Thursday, January 17, 2008

No 64-bit Windows for Dell

In my ongoing search for a new laptop, my current thought is to purchase the latest Dell Latitude, a D830. I was quite pleased with my previous Latitude C810, and the D830 seems to meet all my current requirements. My one outstanding concern is Dell's apparent policy to stick away from 64-bit Windows, either XP or Vista.

The only real disadvantages to running a 64-bit version of Windows are finding appropriate drivers, and possible incompatibilities with older software. A MSDN blogger recently describes installing 64-bit Vista on a Dell Latitude D830 without any noted issues: "I thought this would be painful and full of compromises but so far, my experience has been good." The advantages include being able to efficiently use all available RAM, up to 4GB and above.

The problem is that it seems Dell simply doesn't support the 64-bit versions on anything other than their Precision line of laptops. Configuring an M6300 to be roughly equivalent to a D830 seems to involve at least $1,000 added to the price tag, without any real advances in features or functionality.

Hewlett-Packard doesn't seem to have a problem here. Several of HP's Pavilion and Compaq notebooks are offered with either 32- or 64-bit Windows Vista preinstalled.

My biggest complaint is that I'd consider buying a notebook without any operating software or other software preinstalled. I could either put Linux on it, transfer over my existing Windows XP, or if I so decided, buy my desired version of Vista. However, Dell requires all of their computers to be shipped with an operating system preinstalled, and on this model, it must be Windows, and not a 64-bit version.

If I'm going to be forced to purchase a version of Windows with a new laptop, it should be the version I want, and the version that fully supports the hardware I'm purchasing.

Additionally, if a copy of 32-bit Vista were purchased through retail, Microsoft provides an option to upgrade to 64-bit for only a minimal processing fee. Additionally, if the Ultimate edition is purchased, the box already includes both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Unfortunately, this upgrade path is not honored for OEM distributions, such as those installed by Dell.

I'm not the only one facing this dilemma, as a quick search reveals many others having the same issue with Dell. A few selections:

Update (2008-11-04):

Though there still appear to many of the same related issues with purchasing a 64-bit version of Windows Vista in Dell's online ordering, the situation appears to be improving. I just purchased a Dell Latitude E6500. It does offer 64-bit Vista, but only in the Business edition. However, according to this thread on Dell's forums, the 64-bit versions can be obtained by contacting Dell Support. If there are any issues, have the sales representative refer to "DSN Document ID: 158098 (Operating System Changes and Operating System Swaps - Dell Global Policy)", 5th bullet under policy, 1st sub-bullet.

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