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I’ve received a few emails and blog comments from frustrated buyers of the Nik Software Complete Collection who have 64-bit Photoshop CS4 installed and were surprised when they only saw Viveza 2.0 loaded in the Nik Selective Tool (as shown above) when they started Photoshop. In case you missed it, Nik Software has a FAQ about their current and future 64-bit plans here as well as the system requirements for the complete collection here.
With that said, I apologize for not pointing out in my reviews that I am using the 32-bit versions of the products (most were written before I was using a 64-bit OS). I’d also like to point out that Adobe is aware that the transition period to move from 32 to 64-bit will take some time, so they have included both a 32-bit and 64-bit version of Photoshop (and both are installed by default). Personally I use the 32-bit version most of the time as a majority of my plug-ins (not just from Nik Software) are still 32-bit only, but if I have a big file I might do some initial processing in 32-bit and then do non plug-in related work in 64-bit Photoshop CS4 later.
Adobe Lightroom isn’t impacted by this problem as its plug-in model doesn’t allow for direct (in-process) integration, so it doesn’t care if your plug-in is 32-bit or 64-bit. This is why it is required to create separate TIF files (which most people hate) instead of working seamlessly in the history palette like the built-in features of Lightroom. Both models have their advantages and draw-backs, but personally I prefer the Photoshop CS4 model (despite its interim drawback).
In short, please be patient as the transition is being made by Nik Software and others to move their products to 64-bit as soon as possible. Some updates from select companies will come free as part of their current release, and others will require you to purchase a future version to get 64-bit support as there is development / testing cost involved with the transition. This policy will differ from company to company, so be sure to check the system requirements and ask if you are impacted.
I’m using 32-bit now, should I care about 64-bit?
For those who don’t know, I actually work in the Windows Server division at Microsoft so I’m very familiar with this topic. The same issues occurred in the past when we moved from 16-bit (Windows 3.x) to Windows 95 (which was part 16-bit and part 32-bit) or Windows NT 3.x+, and much worse problems occurred moving from DOS to Windows. As a result, there’s a good reason why I didn’t bother caring about 64-bit systems until December 2009 – it’s better to be on the legacy platform for as long as possible. My ONLY reason for upgrading was a hard drive crash, so I finally made the switch – but it also required me to toss out my existing RAM and buy all new RAM so I could get the minimum 8GB of RAM that I personally feel is necessary for a pleasant 64-bit experience (marketing and selected geeks will argue otherwise).
In short, I ONLY recommend you move to 64-bit Windows 7 (don’t bother with 64-bit Vista) if you are rebuilding your system (fresh OS install – for whatever reason) or if you are purchasing a new system. Recognize that the OS has a lot of great features to make the transition better now than in the past, but there will still be pain points (i.e., Canon & Nikon don’t have free drivers that allows me to see thumbnails of my RAW files like I could do in 32-bit). You may also find that some of your old hardware needs new 64-bit drivers, and because it is old they simply don’t (and probably won’t) exist.
But isn’t 64-bit Faster?
Install a fresh 32-bit OS (not from your computer manufacturer's disc, but from a Microsoft OS disc) and a clean install of Photoshop CS4 without any plug-ins and you’ll be amazed at how fast it is – without doing anything (same exact hardware). This occurs because all of those plug-ins that load when you start Photoshop slow it down (including its start time) and there’s lots of stuff that gets installed on your OS over time that slow it down as well. This coupled with disk fragmentation results in a slow performing, constipated-like, computer. A fresh install clears all of that up, so frequently those moving to 64-bit (which has a LOT less crap that runs on it) will sing its praises about how fast it is. The reality is that the biggest benefit is that you’ll have more addressable memory (if you install more – and again I say 8GB minimum), which helps Photoshop a bit. However, it won’t have all of your add-ins so you’ll find yourself back in 32-bit Photoshop like me in which case the performance is actually marginally slower in my opinion. This is the price of progress (i.e., no longer being limited to 4GB of RAM), so my two cents is that you shouldn’t expect miracles (again 64-bit lovers will send me hate mail about this). 64-bit will be great – in time – but for now the transition period is in place, so be patient. I think the holiday season of 2010 will be the time where the world fully embraces 64-bit, so it will rock then.
Fortunately RAM prices are coming down so I was able to pick up 8GB of RAM for about $250 for my Dell XPS 420 (which cost about $500 when I bought it). This will help with the transition, so as more users embrace it then expect to see a lot more native 64-bit products rolling out. In the meantime, don’t sweat having to run your 32-bit products in Windows 7 as it does a great job of handling them for most people (with a billion Windows users out there, there will always be some who have horrible experiences and who squeak loudly).
I don’t care, I want a refund
I know some people will just be pissed off that there is no native 64-bit support, and will insist on a refund. I contacted Nik Software about this subject and they reminded me that they have a 30-day money back guarantee, so if you aren’t satisfied they’ll be happy to work with you. However, I would encourage you to try the 32-bit support before you reach this conclusion as I think you may find that the experience is very good (after all, it wasn’t long ago where there were very few people running 64-bit with virtually no native 64-bit apps). Even for products that have native 64-bit support, I find myself rarely using that version as many of my favorite plug-ins are 32-bit only anyway, so there’s little point.
Again, my apologies for the confusion and moving forward I will try to note 64-bit support in my articles.
The comments in this article are MY PERSONAL OPINION alone and do not represent the official opinion, policy, position, etc… of Microsoft Corporation, Nik Software, or any other company. Please contact the appropriate third parties directly as their policies may change without notice and their position may differ from what I’ve stated in the future.