(most of the information on this page currently comes from this ubuntuforums thread by John.Michael.Kane)
There have been many questions regarding running 64bit Ubuntu, as well as other 64bit Linux distro's for this matter. Many think it is time owners of 64bit hardware stop asking if they should run a 64bit OS, and instead ask why should they not run a 64bit OS.
The reason for this theory/ argument of 64bit vs. 32bit is some users think there will be less issues running 32bit.
Then you have those who say regardless of what software architecture you run there will be common issues to battle like wireless and video drivers, and some software programs.
One thing to remember when choosing 64bit or 32bit is that not only is the Linux Kernel progressing the distro of your choice will forever be progressing, as well, and issues that some might of had using one software architecture may not be there in later versions.
The other theory some new users have when coming to 64bit is there is no real world benefit to running 64bit over 32bit, in these cases full time 64bit users would try to explain the many benefits. While allowing the new users find out, and see for themselves the benefits.
Pros / cons
- Ability to address memory amounts over four GB, and up to 16 exabytes
- Allowing for the addressing of more of RAM, 64-bit processing can improve video encoding and decoding, CAD, VMs and some other applications.
- One disadvantage of 64-bit architectures is compared to 32-bit architectures the same data will occupy more space in memory (due to larger pointers and possibly other types and alignment adding). The increases in the memory requirements of a given process can have implications for efficient processor cache utilization.
- The other question an user might ask is does more bits mean better performance? Depending on whom you ask maybe / maybe not. What you will see is a performance increase for applications that use 64-bit integers, however. This is where a con comes into play. The con being (Do not expect most of your applications to run any faster than they do on your 32-bit systems.) Examples: your web browser will still be limited by your Internet connection speed, and your word processing program speed will still be tied to how fast you can type, etc. Some users feel there can also be a slight performance decrease caused by switching to a 64-bit processor, due to the larger memory address pointers taking up twice as much room in the cache.
Questions users may have:
Should you upgrade to 64-bit?
To make full use of 64-bit you will need native 64-bit applications, and this is where the problem starts for some users. Some programs an user might make use of may not provide native 64-bit applications (some examples include skype/ adobe flash), and this is where some users think that running 32bit will eliminate issues, however. There are known ways of getting these applications to work, as well as other applications which will be addressed below, and while the answers may not be a true fix the fact there is a fix available should allow for more users to move to 64bit, and possibly showing those companies who do not have a native 64bit applications that there is a demand.
Should You Upgrade Now or sit on the fence?
The answer usually is: it depends.
If you have programs that you cannot seem to make work under 64bit, or have a peice hardware/ peripherals that is not yet supported for some odd reason under 64bit you may have to put a bit more work into making these items function.
On the other end of the spectrum, if your hardware is supported, and you need to run memory-intensive applications such as graphics and CAD, video editing, etc that will benefit from the larger memory allocation offered by 64-bit systems, spending the time researching, and upgrading will probably pay off in the long run.
One tactic suggested might be to go for a dual install of 32/64-bit.This will allow you to test your hardware/software configuration, and after testing move to running 64-bit only should you find that it fits your needs.
As for users who workstations are used primarily for office productivity software, e-mail, etc you will probably not need the scalability of 64-bit anytime soon, however. If your system has more than 4-8 GB of ram you might want to install a 64bit OS so you can make use of that memory.
Another thing you can be sure of if you do buy new hardware it will almost certainly be 64-bit, and will most likely come with a pre-installed 32bit-OS, and even if you do not plan to upgrade operating systems yet, you can always run 32-bit software on the 64-bit machines until you are ready to move to a new OS.
In the end little doubt remains that 64-bit computing will eventually make 32-bit hardware systems obsolete, As some major hardware and some software vendors move in that direction.
At the end of the day there is no silver bullet, no easy version to install, and you the user will have to make the choice of what is right for you, and your needs.
Users new to 64bit who are still left feeling it is harder to setup vs 32bit, might want to take a look at some of the other support areas of the forums, and there you can see that almost all architectures come with their share of problems.