Windows Vista at 3 and a half years after launch, only 11% of PCs running Windows Vista worldwide are running 64-bit. With Windows 7, running a 64-bit OS is becoming the norm.


A primary benefit of 64-bit Windows is the increase in addressable memory. This makes more “bits” available to Windows (the OS), which means more information can be “addressed” at once. 32-bit architectures have a memory ceiling of 4GB while the 64-bit architecture increases the memory ceiling to approximately 17.2 billion GB or RAM! Windows 7 is designed to use up to 192 GB of RAM (see SKU and OS comparisons here), a huge jump compared to limits with all 32-bit systems.

Essentially, 64-bit Windows allows your PC to take advantage of more memory to do more things. If you are like me and are running tons of apps, you can see a real difference in performance. Aside from the performance gains, there are also security enhancements and support for virtualization as well.

The reason for the jump in transition to 64-bit PCs can be attributed to a few things. The first is 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. And most major processors in PCs today are capable of running a 64-bit OS. There are also more and more compatible devices and applications for PCs running 64-bit Windows 7– but I’ll talk more about this in a minute.

OEMs today have fully embraced 64-bit. We have seen many OEMs convert entire consumer lines of PCs to 64-bit only – which can be seen quite a bit today in North America. According to Stephen Baker at NPD, 77% of PCs sold at retail in April 2010 in the U.S. had a 64-bit edition of Windows 7 pre-installed.

And businesses are adopting Windows 7 64-bit as well. According to Gartner*, by 2014 75% of all business PCs will be running a 64-bit edition of Windows. Intel recently migrated to 64-bit Windows 7 citing the following on their deployment:

“Our decision to move to 64-bit computing allows us to take advantage of new systems with higher memory capabilities while positioning Intel to take advantage of 64-bit applications as they become available. Moving to this computing model also provides additional security benefits, including Data Execution Prevention (DEP), which helps prevent malicious code exploits by disallowing applications from executing code from a non-executable memory region.”

Intel has released a whitepaper on their deployment of 64-bit Windows 7, which can be found here.

As I mentioned previously, there are more compatible hardware and software for PCs today thanks to the amazing work from our partners (ISVs and IHVs) making their products compatible with 64-bit. Through the Windows Logo Program (the “Compatible with Windows 7” logo today), hardware partners are required to develop 64-bit drivers for their devices and software partners are required to have their applications compatible with 64-bit Windows 7. This groundwork was laid with the Windows Logo Program for Windows Vista and carries through to today with Windows 7. To understand more about hardware and software for 64-bit Windows, check out this article by our Help and How-to team.

To find out what’s compatible with 64-bit Windows 7, millions of consumers and businesses are visiting the Windows 7 Compatibility Center where they can easily check 64-bit compatibility on thousands of devices and applications, get 64-bit driver and software downloads and send feedback on their experience. You can also find products that have met the Windows testing requirements to earn the “Compatible with Windows 7” logo.


And the Windows 7 Compatibility Center recently went international with support for 17 markets in 12 languages - see this recent post by Mark Relph on the latest release.

To find out if your PC can run a 64-bit edition of Windows 7, you can run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor. If your PC isn’t currently capable of running a 64-bit edition of Windows 7, the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor will let you know if there are any memory upgrades that might be done to move to 64-bit. If you buy a new PC, you are likely to get 64-bit Windows 7 pre-installed but if you decide to upgrade your PC, all versions of Windows 7 (except Starter) include both a 32-bit and 64-bit DVD in the box.

Upgrade Advisor 64-bit upgrade screenshot

As you can see, millions of consumers and business customers alike are making the transition to 64-bit computing with Windows 7. For me personally, almost every laptop and desktop PC I have is running 64-bit Windows 7.

Happy 64-bit computing!

* Gartner, Inc., “Plan to Implement Some 64-Bit Versions of Windows 7,” Stephen Kleynhans, October 6, 2009

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  • langware
    154 Posts

    Why hasn't the Photo Upload Feature of Windows Live Hotmail been upgraded to support 64-bit?

    Since Microsoft is pushing 64-bit, then why hasn't this key feature of Hotmail been upgraded years ago???

  • AlexH
    1 Posts

    Thanks for the very useful stats. Any chance we could get the stats on .net framework adoption across the OS's?

  • Tommyinoz
    46 Posts

    I would say one of the biggest drivers to 64bit Windows is bloat.  Windows these days make 4Gb of RAM seem small.  Remember that the RAM ceiling for 32bit Windows is actually 2GB for your applications (2GB for Kernel mode), but can be configured to 3GB (1GB for Kernel mode).  I'm using 32bit Linux right now and it is only consuming 250Mb of RAM with Firefox running and I'm very far away from using up 2GB RAM. I feel free to run many application with out a worry.  Therefore I don't feel compelled to upgrade to Linux 64bit just yet, but I will one day.  Now imagine if I installed Vista on this machine!  I'd be saying if I had more memory it would run faster...I hope.  Now the other issue with Windows 64bit is the drivers.  Can you get 64bit drivers for your existing hardware?  You may have to buy new hardware to resolve your issue.   This is one of the big issues with Windows, when Microsoft changes the driver model, you have to rely on vendors to write drivers for the new driver model so that your hardware will work.

