My windows 64-bit experiences

Windows XP 64-bit has been on the market for some time and both Intel and AMD’s current processors are 64-bit. Even cheap office Dell boxes are coming equipped with the 64-bit Core 2 Duo. (This is the x64/x86-64/EM64T/AMD64 architecture which comprises of 64-bit extensions on top of the existing x86 32-bit architecture and not to be confused with Intel’s IA64 Itanium stuff or DEC’s Alpha 64)

You can run 32-bit Windows XP on these processors but if you want to use more than 2-3GB of RAM then you’ll need to switch to Windows XP 64-bit edition (or Vista 64-bit if you’re really brave).

With all this in mind I was a little surprised at the state of 64-bit Windows software when I finally got my hands on my first x64 machine. Here’s what I found.

Microsoft SQL Server 2005

Installing Microsoft SQL Server 64-bit (any edition) complained about a missing or corrupt sqlclin_x64.msi file which could leave you running in circles.

This problem occurs if you have the 32-bit native client already installed. Unhelpfully Add or Remove Programs describes both versions as Microsoft SQL Server Native Client regardless of whether you have the 32-bit or 64-bit version installed. The SQL Installer fails to check for the 64-bit version and throws this cryptic error message at you instead.

Solution: Remove Microsoft SQL Server Native Client.

Internet Explorer only sites that use Flash

There are a number of IE only web-sites that use Flash – Microsoft’s Online Learning is one such example. The problem is that Adobe have not made a 64-bit version of the Flash player available.

Solution: Create a shortcut to C:\Program Files (x86)\Internet Explorer\IExplore.exe to run 32-bit Internet Explorer for now.

Mozilla Firefox

There is no official 64-bit Windows version of Firefox although the 32-bit version runs just fine.

Solution: Try one of the unofficial builds although they are a little dated and there is no patching policy.

TortoiseCVS

There is no 64-bit version of TortoiseCVS and the 32-bit version will not run from the 64-bit Windows Explorer.

Solution: Install the 32-bit version and run from the 32-bit version of Windows Explorer (a pain).

A 64-bit version of TortoiseSVN is now available.

Note: If you like to be able to access TortoiseSVN from the File dialogs in Visual Studio 2005 you will also need to install the 32-bit version as VS 2005’s devenv.exe is a 32-bit application.

Microsoft Visual Studio 2005

Whilst the Profession and Team editions will let you write 64-bit applications Visual Studio 2005 itself is 32-bit only and has some additional performance and compatibility problems beyond those experienced on x86 32-bit Windows.

Service Pack 1 resolves some issues relating to debugging on 64-bit but leaves a whole host of other x64 issues unresolved including debugging SQL code.

Solution: None.

.NET Reflector

Fails to draw properly the debugging or lower left info pane. Curious considering it is a .NET application that shouldn’t care whether it is running on 32-bit or 64-bit architectures. So much for VM abstraction.

Solution: None.

This bug has been subsequently fixed.

Resources

Overall a very disappointing state of affairs.

[)amien

One response

  1. Avatar for Stu

    I run ubuntu64, and the amount of sites that use flash is amazing. x64 versions of windows seem to be the bastard children that get no loving. xp-pro64 is the winme of the nt world. vista x64 is supposedly better but… when vs2k5 is unsupported… bleh.

    Stu – April 3rd, 2007
  2. Avatar for steve

    You just don’t need 64-bit addressing on a desktop machine anyway, it’s completely oversold IMO. There was a massive practical difference between 16- and 32-bit (64K pages versus 4Gb addressable!) but who actually needs to address that much memory in a desktop app even now, even counting that regular XP prevents you getting to more than 3Gb. Scientific apps, architectural systems and movie special effects guys maybe, but no-one else needs that much active data on their desktop systems. I’ve avoided 64-bit and intend to continue to do so for the forseeable future. The hassle with drivers and applications just doesn’t justify the theoretical benefits.

    steve April 4th, 2007
  3. Avatar for Damien Guard

    I take it then Steve you haven’t brought any games recently? 1-1.5GB is not uncommon requirements for latest games it seems. Add to that the fact you like to keep Firefox open, maybe MSN and iTunes and you could soon find yourself over the 2GB mark…

    Damien Guard April 5th, 2007
  4. Avatar for Steve

    My latest PC purchase was NWN2 and I never had any problems with it. Some of the latest FPS’s might recommend more than 1Gb but I tired of those some time ago. Yeah, I have Firefox, Thunderbird, Skype, iTunes, VS2005 (2 instances sometimes), a few Putty windows, FileZilla etc open all at the same time (although not when running games since I don’t want stupid pop-ups) - but I’ve so far never exceeded 1Gb. Obviously I don’t run any Windows-side server stuff like IIS / SQL etc though - all my server apps are on a separate Linux machine. Next time I upgrade I’ll include 2Gb but I think the chances of my needing more than 2Gb in the near future are extremely minimal, even Dx10 class games look like they’re only going to recommend 2Gb for optimal performance.

    Steve April 6th, 2007
  5. Avatar for Steve

    Oh, maybe you meant you need > 2Gb because you play your latest games while leaving all those other apps open? That’s just bloody lazy ;) I’m not going to buy more RAM or a 64-bit OS just because I can’t be bothered to close things I’m not using.

    Steve April 6th, 2007
  6. Avatar for Damien Guard

    Actually it’s because I’m running VirtualPC images for dev environment/tests.

    Damien Guard April 8th, 2007
  7. Avatar for steve

    Makes sense - virtualisation is not that useful to me without better GPU support. VMWare allegedly supports hardware graphics acceleration for Windows guests now, so in theory I could run Linux as a host O/S. I don’t think it works the other way around yet though, which is the way I’d actually prefer. I might as well get a shuttle box and have the ability to swap hardware too :/

    steve April 8th, 2007
  8. Avatar for

    Scott Hanselman on 64-bit Vista

    August 3rd, 2007