Microsoft Enables Support for Intel’s 64-bit Chips

Windows XP Gains Extended Memory 64 Technology

by Anton Shilov
08/19/2004 | 11:06 AM

Microsoft Corporation has released a yet another beta version of Window XP operating system for x86-64 processors with enabled support for Intel’s flavour of 64-bit processing within x86 architecture.


Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Now Runs on Intel Systems

Earlier beta version of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition could not be installed on Intel Pentium 4 and Intel Xeon-based systems, as Microsoft only tested its forthcoming operating system with AMD’s Athlon 64 and Opteron microprocessors.

While AMD and Intel’s processors with 64-bit extensions are generally compatible, some capabilities of the chips are not equal. For example, AMD sports 3DNow! instructions, while Intel sports Hyper-Threading technology. Furthermore, chips may handle different instructions in different way, therefore, Microsoft will need to do some additional work in order to ensure flawless compatibility with Intel’s microprocessors.

Intel and Microsoft have promised that the final versions of both Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit extended systems will run on Xeon and Opteron servers without any hitches, according to the report. Currently Microsoft is working on another beta version of Windows XP 64-bit that will be compatible with Intel’s chips.

64-bit Windows Still Far Away

Microsoft originally planned to release its operating systems for computers powered by x86 processors with 64-bit capability in late 2003 or early 2004. However, in mid-October 2003 the world’s largest software maker said it would only be in a position to ship the new products only in Q4 2004.

“Microsoft wants to allow sufficient time for tuning and testing of [Windows Server 2003] SP1 and x[86-]64, particularly for the server-relevant security enhancements from Windows XP SP2, which is due to release to manufacturing in August,” the spokeswoman for Microsoft said earlier this year.

Currently Microsoft offers beta versions of its operating systems for 64-bit Extended Systems to those who want to preview capabilities of the new software. However, publicly available beta versions of Windows for x86-64 computers cannot be installed on systems based on Intel’s x86-64 processors, it was recently discovered.

Transition to 64-bit Inevitable

“The shift to 64-bit computing on the desktop is nearly here… This is going to be a really wonderful transition,” Bill Gates promised during an hour-long talk at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in Seattle earlier this year.

Right now the software giant is making tremendous efforts to convince hardware manufacturers to develop drivers for forthcoming 64-bit operating systems for desktops. The necessity for the move is very high, as with no drivers for the majority of hardware, personal computers with 64-bit processors with 64-bit OS will not become popular among end-users.

Microsoft Corporation is projected to deliver a version of Windows XP for 64-bit x86 processors by the end of the year and it means that at least some hardware used in personal computers should function properly with such operating system.

Microsoft and its products have historically been a major driving force for technology progress. In the past, the new versions of the company’s operating systems encouraged customers to switch to newer hardware, including Pentium 4 processors from Intel. But as Intel keeps away from desktop 64-bit chips right now, its arch-rival AMD is gaining momentum with its Athlon 64 and Opteron processors for mobile, desktop and server applications that can work in both 32-bit and 64-bit modes.

By the end of next year nearly all CPUs from Advanced Micro Devices will be 64-bit capable, according to estimations. With hundreds of thousands and millions of AMD64 chips shipped in 2003 and to be supplied in 2004 respectively, there is a huge target market for Microsoft’s new operating systems that take advantage of the x86-64 technology.

Intel promised to deliver its desktop processors with 64-bit capabilities when there is a right infrastructure to support such chips, e.g. operating system and enough drivers for various types of hardware. With Windows XP for 64-bit desktop machines coming in 2005, Intel should address the emerging market.