windows pro 32 bit to windows 7 64 bit

what is the best way to upgrade from windows pro 32 bit to a 64 bit OS so i can fully utilize my 4 GB of RAM?  right now my computer is only using 3GB.  i am looking at several options:

1) install windows xp pro 64 bit,
2) intall windows vista and then upgrade to windows 7 64 bit (ultimate or pro)
3) install windows 7 32 bit, which would defeat my original purpose

in all case, i might need to reintall my applications.

can someone help me?  thanks.
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Jackie ManCommented:
There is no upgrade paths if the OS is changed from 32 bit to 64 bit. You need a clean install.

You can use USMT, user state migration tool to export the users files and settings.
PowerEdgeTechIT ConsultantCommented:
As jackie said, you will need to do a clean install, which it sounds like you were planning to do anyway.

Given only those three choices, I would go the route of Vista/7, because application and driver support is lousy for XPx64 and you pretty much eliminated 7x86 yourself.
PowerEdgeTechIT ConsultantCommented:
You can use USMT or Windows Easy Transfer (WET) to do the migration.  USMT can transfer application settings as well, where I don't believe WET can.
Windows can recognize and partial utilize 4gb of memory even while running in 32-bit mode. It simply cannot allocate more than 3.2 gb to any single system component. In most cases of 32-bit systems with 4gb's of memory you'll see windows allocate 2.8 gb for itself, 400mb for it's hardware resource allocation, and then it will dedicate the rest to the graphics card. If you want your system to fully utilize the 4gb of memory without doing a 64-bit upgrade then you will need to enable Physical Address Extension. though the benefits will be negligible.

Physical Address Extension (PAE) is an Intel-provided memory address extension that enables support of up to 64 GB of physical memory for applications running on most 32-bit (IA-32) Intel Pentium Pro and later platforms. Support for PAE is provided under Windows 2000 and 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. 64-bit versions of Windows do not support PAE.

PAE allows the most recent IA-32 processors to expand the number of bits that can be used to address physical memory from 32 bits to 36 bits through support in the host operating system for applications using the Address Windowing Extensions (AWE) application programming interface (API). More information about the AWE API can be found at the MSDN Library
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