Installing a Windows 64-bit OS on a system with a Windows 32-bit OS

Yeah the title is a bit rubbish but it sort of makes sense.  (This post talks mostly about Vista, however doing this on XP is not too dissimilar I reckon.)

Anyway, this applies to people with computers (PCs or Laptops) with a Windows operating system preinstalled, and with an OEM sticker on their system with a product key.


You can always check with them though (although I bet they won’t understand what you are going to do).  Oh and you should check with them anyway to see if they can provide you with any discs and such to help you out.

When reinstalling an OS with the OEM product key you will encounter a problem activating it, because it’s an OEM key activated by the manufacturer.  Recovery CD’s and certain prebuilt Windows OEM discs will automatically resolve this issue when they install.

Right, onto the topic at hand.  You have a 32-bit windows OS and you want to install a 64-bit OS instead.  Things you will need if installing a 64-bit version of Vista:

1) A 64-bit version of Windows Vista on DVD (retail versions work best for this).  Or a Vista Anytime upgrade DVD (this needs to be 64-bit).

2) A program called ABR (available from here, you want the .EXE file as I had trouble with the .ZIP one)

3) A USB Memory key.

4) The original discs you got with your system.  Driver CDs, Windows Disc or Recovery Disc [In case this all goes wrong]

5) A backup of your data.

If you have all these then you can begin.  Now I’ll be honest there are other guides out there for this, so feel free to hunt around.

This is a good read before we start (or you can follow those instructions)

The differences between that guide and what you are going to do are small, rather than reinstalling your 32-bit OS, you will be installing a 64-bit OS.

With regards to 64-bit installation discs, they are not the easiest things to obtain, especially since you have an OEM version from a manufacturer.  I will not say how to obtain it since they are technically a sketchy area, however obtain one as you see fit.  Personally I feel that you paid for the OS with your system, so whether you have a 32-bit or 64-bit version is irrelevant, they are one and the same, so you getting hold of a 64-bit disc via piracy for example, doesn’t make it wrong. [NOTE: THIS IS MY OPINION.  I am not saying piracy is a good thing, it’s just that both versions of windows Vista 32-bit or 64-bit cost the same, so why should you have to pay again when you already paid once? It’s not like you haven’t got the license which is what you really pay for.]

Step 1: IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY then backup anything you want to keep.  Also it is a good idea at this time to note down the names and manufacturers of your system devices using device manager (e.g. sound device, GFX card, chipset [if you can find it otherwise don’t worry I’ll cover it later])  Screen dump the device manager window if possible, and put the image on your USB stick, this will help later.

Step 2: download and extract the ABR program.  Then copy it in a folder to your USB memory key.  Now from the memory key run “activation_backup.exe”, which will produce two files within that folder.

  • backup-cert.xrm-ms: Backed up activation
  • backup-key.txt: Backed-up product key

now unplug your USB key.

Step 3: Here is where you will install Windows Vista 64-bit.  Put the Vista 64-bit disc in your computer, then restart.  You may have to push a key to get a boot device selection screen, or it may boot from DVD automatically although you will be prompted to boot from the disc.  The Vista setup is pretty straightforward, however a few things to note!

i) Do not enter a product key.  Untick the activate box.  Confirm that you do not want to enter a product key.

ii) If it asks you to select a windows version then select the one you have (when I carried this out on a system, I wasn’t asked this question)

iii) You have to choose custom (advanced) installation.

Now is a good time to repartition the drive, since many manufacturers partition them for no good reason (it harms disc performance).  NOTE: partitions on a disc vary, so be sure you know what you are deleting.  Sometimes there is a small unknown partition (or maybe even 2) one is EISA (I think) KEEP IT, since it’s either a recovery partition or diagnostic partition (I don’t agree with recovery partitions), if you are sure it’s just a recovery partition then you can remove it, otherwise leave it be.  You will probably then have either 1 large partition or 2 partitions of good size (depending on whether you had a C drive or a C and D drive in Windows.  [I’ve made this sound more complex than it is so sorry for that].

Basically you want just one large partition (or 1 large partition with the recovery partition if you keep it).  You need to format the large partition before use.

iv) Install windows to the large partition.

Step 4: When installed Windows vista will boot, now the first thing to do is to restore your activation information.  Plug your USB key back into the system, navigate to the folder with ABR in.  Run “activation_restore.exe”.  When complete restart.

Step 5: When in Windows again right click on computer (in the start menu) and click properties.  Now, it should say ‘System type: 64-bit Operating System’ and under Windows activation ‘Windows is activated’ and a product ID.

Step 6: Perhaps the most annoying step.  Installing drivers and system software.  If you have a system driver disc that is a good starting point.  You may have to look through it manually for the 64-bit drivers, or it may handle them automatically, try it and see.  If you have no luck, then go online to your manufacturers website and look for 64-bit drivers for your system.  That should help you no end.  If you are unlucky and cannot get them from your system manufacturer then you need to obtain them from the device manufacturer, which is sometimes not possible.

If hunting for drivers manually

Firstly let’s deal with the chipset, now if you know it then it’s not too hard, but if you don’t then use CPU-Z to find out (here) and it’s under mainboard chipset.  Take that information to the chipset manufacturer’s website and obtain generic drivers from them.  Graphics Chip/Card drivers are done in the same way, if you are not sure what you have then hunt though your system manufacturers site for information on your system.

Most other device drivers can be found in similar ways.

Now, I hope that covers everything.  If not do leave a comment and I’ll adjust this as required.  Now I have carried this out on a friend’s system, a Samsung laptop.  That was not a 100% success, since Samsung don’t have any 64-bit drivers, nor will they anytime soon it would seem.  However core functionality is working, and the system is fine, just certain hotkeys and fuctions are not available, I’ll probably fix that sometime soon though.  I have no reason to upgrade my current system (my Vostro) to 64-bit since I only have 2Gb of RAM although you may want to check here for a little rant about the 32-bit/64-bit thing here, which stemmed from me working on my friends laptop.

~ by Jon on January 31, 2009.

One Response to “Installing a Windows 64-bit OS on a system with a Windows 32-bit OS”

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