What is the difference between 32-Bit Windows and 64-Bit Windows Windows?

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What are the differences between 32-bit Windows and 64-bit Windows? This is a quick explanation of the differences and how you can check which version you are using.

When you consider the various Windows versions, you might first think of the Home or Pro editions. While these are indeed different, there’s another factor that separates Windows versions: is the system 32-bit or 64-bit?

Although you may have heard 32-bit or 64-bit terms thrown around, they are not something that you really understand. Let’s look at the meaning of these terms for Windows.

What is the Difference Between a 32-Bit and 64-Bit Computer?

The processor (CPU), inside your computer determines whether your computer architecture is 32-bit- or 64-bit. The CPU, the OS and the programs can all be 32-bit- or 64-bit. Your OS and CPU each have an impact on the level below them. For example, a 32-bit CPU cannot run 64-bit Windows. You can’t install 64 bit programs on 32-bit Windows.

64-bit CPUs have become the standard architecture. 32-bit CPUs have become obsolete on the market today, so unless your computer is an older model, 64-bit processors are most likely.

Because they can store and process more information, 64-bit processors have an exponentially higher performance than 32-bit counterparts. Understanding binary counting is essential to fully appreciate the difference between 32-bit processors and 64-bit processors. Binary has only two possible digits, unlike our decimal system which has 10 per place.

A 32-bit number can have 232 addresses or 4,294,967.296. Conversely, a 64-bit number’s capacity is 2^64, or 18,446,744,073,709,551,616. The vast difference between 4billion bytes, which is approximately 4 gigabytes, and 18 quintillion (about 18 gigabytes or sixteen exabytes), is evident.

You have the option to select between 32-bit or 64-bit Windows versions when you download and install this OS. Windows 11 only comes in 64-bit. Windows 10 through Windows 7 come in both versions.

How Windows differs between 32-Bit and64-Bit Versions

To take advantage of the 64-bit processor’s increased capabilities, you will also need to run 64-bit Windows. Although 32-bit Windows versions work with 64-bit processors but only limited to the 32-bit OS’s capabilities.

On a 32-bit processor, you can’t install 64-bit Windows. As we’ll see, 64-bit Windows can be used with 32-bit software.

You will notice the differences between 32-bit Windows and 64-bit Windows in two key areas. The first is that 32-bit Windows can only use up to 4GB RAM (or less). If your computer has 16GB RAM, but is running 32-bit Windows, it will not use more than 4GB.

 

You’ll also find a distinction in the program files folder. Apps will only be installed to the Program files folder on 32-bit Windows. 64-bit systems include an additional program files (x86) folder to install 32-bit software. Because writing software for a 32 bit architecture is very different to writing it for 64, this is important.

If programs wish to access shared information such as DLLs, they must look in the correct program files directory. Windows keeps them separated. A 32-bit program wouldn’t know what to do with 64-bit DLLs.

You should note that 32-bit Windows is x86 and 64-bit Windows is x64.

 

Windows 3.1 was an older version of Windows that ran 16-bit software. These legacy programs are compatible with 32-bit Windows versions. can only be run on 64-bit machines. To run these programs, you’ll need to emulate a 32 bit operating system.

In addition, 64-bit Windows requires 64-bit device drivers. You can’t use an older printer or device that only supports 32-bit drivers on a modern 64-bit computer.

Differences between 32-Bit and64-Bit Programs

It varies from vendor to vendor whether you receive a 32-bit or 64 bit version when you install software. Some developers only offer a 32-bit version. Other times, they allow you to choose and others will automatically install the correct version.

 

You should always install 64-bit versions of software if you have a 64-bit Windows version. Don’t be alarmed if the vendor doesn’t provide a 64-bit version. The 32-bit edition should still work in most cases. Discord and Spotify, for example, are only available in 32 bit flavors.

You won’t be blown away by 64-bit programs, but they will offer greater speed. They do however take advantage of 64-bit architecture’s increased security and can use more than 4GB at a given time. They are often more reliable and efficient than 32-bit counterparts, particularly for heavy-duty software such as video editors.

To see if vendors offer 64-bit versions, keep an eye on links like Versions and Editions. It’s easy to understand why 32-bit software is the default choice for some vendors.

If you have a 32-bit computer, 32-bit software is the best. You can find out more about running old software on a 64 bit PC.

 

Are 64-Bit Windows or 32-Bit Windows running on my computer?

After we have discussed the differences between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows versions, can determine if you are using 32-bit Windows.

Windows 10: Right-click on the Start Button, and select System. You can also go to Settings > Systems > About. You’ll find a Device specifications heading.

Windows displays next to Type whether your installation has 32-bit or 64-bit processor architecture.

Windows 7 and older: Right-click Computer and select Properties. To open the Win+ Pause shortcut, use any Windows version. The System type entry will be displayed along with your OS architecture and CPU architecture.

These panels will also show you your installed RAM. If you have more than 4GB installed on a 32-bit computer, it will show 4GB usable.

What is the best way to upgrade 32-Bit Windows from 64-Bit Windows?

Your operating system architectures and processor should match. If they do not match, you may be able upgrade. To upgrade to 64-bit Windows , you can use our guide if you are running 32-bit Windows 10.

 

Users running 32-bit Windows on a 32 bit processor cannot upgrade to the 32-bit version. To take advantage of 64 bit, you will need to either upgrade your CPU or buy a new computer. Every computer should have a 64-bit processor, and 64-bit Windows. Any modern processor that you find when you build your PC will also be 64-bit.

Now you know the difference between 32-Bit (or 64-Bit) and 64-Bit (or both).

Although 64-bit computing has been the norm, it wasn’t always this way. Although Windows XP had a 64-bit version available, it was not widely used. This caused compatibility problems and limited use. 64-bit systems weren’t popularized until Windows 7. 64-bit systems are now standard in Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Although 4GB RAM was a huge amount at the time CPUs were designed, it is still enough memory to be used for light tasks. As component prices drop, lower-end machines ship with more RAM. This will eventually render 32-bit systems obsolete.

Developers will instead focus on 64-bit software development, which will remain the standard for a long time. It’s unlikely that we will ever reach the RAM ceiling in decades. Just think of what you could do if you had a terabyte!

 

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