Stupid Microsoft
March 30, 2009 8:54 PM   Subscribe

Building a new Core i7 desktop: WinXP32, WinXP64, Vista32, or Vista64?

After my comps/quals in three weeks, I'm building myself a Core i7 based desktop (more because I have some research money that if I don't spend I don't get than that I really need/want a new system and my folks could use a new computer [ie., the one I have now]).

Primarily for general web-browsing, gaming (I have a DX10 GPU and a large monitor), some video editing, and video transcoding (XVID, 'shrinking' DVD9 to DVD5). Photoshop/Illustrator forseen in the near future. Ostensibly for 'scientific computing' (biology - time-lapse microscopy generates very very very large datasets) but none of the software available/desirable/required by me has 64bit versions. Compatibility with a dual SAS(driving a 15k RPM HD)/SATA2(high capacity drives) setup a must (the MB I'm looking at supports both - ASUS P6T X58 Deluxe).

I have the media and a legit license of WinXP64. Would have to buy another license of XP32 or Vista32/64.

I like the idea of running a 64bit system. I like the idea of skipping Vista and eventually going with Win7 better. Even if my apps never exceed the 3.5GB of ram available in x32 (?), is there an advantage of setting the other 2.5GB or 5.5GB of ram as a ramdrive and using that as a swapfile?

Is it worthwhile to go to Vista64, which I've heard has good 32bit emulation (or fiddle around with XP64)? Are there any compelling reasons to buy a license of Vista32 over a license of XP32 (other than saving $40 on Vista instead of XP - I knew I should have stocked up on Academic versions of XP when the school's bookstore was reluctant to sell me a license 3 years ago)? I forsee running VirtualDOS for legacy 16 bit applications/games.

I like the idea of Linux, but need to run Microsoft Office because of supervisor/collaborators/lab-mates. Also, molecular biology and statistics software (that are written for XP32 - most, but not all, will run under Vista32; my work laptop is XP32 and that's where I do most of my work) and games.
posted by porpoise to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
XP64 is evil, stay as far away as possible. Vista x64 on the other hand is wonderful.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:02 PM on March 30, 2009

blue_beetle is right, XP64 has a lot of issues. I personally use Vista 64x, but have you considered Win7 64x? It's not too far off and you can just grab the beta for the time being.
posted by Chan at 9:08 PM on March 30, 2009

Win7 has been pushed back to 2010+. How would you suggest I hold out until then (and... I'd be buying a full retail version of Win7 unless I buy another HD and 'claim' the OEM discount - are there any "buy Vista now, get a rebate on Win7 later))?
posted by porpoise at 9:19 PM on March 30, 2009

I run DosBox for 16bit applications on Vista64 without any issues at all. Other than the annoying dichotomous Program Files directories I have no complaints about Vista64 at all.
posted by tiamat at 9:23 PM on March 30, 2009

All signs point to Windows 7 this year; see, e.g., here.
posted by sinfony at 9:26 PM on March 30, 2009

I'm running 64bit Vista and it's been smooth sailing, I haven't had a single issue running anything that I had been running on my old system under XP Pro.
posted by MikeMc at 9:29 PM on March 30, 2009

I would say XP64 or W7 64. I've been using the public beta and it's been rock solid for 3 months on my MCE PC and one of my workstations. I just installed build 7057 and things are still awesome.
posted by wongcorgi at 9:42 PM on March 30, 2009

Try Win7 x64 beta and see if it works out for you - it likely will. Whatever you end up doing, plan on upgrading to Win7 when it finally releases, as it is much better than XP x64 and Vista x64.
posted by Diddly at 10:17 PM on March 30, 2009

... so what's a 'good' solution before Win7 becomes public?
posted by porpoise at 10:23 PM on March 30, 2009

If you can get the Windows 7 installer - a very recent x64 version of which is currently available on your favourite torrent site (and which installs using a Microsoft sourced beta key) - then you could just try that. It's good until next year, which might see you through until its official release.

All that said, I use Vista64 - and for much the same purpose you plan to (lots of video editing and encoding, a fair bit of photoshop, and a little too much gaming), though on a Core2Quad rather than Corei7 machine.

Vista64 is the best OS I've ever used - but I haven't tried the Windows 7 beta yet. My laptop is linux, and I don't want to mess with my desktop. It just runs too perfectly as it is, so I don't want to muck it up.
posted by The Monkey at 10:34 PM on March 30, 2009

I've been using Vista 64 since December 07 and it's fast, stable and hassle-free ever since.

If you are going to put 4GB of Ram or more in your new machine - go for a 64bit OS and don't bother with XP64 but get Vista, mainly because you'll get better and more reliable 64bit drivers for Vista than you will for XP. Quite a few manufacturers don't even supply any drivers for XP64 and only support 64bit on Vista, at least from my experience 1,5 years ago when I was planning my current computer and had to make the same decision. Just make sure to do proper research for each part, check the manufacturers website for driver support and run a quick google search and see if people have any issues with 64bit drivers for the particular piece of hardware and everything will be fine.

As for Windows 7: I've been using the 64bit version of the public beta and while it was running fine in general I still had issues with a number of applications I rely on. Even if it's going to be released in 6-9 months I'd wait for a few months until the first round of patches is over so I wouldn't think about switching until at least 1 year from now.
posted by starzero at 10:42 PM on March 30, 2009

XP64 does work, but driver support is a real pain in the buttocks, as it is very much a niche OS - it's based upon server 2003 x64, not XP32. If you want to go 64 bit, vista 64 is the one for you - given you're buying hardware, you should easily be able to get a cheap OEM copy that will only be usable on that PC once activated.

You can quite happily run 32-bit software on vista 64, it's been my mainstay for a while now. The only 32-bit compatibility issue I've run into has been playback of video codecs in certain circumstances (64-bit media player), and you can get 64-bit codecs if you need; though if the player is 32-bit, then 32-bit codecs will suffice.

Being you're planning on doing things that will appreciate more RAM, a 64-bit OS is definitely the better option - although a given 32-bit app can't address more than 2GB (3GB in some circumstances), being able to address more than 3.5 or so - depends upon video RAM - in total may well come in handy if you multitask, or get 64-bit versions of apps later.

If you buy the more expensive retail version of the higher versions of vista (business and ultimate IIRC) instead of OEM, you get 32-bit and 64-bit discs in the box, and are licenced to run either. You can also move it onto a new machine later, unlike OEM versions. You could get a cheaper retail upgrade copy, but you'd need to install windows xp first, then install vista clean alongside or over the top of, which is a bit of a pain.

The free Windows 7 RC1 is due out in May, so may be worth dualbooting to see which apps you have that won't work with it; I've been trialling it since before the public beta, and it's definitely improving, and better than vista - but there are also quite a bunch of incompatible apps, mainly those that 'don't support beta OSes', so I wouldn't use it as your primary OS just yet.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:37 AM on March 31, 2009

Oh, and buy vista now, get windows 7 discount programs haven't started yet. Microsoft is setting them up with OEMs, but they're going to be offered via PC makers, i.e. buy a laptop from acer with vista, and get a windows 7 disc from acer directly through a voucher program, which acer pays microsoft for. Seeing as you're effectively your own OEM, it's unlikely there'll be a way for you to take advantage of this, even if you wait for it to be set up sometime later this year.

One last thing - if you're looking at setting up a RAID SAS system, you'd be better served with a true hardware RAID card, probably pci-e - the ones you get on motherboards do all the work in the driver, and are generally a pain in the arse, they're software raid in all but name. Although I generally prefer 3ware cards, their vista support is rather patchy, so adaptec may be the better choice.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:46 AM on March 31, 2009

The 32 bit os's limit ram usually around 3.3gb. That is a combination of motherboard ram and gpu ram. For instance I just built a system with 2x2gb of motherboard ram and a gpu with 2gb of ram. If I had installed a 32 bit os, it would have only seen 3.3ish, and i would not have been getting my monies worth.

I recommend vistax64. I use it, no probs whatsoever, it runs the latest games so.....

Also if you all ready have a vista license, you can use it on a 64 or 32 bit install disc.

I recommend This section of tomshardware forums for any new system build questions
posted by nuke3ae at 2:23 AM on March 31, 2009

I've been beta-testing Windows 7 since the betas started. In my experience, the x64 version of Win7 "just works". I like it better than the 32-bit; for some reason it seems to run more smoothly on my AMD64 2-core, and I can take advantage of all the memory I have installed.

I'm thinking with the economy the way it is, even Microsoft will see that releasing Win7 earlier rather than later will be a good thing. I'd be surprised if they even wait until Christmas.

The latest build I'm on (7057) is ultra-stable and really performs well. It's really almost RC, and I've heard that a new build, 7068, is out. I think Microsoft is making these builds available (they're "leaked") in order to get us to hype it for them, and it's working.

Seriously, what I'd do if in your spot: install Ubuntu 64-bit and use it, and dual-boot Windows 7 for games or other windows-only apps. Heck, you could even just use a Virtual Box image of Windows 7 and not have to dual-boot.
posted by dwbrant at 5:57 AM on March 31, 2009

Vista x64 is fantastic, especially with lots of RAM (at least 4 GB, but I suggest you splurge for 6 or 8 GB). But having seen the nice changes coming up in Windows 7, it might be worth the wait.

Definitely go Vista/Win7 x64; avoid XP x64 like the plague.
posted by Simon Barclay at 7:42 AM on March 31, 2009

vista x64 but win7 x64 is better.
posted by zennoshinjou at 7:57 AM on March 31, 2009

Thanks all! My trawling through other forums haven't been nearly as clear.

Looks like I'll dualboot Ubuntu64 and Win7 RC1, and when Win7 retail comes out, I'll buy another HD* to qualify for OEM Win7.

*depending on how much I like the 15k SAS, maybe a HW RAID card and another SAS drive, only planning on running the HD straight as the systems drive for now
posted by porpoise at 8:21 AM on March 31, 2009

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