Nearly Half of Windows 7 Users Run 64-Bit Version, Says Microsoft

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New figures released by Microsoft shows that nearly half of all Windows 7 installations are running on the 64-bit version of company's flagship operating system (OS). Windows Communications Manager Brandon LeBlanc revealed the figures on the official Windows Team Blog late last week:


"As of June 2010, we see that 46% of all PCs worldwide running Windows 7 are running a 64-bit edition of Windows 7."


LeBlanc noted that this represents a huge increase in favor of 64-bit Windows. Three-and-a-half years after its release, Windows Vista saw only 11 percent of PCs in the world running the 64-bit version, while the situation with Windows 7 is one in which "running a 64-bit OS is becoming the norm." Not surprisingly, less than 1 percent of 64-bit Windows XP machines are installed.


While running the 64-bit version of Windows 7 does not magically result in enhanced performance, the 64-bit architecture is far superior in that it allows Windows 7 to address up to 192GB of memory (Windows 7 Professional and up). In contrast to the 4GB limit of 32-bit Windows, power users will notice increased performance as the OS uses the additional pool memory.


There are a few reasons why the uptake in 64-bit Windows is taking place. One obvious reason would be the sharply lower price of RAM over the years. Also, more OEMs are also switching their entire lines of products to 64-bit only, resulting in more such machines being sold to consumers. Such a move makes sense, since Microsoft hardware and software partners are now required to develop 64-bit drivers and ensure that their applications are compatible with 64-bit Windows 7. So why pay the extra cost of developing for both 32-bit and 64-bit platforms?


Backing up the market penetration assertions from Microsoft are figures from NPD Group's analyst Stephen Baker, who say that 77 percent of retail PCs sold in April 2010 had a 64-bit edition of Windows 7 pre-installed. In addition, Gartner is also predicting that 75 percent of all business PCs will be running the 64-bit version of Windows by 2014, writes LeBlanc.


So what do the above developments mean to the small and mid-sized businesses?


For one, SMBs should start looking into acquiring PCs and laptops with 64-bit Windows preinstalled as they replace their hardware. While it is not detrimental to install the 32-bit version of Windows, companies that do so will be coming in behind the curve.


Of course, SMBs must first examine whether there are 64-bit drivers for existing computer peripherals and hardware. Similarly, new hardware purchases should be evaluated for the appropriate 64-bit drivers and software, and software assessed on its ability to function properly in a 64-bit environment.


Has your organization gone 64-bit yet? What are the challenges you encountered?