As with previous releases, Windows 10 will be available in 32 and 64 bit architectures. Windows 10 64 bit comes in handy when you need to address at least 4 GBs or more of RAM. In fact, Windows 10 64 bit supports up to 512 GBs of RAM, while Windows 10 32 bit can utilize up to 3.2 GBs of RAM. Because the memory address space is much larger for 64 bit Windows, that means, you need twice as much memory than 32 bit Windows to accomplish some of the same task, but you are able to do so much more, you can have more applications open, do things like run an Antivirus scan in the background without it affecting your system performance. Windows 10 64 bit is more secure too, malicious code cannot easily infiltrate it, drivers are more reliable since they must be signed before they can work with 64 bit Windows 10.
Compatibility is a critical consideration if you decide to switch to 64 bit Windows 10, you will need 64 bit device drivers for any hardware devices you might have. Also, there is no 16 bit subsystem in Windows 10 64 bit, which means, your applications must be 32 bit only, no 16 bit installer or uninstallers. Also, if you decide to move to Windows 10 64 bit in the future, there is no upgrade path from 32 bit Windows, clean install only.
Is my computer 64 bit capable?
Before you can start the process to migrate to 64 bit Windows, you need to find out if your system is 64 bit capable. If you are already running a 32 bit version of Windows 8 or later on your system, you can find out by doing the following:
Press Windows key + X on your keyboard
Look under System > System type:
There it will list whether the processor is x64 based processor or not. In my case I have 64 bit capable processor. Once you have confirmed this, you can move on to the next step.
For Windows 7 and earlier releases:
You can determine if your processor is 64 bit capable by using a free tool called CPU-Z. Once you have it installed, double click it and it will scan your system. Click the CPU tab and look in the Instructions field, look for the instruction set called AMD64 or EM64T. If you see them, then your processor is 64 bit capable. If you are running a 32 bit version of Windows, whether Windows 8 or Windows 7, you need to consider carefully the steps to migrate from it to 64 bit Windows 8. Regardless of the ubiquity of 64 bit computing, key factors such as hardware and application compatibility remain a issue, especially for legacy systems.
Please note, some older 64 bit processors might not be capable of running 64 bit Windows 10.
To install Windows 10 on your PC, the processor (CPU) must support the following features: Physical Address Extension (PAE), NX, and SSE2. Most CPUs have support for these features, so if you receive this error, it is likely because the NX feature is not enabled on your system.
To resolve this error, follow manufacturer guidelines to enable NX (“No eXecute bit”), or the equivalent XD (“eXecute Disabled”), feature within the BIOS settings. This feature is typically found in the Advanced or Security tabs within the BIOS settings, and can be referred to by a variety of names, including but not limited to:
- No Execute Memory Protect
- Execute Disabled Memory Protection
- EDB (Execute Disabled Bit)
- EVP (Enhanced Virus Protection)
If the BIOS setting for the NX (XD, EDB, or EVP) support option is not available on your system, you may need to contact the manufacturer to update the BIOS. Note that some very old processors may not contain these features and will be incompatible with Windows 10 64 bit. The solution is to use 32 bit Windows 10 even if your computer is currently running a 64 bit version of Windows or stick with that version or purchase a new device with Windows 10 64 bit.
A whitepaper has been published with further details about the PAE/NX/SSE2 requirement for Windows, error cases and scenarios that customers encounter when machines fail to meet the requirement, and what to do to install Windows 10 on their PC’s.
You can download the whitepaper at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/hardware/hh975398.aspx.
Does your system meet all the requirements?
Having just a 64 bit capable processor is not the main go ahead for 64 bit Windows. What about other hardware such as your video card, audio device, printer and any other critical device or application you are using? Also, if you have less than 4 GBs of RAM, I strongly suggest you stick with 32 bit Windows 10 or consider maxing out the installed RAM before you consider migrating and when I say maxing out, I mean 4 GBs or more.
The first thing to do is to create an inventory of both your hardware and software programs. After doing that, go to the manufacturers website and check if there are any 64 bit drivers available. The manufacturer might not have native 64 bit Windows 10 drivers, but they just might have 64 bit Windows 7 and Vista drivers which might work. The reason why is Windows 8, Windows 7 and Vista all share the same driver model. Application compatibility remains critical, for instance, if you are running applications designed for Windows XP or apps that are not fully 32 bit, you might want to reconsider your decision. Applications that are 32 bit but might contain 16 bit code will not work with 64 bit Windows. So, you need to carefully think this true. If it ain’t broke, don’t try fixing it might just apply in this case.
Backup your computer:
Once you have gathered all the necessary prerequisites such as driver updates and have certified all your applications are compatible, you need to backup your personal data. There is no upgrade path from 32 bit versions of Windows to Windows 10 64 bit. Yes, that means you will have to reinstall all your drivers (64 bit native drivers) and applications. Some additional configuration might be required on your part.
Once you have installed these important updates and followed the prerequisite instructions, you should be ready to receive your free update to Windows 10 this summer.
Considerations before you switch
Users who want to switch from 32 bit versions of Windows to Windows 10 64 bit should be aware the migration is a multi-step process. Due to changes how the compliance check is done for the free upgrade offer for Windows 10. Windows 10 64 bit requires a custom install, but before you can perform that, you need to first upgrade from your current 32 bit version of Windows to Windows 10 32 bit. Ensure you are signed in with a Microsoft Account and also ensure Windows 10 32 bit is activated.
Windows 10 32 bit activated
Download Windows 10 64 bit
After you have completed the necessary pre-quisites, you need to download Windows 10 64 bit ISO media and create a bootable copy.
Please note, you must download the appropriate edition of Windows 10 for the version/edition of Windows you are migrating to. If you upgrade to the wrong edition, ie. Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 10 Pro, you will have to purchase a license for Windows 10 Pro or go back to Windows 7 Home Premium and upgrade to Windows 10 Home.
Preparing the .ISO file for installation.
See instructions for burning .ISO files in Windows 7 or later:
You can also use the Microsoft USB/DVD Tool, which is recommended for Windows XP users.
After obtaining the .iso file you use the Microsoft .iso to USB/DVD tool to create a bootable DVD or USB (requires a blank DVD or USB flash stick of at least 4 GB).
For UEFI based systems
If your computer is UEFI based, these are normally systems that come pre-loaded with Windows 8 or later, you will need to prepare the ISO file for such a configuration or you will receive an error message during setup. The thumbdrive needs to be formatted as FAT32 and use the GPT partitioning scheme. To do this, you need to use Rufus, a small tool you can download for free.
Rufus – credit: Pete Batard/Akeo
After you have installed Rufus:
- Launch it
- Select ISO Image
- Point to the Windows 10 ISO file
- Check off Create a bootable disk using
- Select GPT partitioning for EUFI firmware as the Partition scheme
- Choose FAT32 NOT NTFS as the File system
- Make sure your USB thumbdrive in the Device list box
- Click Start
- Close when complete
If you attempt to start the installation of a 64 bit version of Windows from within a 32 bit version of Windows, you will receive the following error message.
Which is understandable, since you are running a 32 bit version of Windows. To begin the installation, we will need to restart the computer and boot from the disc or USB thumbdrive which contains the installation files. So, click the close button.
To learn how to change your BIOS options to boot from the DVD drive, see the following tutorial:
Once your computer is set to boot from the DVD, you should see this option.
If you are installing from a thumb drive, see the following instructions how to prepare your computer to boot from one:
See article for complete details how to perform a custom install: