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64-Bit Processing

Many people anticipate huge performance gains from the newer CPUs that can process 64 bits of data at a time, compared to the 32-bit CPUs that were in use for years. Sounds twice as fast, right? Well, not automatically. To get the most out of a 64-bit CPU, you also need to have the following:

A 64-bit Operating System. For example, it isn’t enough to have Windows 7; you need the 64-bit version of Windows 7. (Photoshop CS5 doesn’t officially support 64-bit Windows XP.) In Mac OS X, you’ll want to use Mac OS X 10.6 for the best support of 64-bit capabilities.

Tip

If you have trouble running a plug-in in Photoshop CS5 in Mac OS X, see if the plug-in is a 32-bit version. If it is, contact the developer for an updated version. You may be able to run the plug-in by switching Photoshop CS5 to 32-bit mode: In the Finder, select the Adobe Photoshop application icon, choose File > Get Info, and select the Open in 32-Bit Mode check box. Just keep in mind that if you do this, you don’t get the benefits of working in 64-bit mode.


Well Over 4 GB of RAM. One of the biggest benefits of 64-bit computing is that Photoshop can directly use more than the roughly 3 GB of RAM that it can use under 32-bit computing. If this appeals to you, don’t upgrade to just 4 GB or you won’t see much difference. Aim for 8 GB to start, and go higher if your files are big enough to need it.

In 64-bit Windows 7, the edition you use determines the maximum amount of RAM the system recognizes, ranging from the 8 GB supported by the Home Basic edition to the 192 GB limit of the Ultimate edition.

Really Big Files. The ability of a 64-bit processor to directly address much more RAM speeds up the processing of very large files. If you work with Photoshop files that are over 1 GB in size, you should see major performance gains from 64-bit Photoshop. But if you mainly make simple edits to 5-megapixel JPEG camera files without using many layers, masks, or Smart Objects, 64-bit Photoshop probably won’t feel much faster.

Tip

If you used the Bigger Tiles plug-in in Photoshop CS4, you don’t need it in Photoshop CS5. You can now control Tile Size using the Cache Tile Size option in the Performance pane of the Preferences dialog.


Choosing 64-bit over 32-bit computing is like driving a 64-passenger bus instead of a 32-passenger bus. The 64-passenger bus can potentially move twice as many people in a single trip. But if you rarely carry that many people, the 64-passenger bus is no faster than the 32-passenger bus, and because it’s bigger, it may actually cost you a bit more in overhead when it isn’t being used to capacity. A 64-bit system can potentially be slower than 32-bit when editing small files or when not much RAM is installed.


  

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