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It’s quite apparent that Microsoft has put massive efforts into its 64-bit computing platform. The newly renamed Windows XP Professional x64 Edition has made significant strides in terms of usability, features and all around security and stability with the release of RC2 earlier in February.
The first task I faced upon first installation of Windows XP 64-bit Edition RC 2 was to find drivers to support the onboard RAID configuration of my Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives. A quick Google search led me in the right direction. The RAID driver used with the 32-bit version of Windows XP would not work on the 64-bit version. Despite being a beta RAID driver, installation was flawless and Windows is running as expected on the dual drives.
The Windows XP 64-bit desktop looks exactly the same as the 32-bit desktop.
The only noticeable difference between the two operating systems upon first glance is the availability of a 64-bit version of Internet Explorer. It would take a bit more digging to find other differences in the 64-bit platform.
Differences between the 32-bit & 64-bit platforms
If Windows XP Professional x64 Edition looks and feels the same as the 32 bit version of Windows XP, then what’s the difference? The biggest difference between 64-bit and 32-bit is the amount of memory the platforms will support. 32-bit operating systems are limited to 4GB of system memory, whereas the current edition of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition will support up to 32GB of system memory. The 64-bit edition will also support much larger paging files and system cache. The 64-bit platform specially benefits users who require large amounts of memory and large data sets such as CAD/CAM, video editing, digital content creations and 3-D gaming.
Windows XP Professional x64 Edition supports 32-bit processes by the use of the Windows on Windows 64 (WOW64) x86 emulation layer, which isolates 32-bit processes from 64-bit processes. There is no support for 16-bit processes in Windows XP 64-bit Edition.
Is Windows xp 64-bit ready for the average user?
In terms of usability, I had a few major concerns that I wanted to know were available in the new 64-bit platform before I would consider moving to it. These concerns were:
To my surprise, many of my concerns were resolved with the RC2 release. I was able to find drivers, albeit some were beta drivers, for most of my hardware. Unfortunately, IntelliType and IntelliPoint software is not available for Microsoft hardware on the 64 bit operating system yet. I suspect that it will be available at release, if not soon afterward. Despite not having the IntelliType/IntelliPoint software for my Microsoft Wireless Bluetooth desktop set, the Bluetooth technology is still supported in Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. The capacity to burn CDs from within Windows is also supported in the RC2 build. While my antivirus software, PC-cillin 2002 from Trend Micro, was not able to run on the new OS, I was able to download a supported application from Avast!, a free single user copy for home users. Drivers for my gigabit network card and ATI Radeon 9800 video card were also available. My Lexmark multifunction laser printer, however, was not supported in the 64-bit operating system. Virtual PC 2004 also will not install on Windows XP 64-bit Edition.
Overall, I think Windows XP Professional x64 Edition RC 2 is a great operating system, and ready for prime time with users with compatible 64-bit processors. Most users however, will not benefit from the improvements in the 64-bit architecture due to the nature of their computing uses. Those users who are avid gamers, compute large amounts of data, or just crave the latest technology will be very pleased with the 64-bit platform from Microsoft.
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