You should go 64-bit only! And this is why.
- You'll have one less driver set to maintain
If you are the person in charge of OSD then this should a concern. You really don't want to be maintaining extra sets of drivers for your machines when you don't have to.
Windows 7 64-bit can't use 32-bit drivers, and the 64-bit drivers have to be signed. If you already use OSD for XP, you may end up with three driver sets for each type of hardware you have.
- It's easier for the helpdesk
User- "Hi, I've got a problem with my Windows. I think it's Windows 7."
Desk- "Is it Windows 7 64-bit or 32-bit?"
- It's easier for your technicians
At the moment you probably only have Windows XP. Your techs can roll out some new machines without thinking. If you add Windows 7 x86 you'll suddenly give them 3 choices-
1. Windows XP
2. Windows 7 x86
3. Windows 7 x64
Why would they choose one OS build over another? What software/hardware requires a certain build?
Wouldn't it be easier if they just had-
1. Windows XP for legacy hardware/software
2. Windows 7 (x64) for everything else
- It's easier for you
Let's say you want to disable Adobe Updater on all your Windows 7 machines. You roll out a registry key that contains the following information
You then realise that, although your 64-bit machines have the key added, it didn't take effect. This is because you had to deploy this instead
There's similar confusion to be had with
%PROGRAMFILES%. This will resolve to
C:\Program Files\on both 32-bit and 64-bit machines. But some (not all) 32-bit apps install to
C:\Program Files (x86)\on a 64-bit machine instead.
The 32-bit / 64-bit differences are confusing. Making your Windows 7 rollout 64-bit only can help.
- Your users don't care
Windows 7 looks and feels exactly the same to your end users whether it's the x86 or x64 version. If you can mitigate the potential hardware and software issues your users will face, give them the 64-bit version.
- You have a perfectly good 32-bit operating system at the moment
Windows XP is still perfectly fine for most environments. You understand it, and probably have a rock-solid image. Why introduce another 32-bit OS and a 64-bit OS at the same time? XP can be your 32-bit OS and Windows 7 can be your 64-bit OS. With MED-V you can even run both side by side.
- You want to get rid of all those 16-bit apps
Yes, you'll have issues with some apps when moving to Windows 7, so why not add to those problems by breaking all your 16-bit apps too? You should probably be looking at things the other way round - why is your business causing itself problems by running 16-bit apps?
Moving to Windows 7 x64 can be a driving force to get the majority of these ancient apps off your network.
Some of these apps are not mission critical. Get rid of them! When we were in the process of moving to Windows 7 x64 I found some apps that required Video For Windows 1.1 - we managed to get agreement to move away from stuff like this!
For the mission critical apps - are they still supported? If not, why not? Are management aware of the risk to your business of continuing with these apps?
There will probably be 16-bit apps you still need to run. If these can run in a sandbox, with no need for networking or printing you could use DosBox in conjunction with Windows 3.1. (If you have Software Assurance you should be able to use your downgrade rights to run Windows 3.1 in this way, but check with your Microsoft licensing person).
For mission critical 16-bit apps that require networking look at MED-V. This MDOP component allows you to deploy and manage an XP virtual machine to your Windows 7 desktops.
If you don't have 16-bit apps, you shouldn't have many problems moving to 64-bit Windows. If you do, consider this: Microsoft introduced 32-bit Windows in 1993 - the same year both Jurassic Park and Groundhog Day were released. You've probably got people from high school joining your organisation who are younger than those apps!
(64-bit Windows drops support for OS/2 and POSIX apps too. The mitigation strategies for 16-bit apps should apply here too.)
- You want to use more than 4GB of RAM
64-bit Windows 7 can use up to 192GB of RAM. 32-bit Windows is stuck at 4GB of RAM, and even then, each process is only allocated 2GB of virtual memory. You'll start to see machines come with 4GB of RAM by default in the next 18 months.
If this is not an issue for you now, it will be soon.
- Kernel mode protection
Windows 7 64-bit includes PatchGuard, a technology that prevents third party software from patching the kernel. (See Wikipedia for a good overview of benefits and limitations of this).
PatchGuard will prevent 32-bit filesystem filters (such as some antivirus software), 32-bit network and video adapter drivers and 32-bit kernel mode printer drivers from installing. This is generally a good thing, as a poorly written kernel mode driver can cause the OS to bluescreen.
- The majority of your machines probably support 64-bit Windows already.
A common misconception is that moving to 64-bit Windows will involve replacing your entire desktop estate. It's hard to argue against this unless you have statistics. Try running the following report
WHEN 0 THEN '32 bit'
WHEN 1 THEN '64 bit'
END AS [CPU Type],
COUNT(*) AS [Count]
Armed with this information you can make a more informed decision. Any PC bought in the last 3 years or so should be 64-bit capable. You may need to add more RAM, and check the graphics hardware has 64-bit drivers, but I'm willing to bet the majority of your machines are 64-bit.