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Any issue for 32-bit Windows 2008 running on 64-bit hardware?

Posted on 2011-04-18
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
My hardware is Dell PowerEdge R710 64-bit, but the operating system is 32-bit Windows 2008. Please comment on the pros and cons of the following OS and hardware combination.
Q#1. 32-bit OS on 32-bit hardware
Q#2. 32-bit OS on 64-bit hardware
Q#3. 64-bit OS on 32-bit hardware
Q#4. 64-bit OS on 64-bit hardware
Thanks.
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Question by:richtree
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PowerEdgeTech earned 892 total points
ID: 35421207
Number 3 is impossible - you can't run 64-bit software on 32-bit-only hardware.
All others are acceptable.  The advantage of running a 64-bit OS, is that you can have more than 4GB of RAM, and it is capable of processing 64-bit instructions in one cycle, where 32-bit is limited to 32-bit instructions.  64-bit OS's also allow for larger files, and when installed on EFI-enabled systems, it allows for larger than 2TB boot partitions.

Nearly all modern hardware, including the R710, is capable of running either 32-bit or 64-bit software.  Intel has an Itanium processor that is 64-bit ONLY, but they are rare.
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by:connectex
connectex earned 888 total points
ID: 35421211
Here's the basics:

32-bit will run fine on 32 bit or 64-bit hardware. A 32-bit OS will only access up to 4GB of RAM. Also there is no 32-bit to 64-bit OS inplace upgrade so if you later regret installing 32-bit you'll basically be doing a complete reinstall of 64-bit OS and your applications. The strength behind 32-bit is it is more likely to have drivers for older hardware and you shouldn't have issues installing older software as well.

Now for 64-bit OS. You need 64-bit drivers for all devices. So if you intend to connect older hardware (printers, scanners, cameras, etc.) you will need to make sure they have 64-bit drivers. Also some older software may not install on 64-bit. It may be confused about the information returned by the 64-bit OS. You can try fooling them by using compatiblity modes but you may have to purchase an upgrade to the later version. Of course 64-bit can access lots more memory then 32-bit. Here's list of the memory limits for various Microsoft OSes: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa366778(v=vs.85).aspx. Also Windows 2008 R2 and later are only available in 64-bit version. They've pulled the plug on 32-bit OS on the servers. Also you must make sure your anti-virus and backup software are 64-bit OS compatible. In short I'm all for 64-bit OS. I've been deploying it since Vista/2008 release.

-Matt-
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by:connectex
connectex earned 888 total points
ID: 35421232
Also don't think just because you choose a 64-bit OS that all applications must be 64-bit also. Only the drivers need to be 64-bit. Most applications are still 32-bit. Very few have moved to 64-bit yet. It's mainly for the memory benefits. In fact, it wasn't until Office 2010 that Microsoft released a 64-bit version. But it's not recommended you install the Office 64-bit unless you need the benefits as a lot of add-ins and such don't work with it yet. One other issue. Windows 64-bit does not support 16-bit applications. So if you have any older DOS type applications. They will probably not work. If in doubt test them in a virtual machine.

-Matt-
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Author Comment

by:richtree
ID: 35421250
Any performance penalty if 32-bit OS running on 64-bit hardware? Any 'translation' involved in this scenario?
Thanks.
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by:PowerEdgeTech
PowerEdgeTech earned 892 total points
ID: 35421259
True.  The 32-bit emulator that runs 32-bit applications in 64-bit Windows has come a long way since Server 2003/XP ... there are very few 32-bit applications that won't run on Server 2008/Windows 7 in the 64-bit version.
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by:PowerEdgeTech
PowerEdgeTech earned 892 total points
ID: 35421293
There is a type of "translation" (emulation), but you would probably be hard-pressed to see any penalty even with a benchmark.  Rather than a small penalty running 32-bit software on a 64-bit OS, look at it as a small bonus running 64-bit software on a 64-bit OS.
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by:connectex
connectex earned 888 total points
ID: 35421325
Yes, 32-bit applications run on WoW (Windows on Windows). This is how Windows 32-bit supported 16-bit applications. And now how Windows 64-bit uses it to support 32-bit applications. Yes, the emulator is slighty slower then running on a native 32-bit OS. But CPUs are much faster now and it's not much of an performance hit. Also remember 32-bit applications are still resticted on memory usage via the 32-bit environment they were developed with. goign with a 64-bit OS is future proofing yourself. Many products are only 64-bit now (i.e. Server 2008 R2, SharePoint 2010, Exchange 2007/2010)

-Matt-
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by:kevinhsieh
kevinhsieh earned 220 total points
ID: 35421870
I don't think that you can even buy a new 32bit only CPU these days for a server. The Intel/AMD 64bit x86 processors have full compatability with older 32 bit software, and they will run it faster than the old 32 bit processors. The R710 is a great virtualization platform. If you have more than 4 GB of RAM installed and you are running a 32 bit Windows OS, you can consider loading Windows 2008 R2 or Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 on the physical server and then run your 32 bit Windows OS in a VM under Hyper-V if your application requires a 32 bit OS. If you don't require a 32 bit OS, I would run Windows 2008 x64 or Windows 2008 R2, depending on what you are licensed for. Microsoft has stopped development of 32 bit server operating systems and 32 bit server software, so they really have become legacy. There are still some older software packages that don't run properly under 64bit Windows, but the number goes down every day and those packages are stuck in the past. Go 64 bit if you can so you can keep moving forward.
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Expert Comment

by:Handy Holder
ID: 35425818
You can buy, but not for servers, e.g. Intel Atom.
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Author Comment

by:richtree
ID: 35426406
32-bit OS on 64-bit hardware vs 64-bit OS on 64-bit hardware, which one is better? Assuming same memory size and speed. I just like to know if there is any 'translation' overhead between 32-bit OS and 64-bit hardware.
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by:connectex
connectex earned 888 total points
ID: 35426429
The basics are 32-bit for the server is DEAD. Microsoft has pulled the plug on 32-bit. Only run 32-bit OS if you must for compatiblity needs. Otherwise it's recommended you jump on the 64-bit train as it's not slowing down. If you later find you need 32-bit, you can always run it as a virtual machine on a 64-bit host.

-Matt-
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LVL 33

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by:PowerEdgeTech
PowerEdgeTech earned 892 total points
ID: 35426452
While there might be some "overhead" as the system , there is no other lower option to compare it to, so rather than saying there is a performance overhead on 32-bit ... consider it the standard or baseline, then 64-bit bit offers a performance increase above that.  Unless you have a real, tested, and proven need for 32-bit for compatibility, go with 64-bit.  With today's OS's there is little to no reason to go 32-bit unless hanging on to very old software ... even then, there are ways around that (virtualization).
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Author Closing Comment

by:richtree
ID: 35457438
Thank you all.
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