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64 bit firefoxToday’s browsers are constantly trying to improve and beat their competition. This ranges from behind-the-scenes changes to improved speed or standards support, user interface changes for a cleaner look, or even the addition of entirely new features.

However, the developers of all those browsers haven’t been very active (or successful) in one type of improvement that could potentially bring some massive results: going from 32-bit to 64-bit.

Why 64-bit?

Why is going from 32-bit to 64-bit an important step? Virtually all computers that you can find today are capable of running 64-bit operating systems. 64-bit operating systems enable you to use more than 3.25 GB of RAM, and increase the performance of your system in certain cases.

Memory management is also improved in 64-bit systems. In order to make use of this 64-bit capability, not only does the operating system need to be compiled for 64-bit machines, but the individual applications need to be as well. While 64-bit operating systems are capable of running 32-bit software (this is mainly the case for Windows; on other operating systems such as Mac OS X and Linux, it’s also possible but highly frowned upon), you won’t get the benefits that 64-bit software would provide.

The Windows 64-bit Situation

64 bit firefox
On Windows, there are no official 64-bit builds of any browser except Internet Explorer. Even then, IE is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors in order to be more compatible with plugins, which back then were primarily 32-bit only. However, the major plugins are now available in the 64-bit flavor, so browsers now have some motivation to crank out some 64-bit builds of their own. This seems to be taking a while though with a number of hurdles to overcome.

Firefox has finally come out with a 64-bit nightly, but it’s nowhere near ready to be called stable. Instead, the developers of the Waterfox project have been working hard to get an unofficial build of 64-bit Firefox out and making it fast. While Waterfox began as an unofficial project, Mozilla is now supporting it and may start incorporating it sometime in the future to release official, stable builds of 64-bit Firefox.

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As you can see in the screenshot above, Waterfox beats Chrome in the SunSpider benchmark, whereas Chrome usually beats regular Firefox.

Downloading and Installing

Getting and installing Waterfox is just as easy as with Firefox. Simply head over to their website’s download page, and scroll a little down to get the latest version. The page also states that you need to have the Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable Package (x64) installed, but this is not an issue for Windows 7 64-bit users, but rather for those on previous Windows 64-bit versions. Additionally, the page lists links to the 64-bit version of the most common plugins so that you can have a smooth Web experience with your new 64-bit browser.

Easy Transition

64 bit firefox
Waterfox is also very helpful when transitioning from regular Firefox because it uses the same Firefox profile as the 32-bit flavor. Therefore, any passwords, history, preferences, and add-ons that have been installed in regular Firefox will be instantly available upon first launch of Waterfox. As that implies, all add-ons made for regular Firefox also work 100% in Waterfox. The amount of work necessary to switch to the 64-bit Firefox browser is pretty minimal. To review, all you need to do is the following:

  • Install Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable Package (x64) if necessary
  • Install 64-bit version of plugins if not already done
  • Install Waterfox

Conclusion

Waterfox really is a great browser, making the Firefox we all know (and some of us love) a little faster and happier in its 64-bit environment. Mac OS X and Linux users don’t need to be too jealous that Waterfox is a Windows-only project, as those two operating systems have had official 64-bit builds of all major browsers for a relatively long amount of time.

What do you think about this project? Is there something you’d like to add about 64-bit systems? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Wiseowl56
    July 6, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Waterfox makes my Telstra 4g wireless usb freeze the computer when using the wireless with IE it doesnt freeze any one else had this problem. Sierra Wireless 4G

    • Danny Stieben
      July 7, 2012 at 6:56 am

      That's really strange...I wouldn't think that just because it's 64-bit that it would freeze up devices/drivers.

  2. Dwight Stegall
    June 16, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I have been using Waterfox for a few weeks now and have noticed a significant increase in speed. I just wish it were updated faster.

  3. wonwin
    February 20, 2012 at 3:02 am

    Currently I am using an opera labs build 64 bit, although I have used both waterfox and chrome.  The opera labs 64 bit build is the only 64 bit browser that is able to use the 32 bit plugins as well as the 64 bit plugins although it is not an opera release at this point.

  4. Kerry_four
    February 10, 2012 at 5:55 am

    Seek Tall lovers on -- Tall mingle.???  --, a nice club for tall people to date.

  5. Alavhar
    February 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    To keep it simple... Just use Opera and you'll never look back. It has always been a bleeding edge browser with a ton of features. You can't go wrong with Opera :)

  6. Guest
    February 7, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    There is Waterfox, Pale Moon x64, Opera x64 and IE x64.

    • Danny Stieben
      February 10, 2012 at 2:36 am

      There isn't a 64-bit for Opera for Windows. :/

      • Joseph
        March 22, 2012 at 8:17 pm

        Altec ????? ????!!???IE??????! ????? ? MP4 ? MP3??????? windows media paeylr????? ?????? ???? ???????????? "????" "??" "??"??????? windows media paeylr ?????????(??????windows media paeylr ??? ????!! )???????????????media paeylr??,??????????IE???

