My first 64bit machine

I built my first 64 bit machine this week with an ABIT KU8 motherboard and AMD Semperon 2800 chip. As usual it all started with a member of my 'extended' family mailed me saying he had bought some new bits to build a machine and couldn’t get it working, please could I take a look. The original problem took me a while to find, but after pulling all the peripherals and still not getting any life beyond fan's spinning I pulled the main chip to check it was seated correctly and found it fitted the wrong way round (!!) with half the pins bent, doh (he claimed 'a mate' helped him put it together - I’m sure there is a moral somewhere in this). Next day, one new Mboard and new CPU later and it all came to life first time.

So having the machine for a couple of days I wanted to try installing WinXP 64bit edition... more because I could than any desire by the machine's owner. First thing I found was that booting from the MSDN OS dvd (I have a Universal subscription) doesn't offer 64 bit as a boot option for some reason so I had to create a new disk from the 64 bit ISO image and boot from that.

The installation of XP was just the same as for 32bit - the system has an older IDE drive so no need for SATA drivers this time - but once installed several of the on board peripherals didn’t have drivers, including the network adapter, audio and 'PCI serial port' (whatever that is). It might be expectations colouring my perception but the OS felt very snappy compared to the 32 bit version I previously installed on the machine. From a second machine I headed over to the ABIT web site to find some 64bit drivers and after a bit of digging (the drivers were listed under '64bit' but grouped by mboard chipset which wasn’t that obvious at first) found everything I needed, dropped them onto a USB pen drive and started installing on the new machine. All the drivers were unsigned but installed first time on the machine.

A quick reboot later I was on the network and like any good citizen, headed over to the Windows Update site to grab the latest updates - all 16 of them. In addition to the security updates I also took the optional .NET 2.0 (64 bit) install weighing in at 45MB. Unfortunately the machine wasn't up to having the dev tools installed (only a 4GB disk) so that was pretty much the limit of my testing.

So, conclusions...

· It’s a bit scary that my first real hands-on experience with a 64bit machine was from a personal request and not as part of my job. I can imaging that there are quite a few 64 bit capable machines out there, but the owners don’t even know it. Nothing wrong with that, these machines will run XP32 just fine, but its not really using the full potential of the hardware.

· I imagine there are going to be a whole lot of 32 / 64 bit driver issues coming in the near future. Before choosing to install a 64bit OS make sure you have access to drivers for it.

· Disk size needs to be bigger for a 64bit install - I only had 600mb left of the 4GB disk after installing the OS and updates.


I found some interesting info on 64bit XP and application dev here, here and here.



(NOTE: I re-installed the machine with a licensed retail copy of XP pro before handing the machine back; otherwise I would have broken the MSDN license rules.)