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Upgrade: 64 Bits of Freedom

Installation Step One: Preparation

The most important step to upgrading your operating system is preparation. The first thing to do is make sure that your CPU is a 64-bit device. The easiest way to do this is with a program called CPU-Z. Running it will give you comprehensive information about your CPU, including supported instruction sets. If it supports EM64 (or similar variant) for Intel CPUs or AMD64 for AMD CPUs, you have a 64-bit compatible system.

Next you will want to find your Windows CD Key, usually found on a sticker located somewhere on your computer tower or the bottom of your laptop or on the CD box itself. If you cannot find it, there is a very useful program called Magic Jelly Bean that will locate your product key. Magic Jelly Bean will also be helpful if your system has pre-installed software, as it will give you the keys for those programs as well. Make sure to write down your keys and double check that you copied them down correctly.

The next big step is to make sure 64-bit drivers are available for your computer. The best place to look first is your manufacturer's Website. You might have to dig around a bit, but they will probably be available, and oftentimes, live chat support agents will be available to help you. If you cannot find 64-bit drivers for your model, you can still try to locate them through the individual parts manufacturers. However, this can be rather difficult as you need to be familiar with your computer's hardware. The main drivers you will want to find will be your chipset drivers (generally found on Intel or AMD's sites), your Ethernet and/or wireless drivers (though these are often installed automatically), your video drivers, and your audio drivers.

Since upgrading to a 64-bit operating system requires you to reformat your hard drive, you will want to backup all of your important data to a separate drive, ideally some sort of portable/removable storage device, just to prevent confusion during the formatting phase. It is also wise to make note of the total size and free space of your C drive, to make it easier to recognize later.

The last big hurdle in preparation is obtaining an install disk. Some manufacturers such as Dell and HP may be willing to work with you in providing a 64-bit re-installation DVD for just the price of the DVD plus shipping. Others, such as Acer, will sometimes put both a 32-bit and 64-bit recovery partition on your hard drive, giving you the choice when running their recovery option. Short from those methods, your only other option is to get an installation DVD yourself. There is always the option to find one via Bit Torrent, but it is especially not recommended because a virus can easily be injected into the installation DVD or the image can be "cracked," forcing you to run an illegal version of the software. Your best bet is to ask friends and colleagues or perhaps the IT guys at the office. Odds are that you know someone who has a DVD you can borrow.

If you have recently upgraded from Vista to Windows 7, the upgrade disk you received has both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows on it, so you can use the first upgrading method we describe on the next page. Retail versions of Windows 7 Full also include both bit versions.