As a Microsoft Partner, I got advance copies of Windows 7 (the full final version) for my own use.
Needless to say, and based on my own overwhelmingly positive experiences with the pre-release copies, I re-formatted my main work laptop and installed it. I also decided that now was the time to move into the brave new world of 64-bit.
The 64-bit version of Windows does offer some tantilising benefits. It can run faster (when software is written to take advantage of it) and it can also support MUCH more memory (RAM), which produces benefits when running lots of applications at once, or using Virtual Machines – something I do more and more.
The other big advantage of 64-bit Windows is that there is a somewhat higher technical threshold for hardware developers, so it raises the prospect of a future where dodgy hardware drivers cannot cause crashes and Windows will achieve the same sort of bulletproof serenity as an Apple.
A full-scale reformat and re-install can also be a good opportunity to ‘spring clean’ – (You cannot upgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit, you HAVE to do a clean install). So I made sure that I only installed the applications I really wanted, and that they were all the latest versions. I reorganised my data folders, and even set my screen options to produce an entirely clean desktop without even the Recycle Bin to mar the view. (Have a look at the screenshot at the top of the page – Lovely! – the wallpaper is one supplied with Windows 7)
All of my software has installed itself and worked without a murmer – Properly written 32-bit applications run perfectly happily in a 64-bit world (and even Microsoft hasn’t produced a 64-bit version of Office yet – that will be coming with Office 2010).
then I hit a snag….
I have a Kodak i40 scanner – A very nice bit of kit, that does all my office scanning, and which I also use now and then in presentations and training on various Document Management products.
It transpires that Kodak have not written a 64-bit driver for it, and they probably won’t, and that’s that. The scanner will NOT play with my shiny new laptop. The very thing I’d sought (a computer clear of old and outdated software and drivers) had come back to bite me in the backside. It looks as if I’ll be moving up to the new Kodak i210 scanner and the old one will be heading to eBay. I could reformat and revert to 32-bit Windows 7, of course, but that somehow feels like defeat….
What to take from this?
– 64-bit IS coming – and it will produce a faster, more reliable PC on your desk. Windows 7 could be the real turning point when 64-bit becomes ‘mainstream’. Windows 8 (which should be out around the time of the London Olympics) will almost certainly be 64-bit only.
– Most 32-bit software should just work (although make sure your supplier supports it).
– Check that your hardware is supported – Manufacturers HAVE to completely re-write for 64-bit, and they won’t always bother for older kit.
It also transpires that Flash Player isn’t supported yet on 64-bit Web Browsers…. so all the pretty graphs on the homepage of my bookkeeping software stopped working….