A Messy Transition (Part 3): Vista Buys Some Timeby Ryan Smith on August 13, 2007 3:00 PM EST
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Having seen the results of the hotfix, we can unequivocally say that anyone doing serious gaming under Windows Vista should install the hotfix (and the latest drivers for their video card) at the first chance they get. It's not a solution to the 2GB barrier, but it is a solution to Vista's extreme virtual address space usage. For gamers who are or may be experiencing crashes related to the 2GB barrier, and who are weary of the fixes we outlined in part 1, this is the best solution to resolving the problem for now.
We'd like to pause on "for now" though, as in spite of our enthusiasm for this hotfix we can't ignore the fact that this is a fix to take care of what we feel was a stupid problem in Vista long-overdue for a solution, but that's it. This hotfix won't resolve the 2GB barrier; at best it buys some more time for the 32-bit (x86) version of Vista, and at worse it's no better for applications that don't make heavy use of video memory. The 2GB barrier is still the imposing problem this series is all about, and dealing with it won't be any easier, but with this hotfix at least status quo is (nearly) maintained a bit longer.
As for what can be done to deal with the forthcoming messy transition, our views are still those that we started with at the beginning of this series. There are many interim solutions, but the only real solution is moving to 64-bit operating systems with 64-bit applications. Due to the overhead involved with such a transition we fear that this process may get a late start and won't be complete for a few years, while in the meantime users will still be dealing with the kind of crashing and odd behavior that results from hitting the 2GB barrier. Making the best of this messy transition will require some work from everyone from developers to users, if everyone is willing to put in the effort and deal with the problems.
It's worth noting that Microsoft's own solution for the issue is the same as ours, although slightly more forceful and we suspect slightly more profit-motivated (Windows XP users will have to pay to upgrade to Vista x64):
The long-term solution to this virtual address space problem is 64-bit hardware, which has significantly more address space. Windows Vista X64 provides 8 TB (8,096 GB) of user-mode virtual address space to native 64-bit applications. This is large enough to allow growth on both video memory configurations and application memory usage for many years.
Independent software vendors (ISVs) are strongly encouraged to port their games to native 64-bit applications. All graphics independent hardware vendors (IHVs) already make WDDM drivers available for 64-bit platforms at the same time as x86. Microsoft provides several tools that enable ISVs and IHVs to port their applications and drivers to the 64-bit platform. The Windows Logo Program requires that all third-part device drivers that are logo'd for Windows Vista comply with the 64-bit requirements.