Advantages of 64-bit server?

Hello, We are planning on adding a new file server to our network and I was just wondering whether there are any advantages of using windows server 64-bit edition over the normal version? Will it improve the speed of the server?

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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I don't think you'll see all that much improvement in a file server.  Serving files is not a processor intensive task and the speed of the hard disks are usually your bottle neck.  If you were making a database server or email server and were handling MANY users, then it would probably be worth it to use a 64 bit OS. As it is, due largely to driver availability issues, I'd probably say stick to 32 bit for now (maybe upgrade in a year or two).
To start you might want to browse around if you want to see all the features in Windows 2003 x64.

I switched to XP 64 on my Desktop for a few months and found nothing but headaches.  I have a Windows 2003 32bit server that would not share the printer with my 64bit client and even worse my soundcard's drivers were beta at best.

In your case it would depend on what the server is going to be primarily used for.  Are you running 64-bit Applications / Databases that would actually use that extra computational capability?  Does the server have to interact with other 64 bit clients as well as 32 bit machines or is it primarily going to work with 32bit workstations as clients?

If you are using this server to handle lots of databases or to handle a large 64-bit application then it would make sense to set it up with Windows 2003.  If you are only going to use this is a file/print server then you can probably save some time by just using Windows 2003 32bit.

If you are curious to try it out before you buy then try this site
The biggest advantage to useing a 64-bit system coupled with a 64-bit operating system is the removal of the 4GB physical RAM limitation imposed by the design of 32-bit operating systems.  In fact with Windows you are usually limited to 2GB of physical RAM (although in some cases you can get up to 3G) but with x64 there is no problem at all.

So when using a memory intensive software application like MS SQL (or another DBMS) or something like MS Exchange you can apply much more RAM to the problem and get better performance in many cases.  Of course WIN32 applications STILL have a 4GB virtual space limit even when running on x64 but there are now appearing true x64 versions of these applications - i.e. MS SQL Server 2005 is already available in x64.

Much has been mentioned about driver availability, and it _is_ true that 32-bit hardware device drivers CANNOT be used wih x64 but with a bit of planning when aquiring your hardware you can ensure that all your hardware is supported under x64.  The best way is to purchase a server system from a vendor who offers x64 as an option.  Then you will get a complete package including x64 compliant hardware.

Having been running a few x64 system for a few months now I can tell you that it's an excellent platform and, in my opinion, represents the future of computing.  Almost all hardware being shipped today uses an x64 CPU and it's clear that Microsoft intends to make a big push for x64 when Vista begins being shipped by system vendors.  I expect that they will provide big incentives for Vista x64 to be the de-facto standard.

In the server market, x64 and Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition is the way to go NOW.  I think it would be short-sighted to purchase a new server now and go with 32-bit unless you have a need to maintain hardware compatibilty with some legacy devices that will not have x64 support.
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I forgot to mention that you will need an x64 antivirus should you decide to got with Windows 2003 x64 and I feel that Symantec has a real head start in this area.

It won't be cheap but you can always roll it out to all the clients on your LAN (if you are running on a domain).
The next version of Exchange will be 64-bit only.  I can only assume that the next version of SQL will be the same.  Whilst driver support for XP Pro x64 is poor (HP don't support yet for example and won't), Windows 2003 Server x64 is a different beast.  Driver development for SCSI controllers, fibre channel cards is much more established.  NIC drivers used to be a problem, but these have been ironed out.
Naser GabajE&P Senior Software SpecialistCommented:
alumwellAuthor Commented:
Thank you for all of that information. From what you have said, I agree that we would be best waiting until x64 is supported a bit better by manufacturers and software vendors before we look into implementing it. And it probably wouldn't be suitable for a file server.

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