32 Bit vs 64 Bit Windows: What’s the Difference? How to choose?

A common confusion occurs when we have to choose between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows OS as many of us have no idea what is the difference between them. Microsoft Windows comes in several variants, the differences in features of which are barely visible. This is a noticeable difference when we have to choose between 32-bit or 64-bit Windows OS. Due to lack of knowledge about the fundamental difference between 32-bit and 64-bit operation system, we get confused while choosing the right version.

Basic Information About 32bit and 64bit Processors:

In the computer world, 32-bit and 64-bit refer to the type of central processing unit, operating system, driver, software program, etc. that use that particular architecture.

Whether your computer architecture is 32-bit or 64-bit depends on the processor (also known as the central processing unit or CPU). Currently, most computer processors fall into one of these two categories. 64-bit processors are much more powerful than their 32-bit counterparts, as they can store and process much more information.

To understand the magnitude of the difference between the two, you have to understand a bit about counting in binary. Unlike our decimal system, which has ten digits per place, binary has only two – 0 or 1.

Thus, a 32-bit number has 2^32 possible addresses, or 4,294,967,296. In contrast, the capacity of a 64-bit number is 2^64, or 18,446,744,073,709,551,616. Shows a difference of ~4 billion bytes (about 4 gigabytes) compared to ~18 quintillion bytes (about 18 billion gigabytes).

Another major difference between a 32-bit processor and a 64-bit processor is the maximum amount of RAM it supports. 32-bit computers support a maximum of 4 GB of memory, while 64-bit computers can support more than 4 GB of memory.

So if your PC has 4GB RAM installed, but your OS is 32-bit, then only 3GB RAM will be detected in it.

This feature is important for software programs used in graphics design, engineering and video editing because these programs require more memory.

You might have seen the option to download a software as either the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version. This difference really matters because both are programmed for different systems.

32-bit hardware and software is often referred to as x86 or x86-32.

64-bit hardware and software is often referred to as x64 or x86-64.

Generally, the more data that can be processed, the faster your system can operate.

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64-bit and 32-bit Operating Systems

Most new processors today are based on 64-bit architecture and support 64-bit operating systems. These processors are fully compatible with 32-bit operating systems.

Most versions of Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista are available in 64-bit formats.

All versions of Windows, from XP to 10, are available in 32-bit.

Every Mac operating system since v10.8 (Mountain Lion) is 64-bit.

Like Windows, Linux can be 32-bit or 64-bit.

Difference Between 32 Bit and 64 Bit Windows OS

How does Windows differ

If you’re using a 64-bit processor, you’ll also need to use a 64-bit version of Windows to take advantage of this. 32-bit versions of Windows run on 64-bit processors, but cannot use the extra power.

You cannot install a 64-bit version of Windows on a 32-bit processor, but 64-bit Windows is less compatible with 32-bit software.

There are two differences in Windows. The first is that a 32-bit version of Windows can only use up to 4GB of RAM (or less). Thus, if you put 16GB of RAM in 32-bit Windows, you’re not really using more than 4GB.

The second difference is the Program Files folder. On 32-bit versions of Windows, apps will only install in the Program Files folder. But on 64-bit systems an additional Program Files (x86) folder is created. This is because building software for a 32-bit architecture is quite different from building it for a 64-bit system.

32-bit and 64-bit programs

Whenever you install some software, it may vary by vendor, be it either 32-bit or 64-bit version. Some developers only provide 32-bit versions, while others let you choose which version to install.

If you are running a 64-bit version of Windows, you should always install the 64-bit version of the software.

It is important for you to know this difference so that you can download and install the right kind of software and device drivers.

How to check my OS in 32bit or 64bit?

Knowing whether your Windows OS is 32-bit or 64-bit is quite simple. To check this, just right-click on This PC or My Computer and go to Properties. There you’ll also find your CPU, 64-bit or 32-bit, in front of the system type.

Another easy way to find out what OS architecture Windows is running is by checking the Program Files folder. If you have a 64-bit OS on your system, your C Drive will have a folder named Program Files (x86).

To view the hardware architecture, you can open Command Prompt and enter the command below:

echo %PROCESSOR_ARCHITECTURE%

You may get a response like AMD64 indicating whether you have an x64 base system, or x86 for 32-bit.

Important: These commands only specify the hardware architecture and not the version of Windows running on your PC.

Summary:

Hope the above explanation has given you a better understanding about 32-bit and 64-bit in terms of hardware and software.

Finally, 64-bit processors are becoming more and more common in home computers. Most manufacturers are now making computers with 64-bit processors because of cheaper prices and because more users are also now using 64-bit operating systems and programs.

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