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Windows 7: Good/Bad of using Program Files (x86) vs Program Files

04 Sep 2009   #1
raymm

Windows 7 X64
 
 
Good/Bad of using Program Files (x86) vs Program Files

Good/Bad of using Program Files (x86) vs Program Files

How do I know what to put where?
How do I knw if a program is x86 or 64?
Running Win7 64



My System SpecsSystem Spec
.
04 Sep 2009   #2
Antman

 

64-bit software will (should, if the installer is correctly written) automatically install to Program Files.

32-bit software will (should, if the installer is correctly written) automatically install to Program Files (x86).

If in doubt, use Program Files (x86).
My System SpecsSystem Spec
04 Sep 2009   #3
Dwarf

Windows 8.1 Pro RTM x64
 
 

Hi raymm and welcome to Windows 7 Forums

As you have pointed out, the 64-bit versions of W7 have 2 Program Files folders - the standard one, where 64-bit compatible programs are installed, and the one with the (x86) suffix where 32-bit programs are stored.

If you are just simply installing programs, either from their media or from a download, then you don't need to worry about which directory they will get installed to as this is taken care of for you.

Generally speaking, unless a program specifically mentions 64-bit then it will be installed in the (x86) folder. Note that some programs do not install in either folder; instead they create and use their own.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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06 Mar 2010   #4
raymm

Windows 7 X64
 
 

Ok, thanks for above.
When installing, the program usually asks what directory to install into, and, as explained above, suggests Program Files (x86) or Program Files, depending on info provided by software being installed.

Putting some software into Program Files (x86) and some into Program Files means I have to search 2 directories to find programs.

In addition, I try to install programs files to my D: drive (a separate physical drive) so if I have to reinstall Windows from an image, I have at least some programs that remain installed after the restore.

So I have four directories to search to find programs.

What if I just installed everything (32 and 64 bit programs) into Program Files, rather than some into Program Files (x86) and some into Program Files.

Does it really matter if a program is in Program Files (x86) or in Program Files?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 May 2011   #5
PackersFTW

Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit
 
 

I would like to know the answer to the above post as well. Does it matter which I install to? Why can't they all just be installed to one folder? Is it just for organizational sake, or does it actually matter?

Also, I just had a program that wouldn't work when installed to either folder, and instead I had to install under C:, which makes me wonder, what are all the other folders, 64 or 32? If it matters so much which Program Files folder you install to, then surely every non Program Files folder must be only 32 or 64, right? So that means if every other folder is 64 let's say, then the only place on the entire computer where 32 bit programs will run is the Program Files x86 folder.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 May 2011   #6
Britton30
Microsoft MVP

Windows 7 Ultimate X64 SP1
 
 

When the software gives a folder to install to, let it do that. As Dwarf points out it will go where it needs to be.
As for having to "search" for programs, right click on it's shortcut and pin to Start Menu or Task Bar whichever is convenient for you. this way you will have quick, easy access to it.
Windows 7 search is capable of finding it wherever it is.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 May 2011   #7
James Colbert

 
 

Just to throw a little confusion into the thread ( ), I install all my apps (32 bit and 64 bit) to a partition named "Apps" (with the exception of some, such as AV, etc.). The path is generall H:\AppName. I never have any compatibility issues. I run Win7u 64 bit and various flavors of Win7 32 bit.

James
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22 May 2011   #8
PackersFTW

Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Britton30 View Post
When the software gives a folder to install to, let it do that. As Dwarf points out it will go where it needs to be.
As for having to "search" for programs, right click on it's shortcut and pin to Start Menu or Task Bar whichever is convenient for you. this way you will have quick, easy access to it.
Windows 7 search is capable of finding it wherever it is.
It says to install it to C:, and I found out the program won't work properly otherwise. I was told the installer is 32, but the program is 64, so it can't go in either PF folder.

So I want to know, what are the non PF folders? How is C:, for instance, different from the PF folders? Why did that program work there?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
22 May 2011   #9
dsperber

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by PackersFTW View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Britton30 View Post
When the software gives a folder to install to, let it do that. As Dwarf points out it will go where it needs to be.
As for having to "search" for programs, right click on it's shortcut and pin to Start Menu or Task Bar whichever is convenient for you. this way you will have quick, easy access to it.
Windows 7 search is capable of finding it wherever it is.
You can also right-click on the program object (in Windows Explorer, for example) and then select "Send to... Desktop (create shortcut)". Now you don't need to search at all to run a program, because it's on your desktop. You can of course then rename the desktop shortcut if you want to anything else, since it's just renaming that shortcut, not the original program object itself.

Furthermore, you can then PIN that desktop shortcut to the taskbar or start menu, for quick access. Again, this avoids having to search anything to run a program.

