After fiddling around with the 64 bit version of Vista I found it to be very stable. Speed wise it’s just as fast as the 32 bit version. Fortunately the architecture of recent CPUs of Intel and AMD they’re able to process 32 and 64 bit code simultaneously. So having a 64 bit OS doesn’t mean you’re stuck using only 64 bit applications. After installing a 64 bit version of Vista you’ll see two ‘Program Files’ folder and one will be designated as ‘Program Files (x86)’. When installing your old 32 bit application they will be installed in the Program Files (x86) folder. This keeps your 32 and 64 bit application seperate.
Many of the usual programs worked fine. Office 2003 and 2007 worked without any problems along with Avg Anti-Virus Free, Winamp, WinRAR, PowerISO, VMware Workstation, and Pidgin. The only application I had any issues with are homebrew apps or compiled binary files (.exe). These applications would throw errors and would not execute. Some application can still work if you install a compatible framework in which the 32 bit application can run on. But for me it’s not a big problem because I run VMware Workstation. I can have a virtual 32 bit OS and run those application on that instead. Vista x64 comes with a host of native 64 bit application such as it’s games, Windows Media Player, and Internet Explorer. These native applications works right out of the box. At this time the 64 bit version of IE is limited because the lack of compatible plug-ins like Adobe Flash player aren’t available yet. So to get full internet browsing capabilities the 32 bit version of IE is still available.
Having Vista x64 on my work computer would be fine since most of my computing involve email, remote accessing, and running multiple VMs. But on my personal desktop I ran into some issues. My desktop system is also my media center. One of the big disappointments of the SP1 is that Vista’s Media Center remains unchanged since Vista’s initial release (more on this later). Vista x64’s Media Center is a native 64 bit application and its backbone runs on the 64 bit Windows Media Player. Many of my videos are encoded in different formats and it requires several different codecs to play. Unfortunately I can’t play any of my videos because 64 bit codecs aren’t available. The ones that are available are in beta stages and still doesn’t work.
When Vista was first released my number one reason to upgrade was to use the new Media Center. XP’s 2005 Media Center worked great, but there were many things it could have improved on, and I thought Vista was the answer. Too bad it was only wishful thinking. Vista’s Media Center’s interface is counter-intuitive compared to its predecessor. The media handling is done by Window Media Player. WMP is so limited that that the only type of videos it can play is mpg and wmv videos. It’s not much of a media player without third party codecs. So the 64 bit version of Vista media center is even more crippled than it’s 32 bit counterpart.
Overall there are more positive aspects of Vista x64 than there are negatives. If you have a recent CPU and chipset such as a Core 2 Duo and the Intel 965P the 64 bit OS is capable of addressing more than 4GB of RAM. This will benefit applications that require a large amount of memory. Video/Image editors and CAD users will greatly benefit from this. Overtime 64 bit applications will become more popular and in theory it should be more efficient and faster than their 32 bit versions. If you’re looking to jump into the 64 bit scene now is a good time to check it out. For some it can be used as their main OS on a daily basis. But before you switch make sure there are 64 bit drivers for all your hardware. Vista 64 bit OS requires signed drivers so if your hardware manufacturer does not have those drivers available your device(s) will not work.