A lot of us are already familiar with 32-bit and 64-bit options being prompted whenever you download an application or install one. A 64-bit processor is more capable than a 32-bit processor because it can handle more data at once. A 64-bit processor is capable of storing more computational values, including memory addresses, which means it’s able to access over four billion times the physical memory of a 32-bit processor.
Here’s the key difference: 32-bit processors are perfectly capable of handling a limited amount of RAM (in Windows, 4GB or less), and 64-bit processors are capable of utilizing much more. Of course, in order to achieve this, your operating system also needs to be designed to take advantage of the greater access to memory. This Microsoft page runs down memory limitations for multiple versions of Windows, but if you’re running the latest version of Windows 10, you don’t need to worry about limits.
With an increase in the availability of 64-bit processors and larger capacities of RAM, Microsoft and Apple both have upgraded versions of their operating systems that are designed to take full advantage of the new technology. The first fully 64-bit operating system was Mac OS X Snow Leopard back in 2009. Meanwhile, the first smartphone with a 64-bit chip (Apple A7) was the iPhone 5s.
In the case of Microsoft Windows, the basic versions of the operating systems put software limitations on the amount of RAM that can be used by applications, but even in the ultimate and professional version of the operating system, 4GB is the maximum usable memory the 32-bit version can handle. While the latest versions of a 64-bit operating system can increase the capabilities of a processor drastically, the real jump in power comes from software designed with this architecture in mind.
Applications and video games that demand high performance already take advantage of the increase in available memory (there’s a reason we recommend 8GB for almost anyone). This is especially useful in programs that can store a lot of information for immediate access, like image-editing software that opens multiple large files at the same time.
Most software is backward compatible, allowing you to run applications that are 32-bit in a 64-bit environment without any extra work or issues. Virus protection software (these are our favorites) and drivers tend to be the exception to this rule, with hardware mostly requiring the proper version be installed in order to function correctly.
The best example of this difference is right within your file system. If you’re a Windows user, you’ve probably noticed that you have two Program Files folders: One labeled simply Program Files and the other labeled Program Files (x86).
Applications all use shared resources on a Windows system (called DLL files), which are structured differently depending on whether it’s used for 64-bit applications or 32-bit applications. If, for instance, a 32-bit application reaches out for a DLL and finds a 64-bit version, it’s just going to stop working. That’s the problem.
Note: Windows also installs 32-bit and 64-bit apps in different places—or at least, tries to. 32-bit apps are usually installed to the C:\Program Files (x86)\ folder on 64-bit versions of Windows, while 64-bit programs are usually installed to the C:\Program Files\ folder. There’s no rule forcing 32-bit and 64-bit apps into their respective folders.
32-bit (x86) architecture has been around for a very long time, and there are still a host of applications that utilize 32-bit architecture — though that’s changing on some platforms. Modern 64-bit systems can run 32-bit and 64-bit software because of a very simple and easy solution: Two separate Program Files directories. When 32-bit applications are sequestered to the appropriate x86 folder, Windows knows to serve up the right DLL — the 32-bit version. Everything in the regular Program Files directory, on the other hand, can access the other content.
How to identify 64bit OS. In most cases, a sticker will be attached to your device. But if this is not the case, use the method below. In Windows 10, Launch the Windows Settings as shown below.
– Click on System
– On the Systems pane,
– Click on About
On the “About” page, under the Device specifications, you will see the System type information: “64-bit operating system, x64-based processor”.
Below is a tabular difference between 32-bit and 64-bit processors.
|Parameter||32-bit processors||64-bit processors|
|Addressable space||It has 4 GB of addressable space||64-bit processors have 16 GB of addressable space|
|Application support||64-bit applications and programs won’t work||32-bit applications and programs will work|
|OS support||Need a 32-bit operating system.||It can run on 32 and the 64-bit operating system.|
|Support for multi-tasking||Not an ideal option for stress testing and multi-tasking.||Works best for performing multi-tasking and stress testing.|
|OS and CPU requirement||32-bit operating systems and applications require 32-bit CPUs||64-bit OS demands 64-bit CPU, and 64-bit applications require 64-bit OS and CPU.|
|System available||Support Windows 7, 8 Vista, XP, and, Linux.||Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, Linux, and Mac OS X.|
|Memory limits||32-bit systems limited to 3.2 GB of RAM 32 bit Windows. It addresses limitations doesn’t allow you to use full 4GB of physical memory space.||64-bit systems will enable you to store up to 17 Billion GB of RAM.|
For more information about the differences between 64 bits and 32 bits, see the following video below.
I hope you found this blog post helpful. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment session.