Moving to Windows 7: 32 or 64 bit

Just recently I had to replace the hard drive in a friends notebook. Since everything has to be installed from scratch anyway, the friend asked that I install Windows 7 (RTM for now) and asked if he should go with the 64 bit version.

I know a lot of folks recommend that you should immediately go to 64 bit if your processor can run it, but I was a bit more skeptical and installed both and did some test under each OS.

The laptop in question is a 2 year old SONY Vaio with a decent screen, new 500GB hard drive and a CD/DVD burner. Perfectly usable for everyday work. The RAM is maxed out at 2GB and that is exactly why I questioned a move to 64 bit. Unless you have at least 4 GB of RAM (32 bit OSes can only address 3.2-3.5 GB of memory) I am not expecting any benefit.

I used Windows 7 Ultimate (RTM) for the following tests.

A 10K PowerShell script was used as test file for Notepad, PrimalPad and the the PowerShell ISE.

The network used to test the copy speed was a 802.11g wireless connection from the notebook, the NAS was on a 1GB wired LAN connected directly to the router.

Test Windows 7 32 bit Windows 7 64 bit
Install time 22:46 minutes 24:30 minutes
Install size 8.54 GB 10.5 GB
Memory used default 33% 41%
Notepad reference file 852 Kb 1408 Kb
Powershell ISE ref. file 88732 Kb 93228 Kb
Primalpad 64 ref. file N/A 10348 Kb
Primalpad 32 ref. file 9388 Kb 9892 Kb in IE 20616 Kb 21312 Kb
Copy 2.49 GB ISO from NAS 14:52 minutes 14:46 minutes
Copy 2.49 GB ISO to NAS 21:34 minutes 16:29 minutes

The conclusion is, the 64 bit OS naturally already uses more RAM to begin with and all 64 bit processes use more RAM than their 32 bit counterparts. Even the same 32 bit process uses a little bit more memory under the 64 bit OS.

Unless you have a real need for 64 bit software or more than 3 GB of RAM, the 32 bit version of Windows 7 is a better choice.

What’s your experience with 64 vs 32 bit?