Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
If you have a 64-bit capable machine, you may want to upgrade from 32-bit Windows to 64. Unfortunately, the upgrade, while quite possible, isn't easy.
I'm using Windows 7, 32-bit Home Premium on a computer with 64-bit hardware. Can I buy a copy of Windows 7 64-bit and install it on my system? I have 10 GB of RAM on a Gateway computer.
Yes, you can. And in fact, you'll really want to in your case, for reasons which I'll explain shortly.
Unfortunately, the path to get there from here isn't nearly as easy as we might want.
The first and most important thing to realize about upgrading from 32-bit Windows to 64-bit Windows is that regardless of the flavors involved (XP/Vista/7, Home/Pro/Ultimate), there is no upgrade installation.
The only way to switch from 32-bits to 64-bits is with a clean install.
Unlike a Vista-to-7 upgrade, there is no path for the 32-to-64-bit upgrade, which preserves installed programs and settings. You must start from scratch.
A so-called "upgrade" from 32 to 64-bits is really a clean install from scratch. That boils down to these these steps:
Backup your machine, completely.
Reformat the hard disk so that it's empty (this can be part of the next step).
Install the new 64-bit version of Windows from scratch.
Install and update all of your security tools and applications from scratch, and update Windows itself.
Restore data from your backup or other sources.
OK, I'll admit it. I'm jealous.
10 gigabytes of RAM is pretty nifty. My two current machines are maxed out at eight and more would be handy on my desktop.
If you're running 32-bit Windows - any version, as long as it's a 32-bit version - then you're using less than half the RAM you have installed. By the very nature of being 32-bits, the 32-bit version of Windows can access at most only four gigabytes of RAM, and typically much less.
64-bit versions are the only versions of Windows that have the ability to use more than four gigabytes of RAM.
I strongly suggest you move to 64-bits.
A lot has been written about compatibility concerns when moving to 64-bits. Most of the concerns are over stated.
The majority of software that runs in 32-bit Windows 7 runs in 64-bit Windows 7 - even if that software itself is written for 32-bit. Windows 64-bit has a compatibility layer specifically designed to allow 32-bit software to run.
In my experience, most software just works. Personally, I have never encountered a failure, although I have heard of rare specific cases where software fails - typically, it's a failure to run in Windows 7, regardless of version, but occasionally, it's a failure to run in 64-bit Windows.
My advice is pretty simple: bite the bullet and upgrade. Do the backup, reformat, and install-from-scratch described above. Plan to spend a little time with it.
But the result should be a nicely working machine that takes advantage of all the RAM that you've given it.