Should You Upgrade to Windows Vista 64? (CAD Manager's Toolbox)

23 Jun, 2009 By: Robert Green

Operating system offers benefits for some environments, but not all.

I've received questions many about operating systems over the years, but the past six months has brought forth a bunch of questions about Microsoft's Windows Vista 64. I'd like to answer some of the more common questions to help you determine whether Vista 64 is right for you.

Will All My Old Peripherals Work?
It seems to depend. On the three workstations I maintain, I haven't had any peripheral driver problems at all. Of course, most of my equipment is from manufacturers that keep drivers current -- HP, Canon, and Logitech, for example -- and nothing I maintain is more than five years old. So far the only thing I own that hasn't worked is the USB cradle for my heart-rate monitor.

Should I Update Old Computers to Vista 64?
Probably not. The 64-bit operating system only makes sense if you have the new graphics cards and memory architectures that let you go beyond the 3.5-GB memory threshold imposed by XP and Vista 32. My rule of thumb is if the computer has less than 4 GB of RAM, you won't see a difference in performance if you upgrade to Windows Vista 64.

Should I Run Vista 64 for New CAD Applications?
Yes. On my 8-GB RAM multicore machine, I can get a lot more memory-hungry applications running without hard disk thrashing or swapping issues. I've also noticed that multimedia authoring applications such as Camtasia run noticeably better.

Will All My Other Software Run?
Results are mixed. I had problems getting Adobe Acrobat 8 and QuickBooks to cooperate at first, but eventually I succeeded and all my Microsoft applications run fine. Some Internet-based applications with customized plug-ins won't run on Internet Explorer and some installation routines for older applications have had troubles because they weren't aware of 64-bit operating systems when they were created.

Should I Ditch My XP Machine?
Not yet. I'm keeping my XP machine with my older Visual Basic and C++ compilers to maintain old applications for clients. Keep your own XP machine if you have similar needs.

In the next CAD Manager's Toolbox, I'll provide some advice about machine specifications and the new Microsoft Windows 7 release.