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SUMMARY

This article describes the differences between the 32-bit versions of Windows Vista and the 64-bit versions of Windows Vista.

Note To use a 64-bit version of Windows Vista, you must have a computer that has a 64-bit processor. Also, you must have 64-bit device drivers for the devices that are in the computer.

INTRODUCTION

You may want to determine whether the platform of Windows Vista is installed.

To have us help you determine which platform is installed, go to the "Fix it for me" section. If you would rather fix this problem yourself, go to the "Let me fix it myself" section.

Fix it for me

To determine which platform is installed automatically, click the Fix this problem link. Then click Run in the File Download dialog box, and follow the steps in this wizard.

Fix this problem
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Note This wizard may be in English only; however, the automatic fix also works for other language versions of Windows.

Note If you are not on the computer that has the problem, you can save the automatic fix to a flash drive or to a CD, and then you can run it on the computer that has the problem.

Let me fix it myself

To determine which Windows Vista platform is installed yourself, follow these steps:
  1. Click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties.
  2. The operating system appears as follows:
    • For a 64-bit version operating system, "64-bit Operating System" appears for the system type under System.
    • For a 32-bit version operating system, "32-bit Operating System" appears for the system type under System.
Note Microsoft Win32 uses the x86 processor in 32-bit flat mode. Therefore, a x86-based version means a 32-bit version operating system.

MORE INFORMATION

The main differences between the 32-bit versions of Windows Vista and the 64-bit versions of Windows Vista relate to memory accessibility, memory management, and enhanced security features. The security features that are available in the 64-bit versions of Windows Vista include the following:
  • Kernel Patch Protection
  • Support for hardware-backed Data Execution Protection (DEP)
  • Mandatory driver signing
  • Removal of support for 32-bit drivers
  • Removal of the 16-bit subsystem
One of the greatest advantages of using a 64-bit version of Windows Vista is the ability to access physical memory (RAM) that is above the 4-gigabyte (GB) range. This physical memory is not addressable by 32-bit versions of Windows Vista.

Depending on the version of Windows Vista that is installed, a 64-bit version of Windows Vista supports from 1 GB of RAM to more than 128 GB of RAM. The ability to address more physical memory lets Windows Vista minimize the time that is required to swap processes in and out of physical memory. Therefore, Windows Vista can manage processes more efficiently. This memory management feature helps improve the overall performance of Windows Vista.

Advantages when you install a 64-bit version of Windows Vista

  • Increased memory support beyond that of the 4-GB addressable memory space that is available in a 32-bit operating system
  • Increased program performance for programs that are written to take advantage of a 64-bit operating system
  • Enhanced security features

What to consider when you install a 64-bit version of Windows Vista

  • 64-bit device drivers may not be available for one or more devices in the computer.
  • Device drivers must be digitally signed.
  • 32-bit device drivers are not supported.
  • 32-bit programs may not be fully compatible with a 64-bit operating system.
  • It may be difficult to locate programs that are written specifically for a 64-bit operating system.
  • Not all hardware devices may be compatible with a 64-bit version of Windows Vista.

The main differences between the 32-bit versions of Windows Vista and the 64-bit versions of Windows Vista

Collapse this tableExpand this table
ArchitectureWindows Vista, 32-bit versions Windows Vista, 64-bit versions
System requirements1-gigahertz (GHz) 32-bit (x86) processor or 64-bit (x64) processor, 512 MB of RAM 1-GHz 64-bit (x64) processor, 1 GB of RAM (4 GB recommended)
Memory accessA 32-bit version of Windows Vista can access up to 4 GB of RAM.A 64-bit version of Windows Vista can access from 1 GB of RAM to more than 128 GB of RAM.
Memory access per editionAll 32-bit versions of Windows Vista can access up to 4 GB of RAM.Windows Vista Home Basic - 8 GB of RAM
Windows Vista Home Premium - 16 GB of RAM
Windows Vista Business - 128 GB of RAM or more
Windows Vista Enterprise - 128 GB of RAM or more
Windows Vista Ultimate - 128 GB of RAM or more
DEP32-bit versions of Windows Vista use a software-based version of DEP.64-bit versions of Windows Vista support hardware-backed DEP.
Kernel Patch Protection (PatchGuard)This feature is not available in 32-bit versions of Windows Vista.This feature is available in 64-bit versions of Windows Vista. Kernel Patch Protection helps prevent a malicious program from updating the Windows Vista kernel. This feature works by helping to prevent a kernel-mode driver from extending or replacing other kernel services. Also, this feature helps prevent third-party programs from updating (patching) any part of the kernel.
Driver signingUnsigned drivers may be used with 32-bit versions of Windows Vista.64-bit versions of Windows Vista require that all device drivers be digitally signed by the developer.
32-bit driver support32-bit versions of Windows Vista support 32-bit drivers that are designed for Windows Vista.64-bit versions of Windows Vista do not support 32-bit device drivers.
16-bit program support32-bit versions of Windows Vista support 16-bit programs, in part.64-bit versions of Windows Vista do not support 16-bit programs.

REFERENCES

For more information, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
932795 Installation choices for 64-bit consumer versions of Windows Vista
932616 Installation choices for consumer versions of Windows Vista (32-bit only)

For more information about 64-bit versions of Windows Vista, visit the following Microsoft Web site:
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/editions/64bit.mspx

Properties

Article ID: 946765 - Last Review: June 29, 2011 - Revision: 3.1
APPLIES TO
  • Windows Vista Business
  • Windows Vista Enterprise
  • Windows Vista Home Basic
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Windows Vista Ultimate
  • Windows Vista Enterprise 64-bit Edition
  • Windows Vista Home Basic 64-bit Edition
  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit Edition
  • Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit Edition
  • Windows Vista Business 64-bit Edition
Keywords: 
kbexpertisebeginner kbhowto kbinfo kbfixme kbmsifixme KB946765

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