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Upgrading from 32-bit to 64-bit Windows Vista

Upgrading from 32-bit to 64-bit Windows Vista

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We had the first of our 'Ask the Expert' sessions this morning (you can still register for the others, here!) and there were a load of great questions - some even had us stumped!

One of the questions that we were asked was around upgrading from Windows XP to Windows Vista Business, but on different architecture, so from x86 (32-bit) to x64 (64-bit).  Initially, I thought this couldn't be done, and would require a clean wipe, and a reinstall with the full Vista version rather than the upgrade version.  I was a little bit wrong...

This KB Article: details the ways you can upgrade from x86 to x64, in a number of different scenarios.  In response to the actual question, to go from x86 XP to x64 Vista Business, you need to do the following, but before this, there are a few pre-requisites:

You need to have purchased the Windows Vista Upgrade (Or Full version) - in this case, we'll be using Vista Business 32-bit Upgrade.  You will then have to access the 64-bit version (unless you are running Ultimate, as this ships in the box) from here.

After you get hold of the editions, x86 and x64, follow these steps:

  1. Back up all the data and the settings by using Windows XP Backup.
    Note You can also use Windows Easy Transfer. This back up program is available on the Windows Vista DVD. However, you must use the version that is on the 32-bit Windows Vista DVD if you want to use Windows Easy Transfer to back up a 32-bit version of Windows.
  2. Insert the 64-bit version of Windows Vista into the system DVD drive, and then restart the computer.
  3. Start Windows Vista Setup from the DVD when you are prompted.  Note You must start Windows Vista Setup by starting the computer from the Windows Vista 64-bit DVD. The installation package will not run on a 32-bit operating system.
  4. When you are prompted during Windows Vista Setup, remember to select Custom as the installation type.
  5. After installation is complete, you can restore the data from its backup location.

OK, so that was pretty straightforward - if you want any further info on 32-bit upgrades on their own, you can read this KB Article here:

  • PingBack from

  • Is there any way to download an iso of the 64-bit edition?  Rather than having to have them ship you a hard copy and charge you (and be forced to wait)?  As I haven't yet gone through the process, does a 32-bit key work with the 64-bit version?  If so, would it be legal for me to download a 64-bit iso from bittorrent as I do actually legally own the software already?

  • Hi Craig,

    Thanks for the message.  I'm pretty sure you can only get it shipped on the media, from here after selecting your language at the bottom.

    With regards to Bittorrent - I really couldn't comment - many of those downloads will be non-genuine volume license versions, meaning you won't be able to use your product key with them.  I'm not entirely sure your product key would work with x64 - they may give you a new product key when you order your media, seeing as your current product key will have been used with your 32-bit installation.  You could try it, but it would be your own risk - it may be safer just to pay the small fee and get a nice shiny disk shipped out :-)

    Hope that helps pal,


  • I up-graded from Win XP to Vista 64 bit. A few programs I run will not run under 64 bit Vista, but runs fine under 32 bit Vista. So I want to down-grade from 64 bit to 32 bit.

    Do I use my restore disks to go back to XP or just install Vista 32 bit over the 64 bit version?

    Thanks for any help

  • Hi Eric,

    Was you XP installation that you originally upgraded from x64 or 32-bit?

    If your installation of XP was x64, and you now want to install x86 Vista, I'm pretty sure you'll need a complete re-installation, as you are changing architectures.

    Taken from here:

    "Those hoping to upgrade should be aware of a few other issues, too. 32-bit versions of XP can only be upgraded to 32-bit versions of Windows Vista. And Windows XP Professional x64 Edition can only be upgraded to 64-bit versions of Windows Vista (Business and above)."

    So, it may be worthwhile backing up all your files and folders, and ensuring you have all your applications ready to install again, and flatten the box, install Vista x86, and then install your apps again.

    Hope that helps,


  • Windows allows you to install a dual boot so you can have both versions on your computer at the same time. Just do another full install on your computer but leave the old windows there. When you boot up it will ask you which versions to use. That way you can take advantage of the 64 bit and still use the 32 bit version for compatibility.

  • I purchased a computer with Vista ultimate 32 bit. Can I upgrade to 64 bit without losing data?

