Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How many Windows 32 (bit) or 64 (bit)?

These days I am editing a film (I'll tell you about it later) and I have been having problems. I used to think that running Second Life client was the most resource hungry thing to do on a laptop but now I found that video editing is the most resource hungry thing you can do on a computer.

So when I play an edited scene without rendering it, it moves slowly, skips frame or doesn't sync audio and video. Sometimes it just doesn't play until I render it first. Which can be annoying when you want to make a 1000 little changes and rendering every time disrupts the creative flow.

Like any other normal user (which I am usually not) I checked and re-checked my laptop specs. It's a Dell Studio 17 inch laptop with a 1GB Intel Radeon graphics card and 4GB RAM. The processor is Intel Core Duo with 2.53 GHz speed. In this world where tech specs change overnight, this is by far not the fastest machine not even in laptops. But it's a good spec. I like to change my laptop every year, but I have had this one for 2 years now because it's absolutely amazing. It suits me in every way including performance. Until now, that is.

I didn't really want to change the laptop just for this, for two reasons. One, I like this laptop as I said. And two, when I change I want to upgrade to a super-expensive Alienware model with astronomical specs. Which I can't afford right now.

But there are things you can do short of buying a new laptop. Like PCs you can upgrade a laptop's hardware too, in a limited way. I decided to upgrade the RAM. It already has 4GB installed in the form of two 2GB memory modules. It has only 2 memory slots (it's a laptop after all), so I could replace one 2GB module with a 4GB getting a total of 6 or replace both. I checked that memory is cheap from Dell, only 22 GBP for a 4GB RAM module. So, I decided to buy one and bring my total RAM to 6GB..except for one thing!

Every time I check the tech spec's by right clicking on My Computer and clicking Properties, it shows RAM as 4GB (2.99 GB available.) It's the figure in the bracket that puzzled and perplexed me. What do you mean 2.99 GB available, I asked it, have you loaned the other 1 gig to the neighbour or what? It didn't answer.

You can guess that I wouldn't leave it at just that. I escalated the matter. I called Chauhan Sir (remember Chauhan Sir?). He set me straight. This poor little computer is running on Windows 7, 32 bit version and as such is limited in its use of RAM. Even though the hardware has 4GB of RAM the OS can only utilize 3GB of it. How annoying!

My further course of action was like this. I copied a lot of data off to external USB hard drives and made more than 100+ GB of free space on both my internal drives. Then I downloaded Windows 8 Developer Preview and installed that.

Why Windows 8, you ask? Well, for one reason, I had been very curious about it for more than 2 months now and if I was going to rebuild my laptop I was going to take the chance to try it.

Windows 8 installed fine, quite fast and it looks cute, but I soon found out that it was not for me. For one thing, it looks more like something for tablets than a computer to work on. For another thing, it still uses only 3 GB of RAM out of the 4. Only one thing left to do.

No, I wasn't going to download Windows 8 64-bit version. I had already decided after 2 hours of exploration that Windows 8 is not for me, not in this incarnation and probably never.

But I had the Windows 7 DVD which contains both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. In fact, since my laptop is 64-bit architecture it had come installed with Windows 7 64-bit but I had downgraded it myself to 32-bit because not all my programs were available in 64-bit versions.

Now, I installed 64-bit with a view to having 2 OS on my system, one for video editing and a 32-bit boot partition for other things. Still, to be safe I downloaded something called Microsoft Virtual PC so I could run some 32-bit programs as well.

64-bit installed fine and is running well. Not only can I see the performance improvement in video editing but so far all my programs are running under 64-bit without Virtual PC. Fingers crossed for later. One thing that I could do with 64-bit was to install the latest version of Adobe Premiere Pro. Adobe, in their infinite wisdom (grrr!) have released their latest video editing suite Premiere Pro CS5 only in 64-bit flavour, so I had been using CS4 for my work. But now I can use CS5 64-bit, which looks and works the same except for one important difference.

Now I can use Adobe After Effects CS5 as well which has one new and very useful feature - the Rotobrush tool. More about that some other time.

So, this was the short (??) story of my Windows upgrade to 64-bit flavour. I hope you enjoyed it. Hehe.

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