Logistics of upgrading 32-bit Vista to 64-bit

My friend just got a new PC, and it came with a 64-bit Athlon CPU and a 32-but copy of Vista. He didn’t realize this until to day when he was looking at all his specs to see if he could play Bioshock. I thought I had read somewhere that sometimes Vista comes with both the 32 AND 64-bit versions when you buy it, but I also seem to remember that’s the retail version, and since his is a pre-built HP system pre-loaded with Vista, he would have OEM discs.

So, first up, can he get a 64-bit upgrade for free or at least just for cheap? How easy would it be? Would he lose any data and programs he’s installed since having it?

Secondly, did HP/Comp USA (where he bought it from) mislead/pull a fast one on him by giving him an OS that can’t really take full advantage of his system? It would be like a Porchse engine in a Honda. Yeah, power out the ass…but you can’t use it all, so what’s the point?

Vista Ultimate includes both versions. You can’t upgrade, it has to be a fresh install and it’s not free. The only good reason he would want 64-bit is if he needs to use 4 GB or more of RAM. Here’s a comparison.

BioShock runs fine under 32-bit and he wasn’t ripped off.

I’d also recommend he sticks to 32 bit for gaming, driver support for most gaming peripherals and hardware is better for 32 bit at this point in time.

Huh…so then I ask, why do we have all these 64-bit CPUs if it still make sense for most people to get 32-bit software? Seems like a waste. 64-bit hardware has been around for a few years now, so why are the other hardware and driver companies so slow in supporting it? Is it just plain ol’ resistance to change, the sort of "we’ll deal with it only when we absolutely have to (like when the next big OS’s get released, that might ONLY do 64-bit?)

Also, did I fuxxor myself by getting the 64-bit version of Vista?

It’s the chicken and egg thing. There are still a lot of 32-bit machines around and the software companies don’t want to lock them out or deal with two version of their programs. Plus there’s not a huge advantage, almost all home machines have and need less than 4GB. It’s still in transition; give it a few more years.

You should be ok if there are 64-bit drivers available for all of your hardware or you’re willing to upgrade to something that does.