  • 7flavor
    352 Posts

    The only thing preventing me from adopting 64-bit Windows 7 is shell extensions. I have tons of shell extensions, some of which will never be ported to 32-bit (take for instance Microsoft's own Font Properties shell extension). Windows 7 64-bit does not allow us to run 32-bit Explorer shell as the beta of Windows 7 did and Vista/XP 64-bit did. Imagine if IE only had a 64-bit version in 64-bit Windows, it's the same with shell extensions. I had to migrate from 64-bit Vista to 32-bit Windows 7. If only Microsoft corrected this in Service Pack 1 but I doubt this will happen as Microsoft hardly makes design changes in service packs and hardly listens to user pleas to fix Explorer.

  • adacosta
    91 Posts

    My migration to 64 bit started in April 2005 when Microsoft introduced Windows XP Professional x64. It was surprisingly a smooth experience even back then, although I didn't see the immediate benefits since 64 bit at the time was more of a technically targeted solution for engineers, scientist, large SQL databases and gamers who needed the unique benefits such as the ability address larger amounts of memory than its 32 bit counterpart (Windows 7 64 bit supports up to 192 GBs of RAM while Windows 7 32 bit supports 3.2 GBs). 64 bit Windows Server has seen great successes so much so that its most recent release of Windows Server, 2008 R2 is exclusively 64 bit. Some of the early pain points of running 64 bit Windows have vanished over the past 4 years, I remember basic functionality like contextual menu extensions, or programs that needed to access low levels of the OS such as Anti-virus utilities were initially big blockers for main stream adoption. Back then you still had a lot of applications that were developed to work specifically on older operating systems such as Windows 95, even some programs that were considered 32 bit used 16 bit installers could not work on 64 bit Windows. I remember participating in the Microsoft Windows 64 bit Public Community back in 2005 too along with a fun group of eager enthusiast, really an exciting time.

    A lot of credit goes to AMD who in the fall of 2003 introduced the first x86-x64 micro-processor that allowed users to transition smoothly to this new architecture. You could still run your 32 bit applications without having them re-written to work. Unlike previous efforts to bring 64 bit computing to the mainstream such as the Alpha and Itanium for which Microsoft released variants of the Windows OS the x86-x64 extensions really proved to be a way better approach. The mainstream for 64 bit Windows never really started until Windows Vista's introduction in January 2007. I started testing early 64 bit builds of the OS on my system back in February 2006 when build 5308 was made available. A year later I got a system with 64 bit Windows Vista preinstalled and used it exclusively ever since, I later on got a desktop PC in 2008 with Windows Vista 64 bit which I have since upgraded to 64 bit versions Windows 7. I have never encountered any of the early compatibility issues that some might have experienced when Windows XP Professional x64 came to market in 2005. I still have my main desktop running Windows 7 32 bit, but this a limitation of the processor which can only run x86 instructions, but its running great.

    64 bit Windows has pretty much been mainstream for me. I also notice the performance benefits too, the stability and performance of running lots of applications at the same time, such as running a AV scan in the background, watching YouTube, working on documents, chatting, playing music, even gaming (although I am not much of a gamer) or searching across my home network. It opens up so many new possibilities, and the industry is slowly but surely going there. Microsoft recently brought its family of Office applications to full 64 bit compatibility, for an intensive app such as Outlook, you can expect an even higher level of stability and compatibility, number crunchers who work in Excel can also see major benefits when working on larger workbooks. I even notice key benefits when working with the new PowerPoint 2010 and video, especially when reordering a lot of slides, 64 bit came in very handy. Most of the third party applications that are 64 bit still remain in the technical realm, I am hoping Office 2010 will change this and encourage more support from third party ISVs although the majority of 32 bit programs work just fine on 64 bit Windows.

  • thljcl
    7 Posts

    When Windows Vista was just released, I’m reluctant to even think about 64-bit computing. Yet, each PC at my home is running 64-bit version of Windows. Most applications are still 32-bit. Most browsers, including Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer, are 32-bit browsers. Part of the reasons is many add-ons are still only available for 32-browsers only. It’s unclear when will 64-bit applications become dominant. But the rise of netbook will likely to make 32-bit computing and 64-bit computing co-exist in the foreseeable future until the day that netbook’s specs become much higher than today’s standard.

  • JohnCz
    204 Posts

    I'm pro 64-bit and glad to see this trend but I'm also upset we haven't seen that killer "consumer" app that would make 64-bit more of a necessity than a luxury.  Sure there has to be something more compelling than improved multitasking or faster video transcoding.  Maybe OEMs will turn on speech recognition by default and include dual noise cancelling mics with their laptops/desktop monitors.

  • Good update Brandon. I can't beleive its already been 7 years since we introduced the AMD64 platform. It did take a decade or so for the 16 to 32-bit transition, so we may be beat it by a couple of years afterall...

    Gabe Gravning


  • Thank you Microsoft for pushing 64 bit. You are doing it at just the right time (: