I have Windows 7 32-bit, what is the easiest/cheapest way to upgrade to 64-bit?
October 15, 2010 5:53 AM   Subscribe

I purchased Windows 7 at a discounted rate through my school. I didn't realize this at the time, but because I got the 32-bit version I am not getting full usage of all my RAM (8 GB). It says that I only have 3.75 GB "usable". Obviously, I would like to get the most out of my CPU performance. What is the best/easiest/cheapest way to upgrade from 32-bit Windows 7 to 64-bit Windows 7? I already tried the Windows "Anytime Upgrade" and it will not let you switch between the two. Also, will I have to backup before I make the switch or will it keep all of my data? Thank you for your time.
posted by gibbsjd77 to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
 
You may need to buy a license of 64-bit Windows 7. If your school's computing center is anything like mine, you won't be able to return your license, unfortunately, but it might be worth asking. When I bought my copy, the folks behind the counter asked me twice whether I wanted 32- or 64-bit, because of their strict return policy.

To answer your second question, you'll want to make a backup of your data, because you'll need to wipe the existing installation.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:57 AM on October 15, 2010


Will I probably have to pay full price for the license?
posted by gibbsjd77 at 5:58 AM on October 15, 2010


I'm not sure how the license is tied to you (as in is it yours when you buy it or when you install it), but if you can it could be worth it to find someone else who wants to buy 7 and have them buy the 64 bit version and trade with you. Paying the difference of course.

Obviously this won't work if the license is tied to you at purchase. But it's worth looking into.
posted by theichibun at 6:01 AM on October 15, 2010


Thanks for the idea.
posted by gibbsjd77 at 6:02 AM on October 15, 2010


Is this more than you're looking to spend?
posted by Glendale at 6:02 AM on October 15, 2010


Yes, unfortunately, unless your center will grant a refund for the 32-bit license.

Note that you probably won't get much additional performance from 64-bit Windows. It gives your applications ready access to more than 4 GB (roughly) of contiguous space. So if you open large files or lots and lots of applications, for example, then a 64-bit OS is important.

Unless your usage is impaired you might be fine with a 32-bit OS.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:04 AM on October 15, 2010


That seems pretty reasonable. I got the first upgrade for 35$. Paying 99$ now to get full usage of my RAM seems like the right decision. Thanks again.
posted by gibbsjd77 at 6:04 AM on October 15, 2010


You'll have to buy the 64-bit version - they go on sale from time to time, depending on what version you want - I would go with Pro or Home Premium, since Ultimate probably won't give you anything. Figure between $130 and $150, depending and who and when.
As for upgrading from 32 to 64 bit: yes, back up your data and install a fresh copy of Win7 - it does not give you the ability to switch (just tried it on my test systems). I would really first image off the harddrive just to be sure.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 6:05 AM on October 15, 2010


I am prett ysure you just need a 64bit disc. The key should work with both versions. You will have to reinstall though.

I think microsoft charges $ 10 to get the 64 bit version of the disc if you have a key already.
posted by majortom1981 at 6:10 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's a different case because you got yours through your school (possibly OEM), but my retail upgrade copies of Windows 7 Home Premium came with 32-bit AND 64-bit discs. Are you sure yours did not? You will have to reinstall Windows in any case, but you might not have to spend any money. Second reply in this thread outlines the possible options, depending on what you bought from your school.
posted by chrominance at 6:11 AM on October 15, 2010


Also, if you're in the States and attending a post-secondary institution, you probably don't have to spend $99; Microsoft's offering students Win7 Pro for $64.95. You can grab a 64-bit version and get the bonus of a second product key AND the features of Professional (which honestly aren't really very important anyways, but hey).
posted by chrominance at 6:17 AM on October 15, 2010


I can't speak for Win7, but with Vista a valid key was a valid key, so all you'd need to have done is borrow somebody else's legal 64-bit disc and install using your legal key and you'd be good.

Googling around, it appears that this is the case for Win7 too -- you have a license to use Win7 on your machine and MS doesn't care whether that's 32-bit or 64-bit. All you should need to do is borrow a Win7-64 disc and install using your key.

Why not contact whatever the relevant Microsoft help line / address is and get a more definitive answer before you drop $100 or render your machine unusable?

AFAIK, moving from 32-bit to 64-bit will completely wipe your hard drive, so you will need to back everything up.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:34 AM on October 15, 2010


Thanks chrominance! I'm looking at that link right now.
posted by gibbsjd77 at 6:35 AM on October 15, 2010


It doesn't answer your question directly but there's another option you may not be aware of: you can make a RAMdisk with the unused RAM. I use Gavotte Ramdisk with XP 32 bit in order to access the 700+ MB ignored by the OS and it works perfectly.
posted by Bangaioh at 6:47 AM on October 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks everybody! I just backed up all my data and I'm about to start the download for Windows 7 64-bit. Have a great day!
posted by gibbsjd77 at 7:03 AM on October 15, 2010


AND the features of Professional (which honestly aren't really very important anyways, but hey).

That depends on your usage. Joining a domain or being able to use incoming remote desktop can be very handy.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:46 AM on October 15, 2010


Note that you probably won't get much additional performance from 64-bit Windows.

Say what? Did you miss the part where he has 8GB of RAM, of which less than half is being used? Even if you don't have an application that uses that much the OS will use all the rest for disk cache.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:03 PM on October 15, 2010


Thanks to everyone for helping me out! I am now running Windows 7 64-bit and all my RAM is being used. What a difference! Have a great day!
posted by gibbsjd77 at 7:34 AM on October 21, 2010


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