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Should I buy a 64 bit Computer

The New York Times has an article on 64 bit cvomputers

I am thinking of upgrading my computer and trying to decide if I should spend $$$ or $$.

I am considering getting an AMD 64 bit based computer - as I am in software it will allow me to test win2003 and other 64 bit software products.

Also AMD, as the article points out, is reverse compatible to 32 bit computers.

THe big question - should I wait or make the plunge now? Has any other readers of this site developed software specifically for 64 bit computers?

Ram Dass
Monday, August 18, 2003

Umm... a few people use those 64 bit machines made by Sun, IBM, HP, etc.

I hear they're quite popular.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I was wondering - If I develop software on VS.NET 2003 on a Win 2003 OS - will this software only be able to run on a 64 bit processor?

This maybe a completely dumb question - so forgive me if it is.

Ram Dass
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

No, you can cross-compile I'm sure.  That is, compile for a platform different than the one you're running on.

If you're running on a 32-bit platform, you can compile for 32-bits or 64.  You just won't be able to run the 64-bit app on the machine you compile on.

And vice versa.  If you're running on a 64-bit platform, you can compile for either 32-bit or 64.  There will most likely be some backwards compatibility so you can run your 32-bit app on the 64-bit machine.  Remember before Win32, there was Win16 or whatever it was called.  You could run all the 16-bit apps in Windows 95 and 98.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Ok if your a home user, no you don't need 4 bit.  In fact 99 percent of software you'd buy is only 32 bit so the 64 bit processors has to run it in an emulated 32 bit mode.

If you are talking 64 bit servers go with proven leaders, Unix servers, IBM, Sun, HPUX, SGI.  Yes there are 64 bit apps that run on these.  Don't even condsider 64 bit Windows, it is there 1.0 at 64 bit, plus Itanium still seems to be the Itanic.  The biggest benefit to 64 bit computing is getting beyond the 4 gigs of ram barrier, and yes I know Ibm told you you could load 16 gigs of ram in the 32 bit box. It is called a kludge (AWE) or (PAE).  Either way it is not comparable to real addressable ram.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

the biggest benefit I expect my code to gain from AMD64 is the extra registers.  But as people point out, going AMD64 is for the geeks only.  It isn't yet a Windows-friendly world.

I'm keeping an eye on the G5 too.  Like the AMD64s, the G5 is 32-bit compatible.  However, the OS and common libraries need to understand the new possibilities with regards to memory, memory bandwidth and registers that these chips bring.  Watching and learning from how Apple make the tranistion smooth might help us guess how Windows or Linux on AMD64 can do the same for the x86 world.

And if you want to go 64 NOW, then Apple seems to be the one that will keep you with a large stock of useful apps..

i like i
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

As far as I can tell, the .Net platform is currently not optimized for 64-bit platforms.  At best, you'll get 32-bit emulation with 32-bit performance.  Check out these threads:*

It will be at some point in the future, but that's not much of a reason to buy an expensive chipset now.  You probably won't see any benefit whatsoever from a 64-bit chip, unless you're running a high-end server or other specialty application that's optimized for 64-bit apps.

Go for $$, not $$$.  <g>

Robert Jacobson
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Reportedly the next Unreal game engine may require 64 bit for its modelling/mapping tools because of memory constraints. That's about the only consumer-level application I heard of until now.

Sebastian Wagner
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I do not want to sound blunt, but IMHO this is one of those things that "if you have to ask here, you don't need it".
What current limit are you running against with the 32 bit systems that would justify the move? Not only the hardware, but also the software will be more expensive (if available at all) and more immature for the Intel/AMD 64bit platform.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

The only way you'll find someone jumping with joy over 64bit is anything bigger than 100 people installation that takes their IT department (file share, storage, database files) very seriously. That means colleges, mid-size busiensses, large lawfirms, and up. But then it takes a lot more responsibility (money) so there's no way you'll find someone actually sending out a purchase order until you know they can actually ensure all their custom software works on 64bit. Which usually requires skilled inhouse programmers and close cooperation with existing software partners.

