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Help File: Windows 7's 32- And 64-Bit Editions; Portscan Alerts On A Mac

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, August 23, 2009

QWindows 7 will come with 32- and 64-bit editions in the box. Should I upgrade to 64-bit?

AThis "bitness" issue has come up before; with Windows 7 due in two months, many users will have to deal with it again.

Like earlier releases, Win 7 has a 64-bit version that can work with much larger files than the usual 32-bit edition. But it doesn't offer a major increase in speed and cannot run a shrinking but non-trivial number of older programs and driver software. (That problem doesn't occur in Mac OS X, which allows 32- and 64-bit code to coexist.)

I've heard from many readers who regretted going to 64-bit Windows because of incompatibility issues. I cannot remember when anybody wrote in to rave about their PC's performance after a 64-bit upgrade. So my advice for Windows 7 is the same as for Vista: If you've verified that your software and hardware will work in 64-bit Windows, you're free to upgrade. If you're not sure or don't know how to check, stick with 32-bit.

Note also that upgrading a 32-bit Vista system to 64-bit Windows 7 will require a destructive "custom" installation.

The Norton security program on my Mac keeps warning me about "portscan" attacks, which appear to come from sites in China. How worried should I be?

Not much: Any computer on the Internet will get that kind of random inspection from afar. And as long as you've got a firewall and all current security patches in place, the bad guys can't tamper with your computer. You can think of these scans as the equivalent of strangers checking out your car after you've locked the doors and made sure nothing of value is visible inside.

Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

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