  • Hi Glenn,

    It depends on what you mean by 'Data'.  If read here:, about 2/3rds of the way down the page, it describes the way to upgrade from 32bit to x64.  Basically, it's very wise to back up all of your data first.  You can back up all the data and settings by using Windows Easy Transfer. Windows Easy Transfer is available on the Windows Vista DVD. However, you must use the version that is on the Windows Vista DVD for your currently installed 32-bit version of Windows Vista.  Once you've got all your data backed up, then install the x64 version of Windows Vista, and restore your data.

    Another option is to install Vista x64 over the top of the 32bit version, which, results in a new x64 installation, but also a Windows.Old folder on your new installation.  According to this:, the Windows.old folder contains the following:

    • Documents and Settings

    • Program Files

    • Windows

    • Users

    So, if your data was contained within one of these folders (typically your 'Users' folder or your 'Documents' folder, then your data should be safe, but it's always best to back up anyway.

    In all honesty, I would back up all of your data to a removable disk, and only when you are sure you have backed everything up, install a clean x64 installation, formatting the drives in the process.  That way, you'll get a nice clean install, and you'll be able to copy your data back onto the x64 installation later.  You'd obviously need to be able to install your programs again.


  • Funny, I bought a upgrade that was clearly marked as 32-bit/ 64-bit Vista Ultimate.

    I am running 32-bit Home Premium.

    I spent $200 more to upgrade.  I wanted to run 64-bit but was denied.  So I have Vista Ultimate 32-bit.

    It is absolutely ridiculous that I paid $200 for a box marked as 32-bit / 64-bit Vista Ultimate Upgrade, but it can't upgrade 32-bit to 64-bit.

    Utter incompetence.  To read the instructions that tell me to remove my OS and install XP to upgrade is borderline humorous - if not insane.

    I am considering going to Apple over this, Microsoft has finally shown it's incompetence.

  • Hi Steve,

    If you run an upgrade version of Windows Vista over the top of your current version of Windows Vista, you will have to keep the architecture the same - It's impossible, regardless of whether it's Microsoft, Apple, or whoever, to upgrade from a 32-bit running OS, to a 64-bit OS - the only way to do it, is to format the box (after backing up), and installing the x64 version from boot up.

    If you want to chat more about this, email me using the contact option at the top of the blog.



  • Hi again Steve,

    Now, as I've said, if you want an x64 Vista platform, back up your current documents etc, and think about the instructions in this post:

    If you are going to follow the instructions, follow them closely.


  • I'm installing on newly built system. I had bought Vista Ultimate Upgrade 32/64 bit for my Vista Home Premium Laptop but haven't used it.

    Due to the warnings about not being able to use the upgrade to do a clean install I didn't use it on my new build and bought a WinXP Pro OEM for it (32 bit I believe) thinking I can do a clean install of XP Pro and later install the Vista Ultimate 64 bit upgrade on another partition or drive.

    Seems reasonable but will it work? (I have XP plain on the system I'm retiring and the original disc and key if useful - which was, perhaps, an Upgrade itself: Win98 to XP.)

    Michael 'theAstrologer'

  • Hi Mike,

    Thanks for the message.

    The problem is, you're going to install 32-bit XP on the system, on, say, C:\.  If you try and upgrade from this OS, from within Windows XP, you will only be able to upgrade to a 32-bit version of Vista, due to not being able to upgrade between architectures once inside Windows.

    If you want to keep the OS's on separate partitions, you'd have to boot from the Vista Upgrade DVD and use the details I've mentioned in the previous message to yours.

    Hope that helps,



  • Precise! You told me what I needed to know and I understand why now. Increased my confidence 100% too.


    Michael, 'theAstrologer'

    A struggling 'BeHereNow-ist'

  • I have hp notebook laptop dv600 with vista home premium 32 bit operating system with intel centrino duo processor t8100

    Will i be able to upgrade to the 64 bit  version?

    My laptop has only one primary dive of around 220 gb ,so will be able to intall the 64 bit version in the same drive without overwriting the other data?

    How can i get a dual boot option to select 32 or 64 bit os to load.

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