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What is the difference between 32 and 64 bit?

I'm sure at some point you've been given the option to pick between a 32-bit or 64-bit while downloaded an application or installing a game. How do you know which option is right for you? While some computers have a sticker that says which processor you have, not all are so easy to tell. We will tell you the real differences between the two processors and how to tell which one you have or is right for you!

While over the years computers have varied widely from 32-bit to 64-bit processors, most new computers are 64-bit. The reason for this is simply the fact that a 64-bit processor can handle much more than a 32-bit. For reference: a 64-bit processor is able to access over 4 billion times the physical memory of a 32-bit processor. Even though 32-bit processors are slowly being phased out and replaced with larger processors, some new computers still have 32-bit processors. If a 64-bit processor is that much greater, why are 32-bit processors still being made? The answer is simple, every individual has different needs in a computer and in a processor.

32-bit processors are very capable of handling a limited amount of RAM(in Windows, 4 GB or less), which for some, is plenty of RAM (typically home use). While 64-bit processors are obviously capable of handling and utilizing much more. in order to achieve this your operating system also needs to be designed to take advantage of the larger access to memory. You are able to check the official Microsoft page for the multiple versions of Windows to see what the memory limitations are for each version. If you are running the latest version of Windows 10 you are in the clear and don't have to worry about any limitations!

With a surge of use in 64-bit processors and larger capacities of RAM, Microsoft and Apple have both upgraded versions of their operating systems that are designed to take full advantage of the new 64-bit technology. The first fully functional 64-bit operating system was released back in 2009 by Apple and goes by Mac OS S Snow Leopard. Meanwhile, the first smartphone (yes, I said smartphone) with a 64-bit chip 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.

If you are a PC video gamer, you already know that video games and certain applications demand high performance can already take advantage of the increase in available memory. This is especially useful in programs that can store a lot of information for immediate access, applications like image-editing, coding, and database/query that opens multiple large files at the same time.

Most software is backwards compatible, allowing you to run applications that are 32-bit in a 64-bit environment without any extra work or hassles. Virus protection software and drivers tend to be the exception to this rule with hardware mostly requiring the proper version to be installed in order to function properly. Applications all use shared resources on a Windows system, which are structured differently depending on whether it's used for 64-bit applications or 32-bit applications. If, for instance, a 32-bit applications reaches out for a shared file and fines a 64-bit version, it's just going to stop working.

32-bit architecture has been around for a very long time, and there are still quite a few applications that utilize 32-bit architecture. Modern 64-bit systems can run 32 and 64-bit software because of a very simple solution : Two separate Program File directories. When 32-bit applications are sequestered to the appropriate x86 folder, Windows know to serve up the right 32-bit version. Everything in the regular Program Files directory on the other hand, can access the other content.

Ready to figure out which version you are running?

Follow the instructions below:

Click Start, type system in the search box, and then click System in the Control Panel list. ... For a 64-bit version operating system: 64-bit Operating System appears for the System type under System. For a 32-bit version operating system: 32-bit Operating System appears for the System type under System.

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