Q. I am a moderate PC user running 32-bit Windows 7 Home SP1 on an elderly Compaq with 2GB RAM. I have a legal Win7 setup disk and a fast broadband connection. Should I upgrade to 64-bit Win7 or Win8 now, then upgrade to Win10 x64 when it’s out and stable? Or should I just keep 32-bit Win7 for now and upgrade to Win10 x32 or x64 sometime in the future?
A. I’m assuming you have 64-bit hardware, but you’re running the 32-bit version of Windows 7. That’s perfectly fine; the primary benefit of 64-bit software is to access more than 4GB of RAM. So switching your current 2GB setup to 64-bit Windows won’t result in much (if any) improvement. Win7 x32 is completely adequate for 2GB to 4GB of RAM.
You could add more RAM, but that might not make sense on an “elderly” PC. You’d have new RAM, but everything else would be old, well on its way to inevitable breakdown or failure. Hard drives, screens, keyboards, fans — everything eventually wears out.
If your current system is meeting your needs, I suggest sticking with it until you’re ready for a new PC. Then get a 64-bit system with enough RAM to make the 64-bit architecture worthwhile. The current sweet spot seems to be 8GB, though 12GB might be useful, if you can get it for a decent price. (If, for example, you run virtual machines, the more RAM the better.)
Odds are, the new system will come with the latest version of 64-bit Windows — along with fully compatible hardware and software.
With luck, you’ll get as many years out of your new PC as you have your present system. And the new system will have the latest hardware technology, such as USB 3.0 and possibly solid-state drives!
(Originally published on Windows Secrets on Thursday, June 25, 2015.)
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