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Not using 64-bit Vista yet? You should…

It’s time. The perfect storm has finally come together to move to 64-bit Windows computing. For a long time, people have asked about 64-bit Windows XP, and I’ve never given it the thumbs-up. There were too many driver issues with it, and it was never widely adopted. Microsoft used Vista as the official crossover point from 32-bit to 64-bit, and it shows in the amount of drivers that are available for it.

You may not be aware of it, but there have been several changes made to After Effects and Premiere Pro CS4 that make switching to 64-bit Windows a really good idea. Both applications can definitely take advantage of more RAM, and the only way to use more than 4**GB is to switch to 64-bit. For example, Premiere Pro CS4 will automatically use the additional RAM in a 64-bit system by making copies of itself in memory for every 4GB your timeline needs. With RAM as cheap as it is, getting 16GB or even more is an easy way of boosting performance in Premiere Pro. But you have to be running 64-bit to do it.

Now, before you get started upgrading, make sure your system has 64-bit drivers available for it. The one disadvantage of 64-bit Windows is finding drivers. Specific Vista 64-bit drivers are necessary in order to run your hardware – the regular 32-bit drivers won’t work. My home system uses an ASUS motherboard, and a quick check of the ASUS support site shows a full set of 64-bit drivers for my motherboard.

Also, make sure your copy of Vista has SP1 installed. Service Pack 1 is required for CS4, and you really don’t want to be running Vista without it. Most of the posts out there complaining about Vista instability were written prior to SP1, so keep that in mind.

Once you have everything in place – 64-bit Vista running, drivers installed, CS4 installed, here are some tips to maximize performance:

* For Premiere Pro, you don’t have to do much of anything. Just make sure you’ve upgraded to 4.01, since some of these changes were added in the free incremental update. Premiere Pro will now utilize more than 4GB of RAM in the system by making multiple instances of itself each time 4GB has been used.

* For After Effects, you’ll want to go into the Preferences – Memory & Multiprocessing panel, and adjust the amount of memory per core. AE will also instance itself, but it does this per CPU core, and each core can utilize 4GB.

Here are a couple of good resources for understanding how AE uses RAM:



(Thanks, Todd, for the links!)

For those Mac users still reading, both of these features are in the Mac version, so you don’t need to do anything special to use more than 4GB of RAM.

**4GB is the theoretical maximum under 32-bit Windows, but many applications won’t be able to use all 4GB of RAM due to OS overhead. For example, After Effects can usually only access 2GB of RAM in 32-bit Windows. There’s a hack to enable up to 3GB, but that’s the maximum. (Hack info is in the links above, if anyone needs it.)

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