It seems that if you’ve bought a computer from Dell with Windows Vista 32-bit, they’ll provide, upon request, disks of Vista 64-bit.

It can be a bit of a struggle, though. The key, it seems is to quote the following document to them: DSN Document ID: 158098 (Operating System Changes and Operating System Swaps – Dell Global Policy).

When I asked back in April 2009, my Dell Chat online support conversation went something like this:

Liam: “I need a copy of Vista Ultimate 64-bit to replace Vista Ultimate 32-bit.”
Agent: “Can you tell me which particular Windows came with your system?”
Liam Cromar: “Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit.”
Agent: “The cd or dvd installers we have are the ones that came with the system.”
Agent: “We can only send the Vista Ultimate 32 bit.”
Liam: “Thanks. I understand, however, that Dell Global Policy specifies that the customer is to be provided, on request, with two copies of the 64-bit versions as well. This is according to DSN Document ID: 158098 (Operating System Changes and Operating System Swaps – Dell Global Policy).”
Agent: “Thanks let me check if we can provide you.”
Agent: “Let’s check if your system is capable of having 64 bit. Click Start, click Run, type MSinfo32, and click Enter Look under the system type and see what it is listed.”
Liam: “X86-based PC.”
Agent: “This computer is not compatible with 64 bit OS. For Dell computers when you checked the system type and it list X86-based PC, it is only for 32 bit OS. For computers compatible with 64 bit, you will see X64-based PC.”
Liam: “With all due respect, I am an IT consultant and I know perfectly well that this machine IS compatible with a 64-bit OS. What appears in the System Information utility only refers to what OS is CURRENTLY installed on the computer. Since it CURRENTLY has a 32-bit OS on it, it says X86-based PC. To find out whether it could support a 64-bit OS you have to check the underlying hardware, in particular the motherboard and processor.”
Agent: “Thanks for additional information. Please give me a minute.”
Agent: “All indications point to 32 bit compatibility only. I have double check this and I got the same answer.”
Liam: “What indications?”
Agent: “We have reference where we can check compatibility with a certain system. No 64 bit OS is listed as compatible.”
Liam: “It has a Core 2 Quad processor, definitely 64-bit compatible. Please tell me exactly what is claimed not to be 64-bit compatible.”
Agent: “Let me check your processor information.”
Liam Cromar: “Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600.”
Agent: “Please give me a few minutes again thank you.”
Agent: “Thank you for waiting. Your request was approved. Since the warranty is active, I can send you a Vista 64 bit OS. I apologize for the delay in approving your request.”

Note the amusing attempt to try and persuade me that 64-bit Vista would not be compatible. All’s well that ends well, however; the disk arrived quickly.

Note also that I have no idea whether this policy is still in force, or whether it has been changed. If you want to try this, don’t leave it too long.

Much credit and thanks go to the moderator Chris M on the Dell forums who explained the necessary document to refer to on the Technet forums.