And of course, once the desktop shortcut for it gets pinned to the Start Menu or Taskbar, you now really no longer need it on the desktop as well... unless you want it there as a duplicate. But (a) the taskbar will provide true single-click launching of the program (really, just like the Quick Launch bar of WinXP), (b) the start menu provides fairly direct and organized launching of the program (assuming you organize your Start Menu into high-level folders and then move the "raw" folders put there by installers into the hight-level organizational folders), and (c) the desktop shortcut requires a double-click to launch. Up to you.

Personally, since moving to Win7 I've tried to keep my desktop program objects to a minimum, preferring to pin the several dozen I use regularly to a double-high taskbar using small icons. Everything is, of course, "organized" into a high-level menu structure on the Start Menu, because I can't stand multiple columns of first-level folders for software products that spread out across my entire screen (as they used to in Win98 and WinXP) or otherwise make themselves inconvenient to locate even if they're now automatically alphabetical (since Win7 now handles it as a huge scrollable list of Start Menu folders, which is just as clumsy to navigate through although it looks a bit more organized).

For example:






Quote:
It says to install it to C:, and I found out the program won't work properly otherwise. I was told the installer is 32, but the program is 64, so it can't go in either PF folder.
This is probably a residual from a very old original installer approach taken by that product when it was 16-bit DOS and FAT files structures, before before FAT32 when the era of "long file names" arrived.

The problem is not one of Win7, it is one of the software product and its design and implementation. I assure you, your observed restriction where the program folder HAS to go into the root of C rather than under one of the two flavors of \Program Files or \Program Files (x86), well that's the fault of the application program... not Win7.


Quote:
So I want to know, what are the non PF folders? How is C:, for instance, different from the PF folders? Why did that program work there?
Again, not a Win7 issue. It's an application program fault... take it up with the vendor (assuming it's not a 10-year old legacy program, but rather is "current" and actually maintained by the author).

As far as \Program Files vs. \Program Files (x86) on C, and as far as putting a second pair onto a second drive (so that you now have 4 folders), in my experience there is really no difference in the first two. They are BOTH in the PATH variable (e.g. if you use a DOS-like launching method of Start -> Run, rather than using a program/shortcut which is obviously MUCH easier and more convenient), so a program of any kind (32-bit of 64-bit) will be found an executed just fine from either location when Start -> Run is used.

If you have both 32-bit and 64-bit versions that both work, on a 64-bit system you would prefer to run the 64-bit version of the program. That will happen automatically because \Program Files (where the 64-bit programs get installed if the author packaged the installer file correctly) occurs EARLIER ON PATH. Searching of \Program Files (x86) will occur LATER ON PATH, so the 64-bit version will be used if both exist.

But EITHER will work, because BOTH are on the system PATH variable. And of course launching a program from a shortcut object is far and away the absolutely most convenient method, topped by the Taskbar shortcut which is a true single-click launch.

If you want to create your own "private" off-C version of an executable location for installed programs (say on D), I would suggest only making one, not two. There's really nothing magic about either of the names... only how a well-written installer script will create the program file directory by default, and in fact whether or not it will in fact put everything it installs on D or whether some "straggler" pieces will actually get installed onto the C-version anyway, because of sloppily written installer script.

Now is you want to make the programs installed onto your D-version "target" folder be accessible through Start -> Run as easily as those installed in your C-version are, you would need to add your D-version(s) of \Program Files to the PATH environment variable.


Otherwise, there is really no difference between \Program Files and \Program Files (x86) other than to support old poorly-written installer files, when everything was either 16-bit or 32-bit. This is simply an implementation approach to differentiate 32-bit from 64-bit, but programs of either flavor placed in either directory WILL STILL RUN JUST FINE.

Using program objects or shortcuts to program objects, this is the "modern" way to launch programs. And having the object/shortcuts pinned to the Taskbar or Start Menu, or sent to the Desktop... that's the most convenient way to organize and utilize program objects for easy launching.

There is no reason to "search" anything to launch a program you use frequently. Simplify your life and create a launchable shortcut somewhere.

Also, you should enable "RUN" (like it used to be on the WinXP Start Menu) to appear on the Start Menu popup (see my screenshot above), which for some reason is NOT enabled by default in Win7. Personally, I couldn't live without it.


That's just my opinion.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 May 2011   #10
PackersFTW

Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit
 
 

"But EITHER will work, because BOTH are on the system PATH variable. And of course launching a program from a shortcut object is far and away the absolutely most convenient method, topped by the Taskbar shortcut which is a true single-click launch."

This is exactly what I thought. And yes the program is very old, a video poker program that is 10+ years old. I like to install everything into PF, and then like you said I put the shortcuts wherever I want. I am noticing a lot of confusion when Googling, with people who are answering these questions seemingly thinking incorrect things about the OP. I am simply curious about how it works, I'm not saying I need to be able to do this or that. I just wanted to know why it matters where you install it, let alone a program actually not working in PF or PF (x86), but rather only in C:\. I still don't understand, but such is computers.
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 Good/Bad of using Program Files (x86) vs Program Files




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