Windows as a whole -- Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and the operating system's server editions -- has been shipping in both 32- and 64-bit editions for some time now. That's more than long enough for hardware manufacturers to get on the ball and supply 32/64-bit device drivers for everything they sell.
In fact, most every printer, scanner, video camera, or other hardware device you can buy today comes with drivers for both platforms in the box.
[Find out when Windows 7 will be right for your Enterprise. If you're weighing whether or not to migrate to Microsoft's new operating system, then be sure to check out InformationWeek's Virtual Event: Business Case For Windows 7. Click the link to register and immediately access an on-demand replay.]
That's great if you're buying a whole new system. But what if you're migrating over a printer, scanner, or webcam -- individual peripheral devices from an age just slightly before the 64-bit years?
That's where things get more difficult.
While 32-bit applications generally run without issues on 64-bit Windows, 32-bit device drivers aren't as lucky. There is so far no mechanism in Windows to take a 32-bit device driver, wrap it in an emulation layer, and use it in Win64. This means that a great deal of hardware, otherwise perfectly useful and totally functional, is doomed to be useless to a whole swath of existing Windows users.
There's no reason to take this situation lying down, though. Depending on your budget, circumstances, and needs, you can go a long way -- sometimes all the way -- toward getting unsupported hardware working again in 64-bit Windows.
Scanners and printers comprise two of the largest classes of devices that have been unfairly marginalized because of the 64-bit switchover. To that end, we'll be looking at both of these (with some occasional digressions) and exploring ways to make them operable.
Why 64-bit, Anyway?
Why use 64-bit Windows in the first place? Desktop machines that ship with more than 3GB of RAM also come with 64-bit Windows installed by default. It's the best possible way to make use of all that memory efficiently.
Individual 32-bit apps may only be able to use so much of that memory at once, but those of us who run a lot of apps side-by-side get a boost from it. Also, applications that perform certain kinds of processing -- encryption, for instance -- run markedly faster as 64-bit binaries.
Not every computing device is bound to go 64-bit. Netbooks, for instance, or low-end PCs that top out at 2-3GB RAM don't bother going 64. But at this point it's safe to say that most any desktop computer (and notebook) from the midrange on up will be 64-bit. As a result, the number of users who encounter legacy device incompatibilities will increase.
At least for the time being. Wait long enough and all of the incompatible hardware ought to fall out of use and be replaced with newer devices. But that's no strategy for those of us who have hardware to be used now.
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security EnterpriseTo learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
2017 State of IT ReportIn today's technology-driven world, "innovation" has become a basic expectation. IT leaders are tasked with making technical magic, improving customer experience, and boosting the bottom line -- yet often without any increase to the IT budget. How are organizations striking the balance between new initiatives and cost control? Download our report to learn about the biggest challenges and how savvy IT executives are overcoming them.