Windows 10: How to switch and upgrade from different architectures

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Whether going to shop for a new computer, using a PlayStation, installing large servers or updating drivers for the devices connected to our system, we come across the terms 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. These numbers are actually the width of the CPU register which is a small amount of storage available as part of a digital processor and can be accessed faster than main memory. 64-bit computing has been enormously popularized with the releases of Windows 7 and Windows 8. Most of the machines are getting launched with 64-bit system architecture.

The terms 32-bit and 64-bit actually define the way a computer’s processor or CPU handles commands or information. That means 64-bit version of Windows handles large amounts of RAM more efficiently than a 32-bit system.

As with Windows 7 and 8/8.1, Windows 10 is also available in 32 and 64 bit architectures. 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 allocation space is way greater for 64 bit Windows, 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 and most of all drivers are more reliable since they must be signed before they can work with 64 bit Windows 10.

How do I get to know if my system is running 64-bit version of Windows?

To run a 64-bit version of Windows, your computer must have a 64-bit-capable processor. To find out if your processor is 64-bit-capable in Windows 8, 7 or Windows Vista, do the following:

  • Open Performance Information and Tools by opening Control Panel. In the search box, type Performance Information and Tools, and then, in the list of results, click Performance Information and Tools.
  • Do one of the following:
    In Windows 7 and 8, click View and print detailed performance and system information.
    In Windows Vista, click View and print details
    .
  • In the System section, you can see what type of operating system you’re currently running under System type, and whether or not you can run a 64-bit version of Windows under 64-bit capable. (If your computer is already running a 64-bit version of Windows, you won’t see the 64-bit capable)

All hardware devices need 64-bit drivers to work on a 64-bit version of Windows. Drivers which have been designed to run on 32-bit versions of Windows don’t work on computers running 64-bit versions of Windows.

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If you decide to switch to 64 bit Windows 10, you will need 64 bit device drivers for any hardware devices that are installed in the system or you might be installing or connecting with the system later. Also, if you decide to move to Windows 10 64 bit in the future, there is no upgrade path from 32 bit version of Windows.

There is NO upgrade path from 32 bit versions of Windows to Windows 10 64 bit. The only way is to perform a clean installation of Windows 10. And for this, it is advisable that you backup your personal files, reinstall software applications and reinstall all the hardware drivers afresh.

 

It’s not surprising but some older 64 bit processors might not be capable of running 64 bit Windows 10. In order to install Windows 10 on your system, the processor must support features like: PAE, NX, and SSE2. Most CPUs have support for these features, but if you receive a related error, it is most likely because of the disabled NX feature on your system.

To troubleshoot such errors, you might have to follow system manual 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 by different names, including the following:

  • No Execute Memory Protect
  • Execute Disabled Memory Protection
  • EDB (Execute Disabled Bit)
  • EVP (Enhanced Virus Protection)

If the NX enabling option is not available in the BIOS settings for your system, then you might need to refer to the manufacturer’s website to get and install the updated version of BIOS.

Once you have collected all the necessary prerequisites such as driver updates and have got all your apps fit compatible, you need to backup your personal data. As there is NO upgrade path from 32 bit versions of Windows to Windows 10 64-bit, you will have to reinstall all your drivers (64-bit) and applications.

Downloading Windows 10 64-bit version

When you are done with assembling all the necessary prerequisites, you need to download Windows 10 64 bit ISO media and create a bootable copy.

An important thing to note here is you would have to download the correct edition of Windows 10 for the edition of Windows you are migrating to. If you try to upgrade to some wrong edition, e.g., Windows 7 Starter to Windows 10 Pro, in that case you will have to purchase a product key for Windows 10 Pro or go back to Windows 7 Starter and upgrade to Windows 10 Home.

You may refer to the link from Microsoft to download the 64-bit version of tool. You would also require a USB flash drive of or more than 4 GB if you wish to burn the ISO on the drive.

What happens when you have UEFI based systems?

Most Windows 8 OEM systems or ones pre-loaded with later version of Windows are UEFI based systems. For such system configurations, you will have to prepare the ISO file a bit differently or you will end up receiving error messages while running setup. The USB flash drive that you are using should be formatted as FAT32 and not NTFS and you have to use the GPT partitioning method. In order to avoid falling into a lot of hassle, you can use a small tool called Rufus which is available for free to download.

Once you have installed and launched RUFUS, you would have to select or point to the saved Windows 10 ISO file. Clear the option to Create a bootable disk using. Now, select GPT partitioning for UEFI firmware as the Partition scheme/method. Choose FAT32 as the File system and not NTFS. You would have to ensure that the flash drive is in the Device list box. Click Start and Close when accomplished.

Now, you are ready to start the installation process. Again, if you try to upgrade from a 32-bit version of Windows (7, 8 or 8.1), you will get the following error message.

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What to do next then? In order to begin the installation, you will have to restart your computer and boot from the USB flash drive you just created that contains the installation files. Hence, click the Close button and proceed with the restart.

Also see the article that details how to upgrade to Windows 10 using Windows Update.

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