Best Free Windows 64-bit Software - Page Index
8. Internet and eMail
Now is a good time to try a 64-bit browser. Just don't get rid of your 32-bit browser until you are sure that you can do without it.
The main roadblocks to using 64-bit browsers have either been removed or are coming down:
- the software is much more stable and delivers noticeable improvements in performance;
- many add-ons are available
some plug-ins are now available for download in 64-bit versions:
- Adobe's Flash Player
- Sun's Java Runtime Environment for Firefox and Internet Explorer
- Microsoft Silverlight 5 RC Developer Runtime (x64) for Windows
- is a beta version.
- PDF-XChange Viewer is included when you install that product.
- There is now a real choice with four 64-bit Internet Explore, Mozilla Firefox and the Firefox-derived Pale Moon and Waterfox.
Windows 7 64-bit and Vista 64-bit include both the 32 and 64-bit versions of Internet Explorer, version 8 in the case of Windows 7. The 32-bit versions of Firefox, Google Chrome, and Opera also work without a hitch under both operating systems.
For a few months I have used both Internet Explorer and Firefox. I rate them similarly to the 32-bit versions (see Best Free Web Browser): Firefox first with Internet Explorer somewhere behind. Your preference is likely to be determined by whether you already use either 32-bit version. Both are smoother and faster than the 32-bit versions when running on 64-bit Windows but they may not be faster than 32-bit versions running on 32-bit Windows. The issues are the same for both, they use more memory and they may not be able to run your favourite 32-bit add-on or plug-in.
Pale Moon is a fast version of Firefox optimized to run on newer hardware. It is now my 64-bit browser since Adobe updated their Flash Player to fix stuttering video.
Speed is increased by optimizing the compiled program through removing support for older processors, utilising the features of newer processors, and configuring some features differently. The main difference you will notice is that the user interface is slightly different retaining some of the older placements.
Compatibility is maintained by using only 'unmodified Firefox code' but removing some 'less useful' features which don't affect the ability to display web pages correctly. Useful features that are removed are: accessibility features - if you need them you won't want this browser; and parental controls - see Best Free Internet Safety Check which describes how parental controls improve browsing safety. You will also lose crash support because Pale Moon does not have the same infrastructure as Firefox.
Pale Moon installation was easy but a separate utility has to be downloaded to migrate my Firefox settings. One benefit of 100% Firefox source code is that I can use Firefox Sync which synchronizes Firefox history, bookmarks, etc on different platforms. I'm using it to synchronize 32-bit Firefox, 64-bit Firefox and 64-bit Pale Moon so I don't lose any of my work while I'm evaluating them.
Waterfox, like Pale Moon, is an optimized 64-bit version of Firefox that doesn't remove major components. It appears to be faster than Pale Moon but has one annoying feature:"Waterfox uses the same profile that Firefox does. If you uninstall Waterfox make sure you don't have the remove personal data box ticked!".
My transition from Firefox 32-bit to 64-bit was trouble-free. Firefox transferred all my bookmarks and settings correctly. It also checked all add-ons for compatibility and disabled the one that wasn't. Each time I start Firefox it asks me if it should check so I turned that off. I still have the 32-bit version installed but it won't load if the 64-bit version is already running. This is useful if, as I do, you inadvertantly click on the 32-bit icon.
The only problems I have with Firefox is that I couldn't find a 64-bit download for release versions 7 or 8 so I'm using Nightly build 10.0a1. This is a 64-bit version which is automatically converted from the latest 32-bit version. When you go to download it you will be advised that it is only for testing purposes but it has caused me no problems at all apart from having to reenable my add-ons.
While Internet Explorer 64-bit is a useful browser, I stopped using it because it has had more problems with the websites I rely upon and work on. Even so, I enjoyed using it as it was also noticeably smoother and faster than the 32-bit version.
As yet I have no recommended 64-bit email client so refer to our Best Free Email Client article.
- Windows 7 does not include an email client so the only released 64-bit email client is Windows Mail, included with Vista 64.
- Thunderbird is another option but there is no production release even though 64-bit Thunderbird 7 has an unofficial release. Unfortunately, moving from your existing email client to 64-bit Thunderbird 3 can be quite a challenge. Users moving from Thunderbird 2 under Windows 7 and Vista 64 will need to use two third party freeware products, MozBackup and MailStore Home. Migration from Outlook is relatively simple under Vista 64 using the import function. This approach doesn't work under Windows 7 due to changes in the registration of MAPI entries which no one appears to want to acknowledge or address.