Li-fan Chen
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

"I was wondering - If I develop software on VS.NET 2003 on a Win 2003 OS - will this software only be able to run on a 64 bit processor?"

1. Code that is compiled for .NET will run on any CPU of any size, that has a .NET platform available for it. So the code that you compiled months ago on your 32-bit machine will run un-changed on a 64-bit machine.

2. HOWEVER, the 64-bit edition of .NET is not available yet (I believe it's in beta). That means that any time you're running .NET stuff today on a 64-bit machine, you're running the 32-bit edition.

So, to answer your question: WHEN the 64-bit version of .NET comes out, all your code will run unchanged on it. The only visible change to your code will the availability of vast amounts of virtual memory now. Everything else stays the same (APIs are the same, size of "int" is still 32-bits, etc.).

Brad Wilson (
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I agree with other sentiments that there isn't an awful lot of need for 64-bit computing right now, however I think some others might be overstating the pitfalls of 64-bit computing -- You can get yourself an Opteron based PC right now that runs 32-bit applications at cutting edge speeds (the Opteron is not "emulating" 32-bits, at least not beyond the normal microcode operations -- It's the Itanium that has a whole new design and hence has a thunking layer), but also allows you to play around with 64-bit editions of Linux, Windows 2003 Server, etc. 

BTW: I also disagree that there is any inherent instability of the 64-bit edition of Windows 2003 -- Microsoft has been working on 64-bit editions of their code for YEARS (as anyone who uses the PDK knows), and they are very well positioned for when the momentum shifts towards 64-bit computing, as it will most certainly in the next year to two years.

Dennis Forbes
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I've been using 64 bit computers for nearly 10 years now. Of course the only version of Windows for them was relentlessly 32-bit. :P

I do a lot of my Tru64 development on FreeBSD and MacOS X because I haven't had spare Alphas lying around. Win32 is a lot closer to Win64 than other BSD/Mach systems are to Tru64, so I wouldn't worry too much about going to 64 bit uunless you know you need to, and if you know you need to you won't be asking here.

Peter da Silva
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Chess programs that use bitboards work much better on 64 bit processors.

Clutch Cargo
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

"I also disagree that there is any inherent instability of the 64-bit edition of ..."

In my experience there is an direct relation between the "finish" of a piece of software and the number of users that have been bashing away at it. This is incredibly clear when you move into niche verticals where product quality is often appalling.
As for now, the 64bit versions just haven't been out of the stable so much as the old 32bit workhorses.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I agree with Just Me (Sir To You).

Needing a 64 bit platform is like needing to have a splinter removed: when you need it, you know.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Buy the 64 bit AMD if you want to place your bets on AMD winning the 64 bit desktop war and the Itanium joining the i432, i860, and i960 in the dustbin of Intel history. 

Or, in general, if the stuff you develop might eventually be ported to any 64-bit platform.  There are some gotchas involved in working on any 64-bit platform that should be obeyed.

One thing is for sure, however.  It's highly unlikely that your 64 bit AMD will be completely useless 5 years down the road, even if it doesn't make a mark as a platform, because it can still run 32 bit OSes unmodified.  So you probably want to figure out what you are actually paying extra to get the 64 bit version and figure out if you are prepared to wager that money on there being some advantage and that you will be able to take advantage of the 64 bit capabilities before the system will be obselete.

I'm betting that a few months after the Athlon 64 comes out, there will start to be a neglagable enough extra cost that there won't be too much of a question.  Which is what AMD was going after, anyway.

Oh yeah, and expect some driver troubles for some pieces of hardware.  It has been established that driver developers are really incredibly bad programmers. ;)

Flamebait Sr.
Tuesday, August 19, 2003

> One thing is for sure, however.  It's highly unlikely ...

There's airtight logic for you.

Every time I see this thread I think Commodore 64. Am I the only one?
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

You mean the Commodore 128, right? The Commodore 64 was, more or less, a pretty big success compared to its 128k big brother.

Brad Wilson (
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Word size shouldn't be a big deal. I've got software I wrote for 8/16 bit hardware that's running on 64-bit hardware now, and it's rarely been the word size that was the problem.

Peter da Silva
Thursday, August 21, 2003

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