Significant Differences

64-bit Windows doesn't include every bell and whistle of its 32-bit cousin. After all, both 64-bit Windows and Itanium-based server hardware are marketed (and priced) as enterprise solutions; you would no more configure an Itanium server to be a fax server than you would use a Ferrari to pick up the soccer team after practice. Some of the "missing features" between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows are simply features that an enterprise wouldn't use on 64-bit Windows. Other missing features reflect the intense amount of development that went into 64-bit Windows; not everything fit in under the deadline. Here are the major feature differences between 32-bit Windows Server 2003 and the equivalent 64-bit editions:

  • The .NET Framework isn't included with 64-bit Windows? Expect that to change in the future; the whole point of the .NET Framework is that Microsoft (or someone) simply has to create a new common language runtime (CLR) in order to move the Framework to a different hardware platform. You'll see a 64-bit edition of the CLR in the future.

    • For more information on the .NET Framework and the CLR, see "The .NET Framework," p. 146.

  • ASP.NET isn't available in 64-bit Windows? This is because it's part and parcel of the .NET Framework. As soon as the Framework has a 64-bit CLR, ASP.NET should run just fine.

  • Obviously, the 32-bit editions of Windows Server 2003 don't take advantage of improvements in the Itanium architecture? Windows Server 2003's 64-bit editions have additional features that leverage Itanium's native error logging mechanisms and much more. Although it's theoretically possible (according to Intel) to run 32-bit Windows on an Itanium, you wouldn't see much of an improvement in the operating system's performance, and you wouldn't see any additional features.

  • Only 64-bit editions of Windows include support for 64-bit software development via group policy? New options in the user interface will enable you to specify whether 32-bit applications should be deployed to 64-bit computers, as well. This feature will provide interoperability in a mixed 32-bit and 64-bit environment.

  • Windows Installer on 64-bit editions of Windows also includes specific 64-bit application support? This enables packages to include both 32-bit and 64-bit components. This capability allows a single installer package to support both 32-bit and 64-bit computers, reducing administrative overhead and software maintenance.

  • 64-bit Windows includes printing support for 32-bit clients? This enables administrators and users to manage and connect to printers that are hosted by a 64-bit edition of Windows from their 32-bit client operating systems.

  • 64-bit editions of Windows include new driver installer routines? These can choose available 64-bit drivers over 32-bit drivers, if both are provided during an installation. INF files, which list the drivers needed by a particular device, can include 64-bit-specific lists in addition to 32-bit driver lists.

  • 64-bit Windows doesn't include, at least for now, Product Activation? Microsoft doesn't feel that piracy, the reason Product Activation exists, will be an issue in the 64-bit world for the time being.

    • For more information on Product Activation in 32-bit Windows, see "Activating Windows," p. 13.

  • 64-bit Windows lacks some common media applications? These include NetMeeting and Windows Media Player. This lack isn't critical in a server operating system, but you'll see 64-bit versions of these applications made available as free downloads and targeted at the 64-bit edition of Windows XP.

  • 64-bit Windows doesn't support power management? With no 64-bit portable computers on the near horizon, you probably won't miss this feature anyway. Another common portable computer feature, infrared communications, isn't supported in 64-bit Windows, either.

  • 64-bit Windows does not include Remote Assistance? Windows Server 2003 does include Terminal Services, so the underpinnings of Remote Assistance are available, but the actual feature isn't implemented.

  • Native CD burning isn't included in 64-bit Windows? There's nothing stopping a third-party manufacturer from writing a CD burning application, however, and those will no doubt become available after 64-bit operating systems have enough market penetration.

Some other, minor features are not included in 64-bit Windows, but these mainly affect the client operating system?Windows XP. Speech recognition, for example, isn't included in Windows XP 64-bit. Altogether, Microsoft claims a 99% feature parity between 32-bit and 64-bit editions. As mentioned, some of the parts missing from 64-bit today, such as the .NET Framework, will undoubtedly be released in a future update.