Software info: History of Windows: 32-bit and 64-bit computing
The following article goes through the evolution of the Windows operating system from Windows 1.0 to Windows 7. Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro, upgraded to version 8.1, are currently the latest versions for home and small-business use. Windows 7, like Windows Vista, comes in several versions. Windows 8 and 8.1 only have two versions – standard and Pro. In between the first and current versions (Windows 8.1) are Windows 2.0, Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows XP Windows Vista and Windows 7.
Visual tour: 25 years of Windows –
“See how the world’s most popular operating system has evolved over the last quarter century.” –
AMD was the first processor manufacturer to bring out a 64-bit processor – the AMD64-based processor called the Opteron was released in April 2003. After that AMD made its Athlon processors 32- and 64-bit capable. It took a long time for software developers to bring out 64-bit software. In 2003, 64-bit Windows XP Professional became the first 64-bit version of Windows to be released. It is buggy, requiring to use 64-bit drivers, then in their infancy, so it was not much used. For many years there was only 32-bit software. From 2003, 64-bit computing started very slowly to take hold. Even by 2010, there was still not much in the way of 64-bit software. There are now 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems and software, with new Windows and Linux computers all using only 64-bit computing. There are 64-bit versions of all of the versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7 and Windows 8.0 and 8.1. Desktop and laptop computers, using AMD or Intel processors, bought new in 2006 should all have a processor that supports 32- and 64-bit software.
Updating Windows – Windows Update – and other software
Windows Update, which is built into Windows and can also be run from Microsoft’s website – http://www.update.microsoft.com/ – when configured to do so in the Control Panel, provides security updates and updates for the device drivers that run hardware devices. Most other software provides an option to install updates automatically or to be informed when an update is available so that it can be installed manually.
Windows Update is called Automatic Updates in Windows XP’s Control Panel and Windows Update in Vista and Windows 7/8/8.1. Note that from April 8, 2014, Microsoft’s support for Windows XP ended, so Windows Update no longer works for XP. Access to it used to require using the Internet Explorer web browser. IE8 is the highest version that XP supports; IE11 was the highest version available for Windows 7 and 8/8.1 in May 2014.
There are several third-party tools that scan the system and update software automatically or provide a manual option to do so. It is not advisable to use driver-update software due to its unreliability, but the software that updates
All of the many current distributions of the free, open-source Linux operating system support 64-bit computing.
Microsoft ended its extended security support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. Business users have an extra year of security support. Note that almost all applications, programs and utilities that run under Windows XP will run properly in Windows 7, including MS Office 2000, but if software designed for Windows XP doesn’t work on its own or by using Windows Compatibility Mode (available in Windows since Windows XP so that it could run Windows 95 and 98 software), you can buy a version of Windows 7 that provides Windows XP Mode (Windows XP itself running from within Windows 7). The Professional and Ultimate versions of Windows 7 provide Windows XP Mode. In Windows Vista, only Windows Compatibility Mode is available for that purpose.
Note also that most programs designed for the 32-bit version of Windows will work on the 64-bit version of Windows. Notable exceptions are many antivirus programs.