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Upgrade a 32-bit computer into a 64-bit one

Start64!In our previous articles we went into the details of the advantages offered by 64-bit computers, the present state of the 64-bit architecture, as well as the prerequisites for creating a suitable environment for testing 64-bit operating systems. This latter required existing hardware 64-bit capabilities. In this article we would like to help those who wish to upgrade their existing 32-bit computers into 64-bit ones.


In the last few years, since 64-bit CPUs were released and came into use, more and more 64-bit computers have become more and more common. A large part of computers manufactured today are in fact already 64-bit regarding the hardware, they only operate in a 32-bit software environment. There may even be users who do not suspect that their computers are actually 64-bit; so before upgrading a short test is worth running. We performed the test with a software called CPU-Z to see if our system was 64-bit capable. After running CPU-Z we can see results like this:

CPU-Z

 

The data in the "Instructions" line is what we are looking for: in case EM64T or AMD64 instruction sets are shown here, the computer is 64-bit and is capable of running 64-bit operating systems.

 

The simplest case

Usually it is only worth expanding or upgrading a computer if this can be done by changing one or two main components (more valuable parts). Upgrading systems with SD memory is therefore not sure to be worth trying, but you can still contemplate it.

BIOS update and changing parts, as described in the following, require both experience and intense attention. You can perform these operations only at your own risk.

CPU Support

In the simplest case the motherboard can take a 64-bit processor, which means that our computer can go 64-bit by simply changing the CPU. There’s no way of doing this in case of Socket 478 Intel (or older) or Socket A AMD CPU motherboards. Motherboard manufacturers publish CPU types compatible with the individual motherboards on their CPU compatibility lists:

  • ASRock
  • ASUS
  • ABIT
  • GIGABYTE
  • MSI

BIOS update

In the second case the situation is a little more complicated: the motherboard can take the 64-bit CPU, but only if the BIOS version is appropriate. In such cases CPU compatibility lists indicate the lowest BIOS version with which the motherboard can accommodate a 64-bit CPU. CPU-Z can also detect BIOS version:

CPU-Z

If a BIOS update is necessary, it must be performed before changing the CPU. The manufacturers constantly update the BIOSes of their motherboards; these are available for download at the following links:

  • ASRock
  • ASUS
  • ABIT
  • GIGABYTE
  • MSI

The process of updating BIOS is always different and needs to be carried out according to the circumstances. After successful update the computer needs to be restarted with the original CPU; after this, check the actual BIOS version with CPU-Z. If everything is alright, we can proceed to changing the CPU. For this, the computer must be turned off with no voltage applied to it.

 

Changing the motherboard

In the third case the motherboard needs to be changed as well. A lot of things have to be taken into account here. In terms of dimensions, the motherboard has to fit into the existing computer house. A µATX house certainly cannot accommodate an ATX motherboard. Capacity of the power supply unit must be appropriate, having all the necessary plugs. You must check carefully if the original parts and expansion cards are compatible with the new motherboard. Existing, older DDR RAM modules may not be compatible. Before changing the motherboard bear in mind that it is likely that the current operating system will not boot and will have to be reinstalled; so all important data must be saved.

ASRock products are a very good choice when changing motherboards. Their motherboards are mostly designed to be appropriate for accommodating ordinary up-to-date and one generation older parts at the same time; their offer of products is definitely worth having a look at. Of course, compatibility lists always need to be observed

775Dual-880Pro
ASRock 775Dual-880Pro

Our test machine contains an ASRock 775Dual-880Pro motherboard with a practically obsolete Matrox G400 video card and two pieces of 256 MB DDR2 memory cards, with an IDE hard disk and a 64-bit Celeron CPU. The parts is rather mixed in terms of technical level, but this is not our point now. What matters is the possibility of installing 64-bit systems. Besides these the motherboard can accept AGP video cards, PCIe video cards, DDR and DDR2 memories, as well as both IDE and SATA hard disk drives.

In case using one of the above methods you managed to upgrade your hardware into 64-bit, you only need to create the 64-bit software environment.

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