  7. Onmaps
    February 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Tried to install on win7 64bit without C++ & got error message about missing .dll file. Installed C++ & still had error message! Uninstalled & It took all of my Firefox bookmarks etc. My mistake ticking the wrong box but why doesn't it install separate to FF?

    • Danny Stieben
      February 10, 2012 at 2:39 am

      Waterfox itself installs separately from Firefox, but it uses the same profile to make the transition from Firefox to Waterfox as painless as possible. The developers assume that you have lots of customizations in Firefox, so making Waterfox use a separate profile would be pretty inconvenient. Just my understanding of why that's happening.

      The error should be gone when you reinstall Waterfox, now that C++ is on your system.

  8. Dan
    February 7, 2012 at 7:33 am

    I've been using it as my default browser for about a month now (the longest I've used any gecko browser by default). It is noticeably snappier than plain-vanilla Fx.

    • Danny Stieben
      February 10, 2012 at 2:39 am

      Indeed it is :D how do you believe it compares to Chrome?

  9. Chris Hoffman
    February 7, 2012 at 6:22 am

    It would be interesting to see Waterfox benchmarked against the standard Firefox builds.

    • Danny Stieben
      February 10, 2012 at 2:40 am

      I can do one for you! It'd be unofficial and highly unscientific, but I can do it. ;)

  10. Firefox user
    February 6, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    only a little sidenote is that it opens pdf using adobe reader, not in browser like in firefox, or maybe there is an addon, idk. 

    • Dan
      February 7, 2012 at 7:32 am

      Adobe Reader doesn't have a 64-bit plugin for opening PDFs in-browser. You need to download and install PDF-XChange Viewer 64-bit and make sure it installs the browser plugin.

      • Danny Stieben
        February 10, 2012 at 2:40 am

        Dan's advise works. I remember seeing it somewhere asked before.

  11. Tony Hart
    February 6, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    I've noticed a speed difference, nice upgrade. Thanks, good share. 

    • Danny Stieben
      February 10, 2012 at 2:40 am

      Thanks Tony! :)

  12. Anonymous
    February 6, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    its not downloadable from where you say it is the homepage what gives

    • Danny Stieben
      February 10, 2012 at 2:41 am

      Does it work now?

  13. Johan Klos
    February 6, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Excuse me? "On Windows, there are no official 64-bit builds of any browser except Internet Explorer"? What about Pale Moon?
    http://www.palemoon.org/ 

    • killjoy
      February 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm

      Excuse me? My response to you is who the heck ever heard of Pale Moon?

      • Anonymous
        February 6, 2012 at 9:17 pm

        lots of smart 64 bit users have and are using it

        • killjoy
          February 6, 2012 at 10:55 pm

          If you say so

      • Saiful Zaree Johar
        February 7, 2012 at 2:13 am

        Excuse me? Are you really a spoon-fed type? I've been using it since like, forever that I forgot how long....

      • Anonymous
        February 8, 2012 at 4:44 am

        I use it too.

    • Shri
      February 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      Palemoon is also an unofficial 64-bit Firefox based browser, just like Waterfox

    • Danny Stieben
      February 10, 2012 at 2:42 am

      I didn't include Pale Moon because it's not an official build of Firefox, just like Waterfox. IE is the only browser with an official 64-bit build for Windows. True, I could've talked about Pale Moon instead of Waterfox in my article, but I find Waterfox to be faster.

  14. Joel Lee
    February 6, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I'm going to give it a shot. If nothing else, I enjoy trying out new pieces of software. If I get a speed boost out of this, even better!

    • Danny Stieben
      February 10, 2012 at 2:43 am

      Everything (decent) is worth a shot! :)

  15. Neil Ferree
    February 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    I "used to be" a huge Firefox fan. Now I use Chrome 99% of the time (unless) I am doing competitive SEO analysis on a client/competitor's site since FFox has some awesome add-ons. But for routine web surf actiom, Chrome speed wins. Albeit, since I have an i7 chip and 64 bit OS maybe I will have to test-drive FF H20

    • Danny Stieben
      February 10, 2012 at 2:44 am

      Imagine if Google managed to churn out a 64-bit build of Chrome? Gives me goosebumps :P

      Personally I have an AMD Phenom II X6 1100T. I love using that  monster.

  16. Anonymous
    February 6, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I've been using Waterfox for a few weeks now.  I haven't necessarily noticed any speed boost, but I also haven't noticed any problems.  No reason not to use it, really.

    • Danny Stieben
      February 6, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      Exactly! Plus some people believe that going 64-bit offers some extra security when it comes to memory issues.

  17. Scrooloose
    February 6, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Imma try this out and see how it woks, thanks for the info.

    • Danny Stieben
      February 10, 2012 at 2:45 am

      You're welcome, Scrooloose! :)

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