32-bit or 64-bit?

A couple of days ago, I was installing a fresh operating system for one of my “non-so-technical” friends. She was watching me do the installation out of sheer interest (which I highly adored in her). So the installation got to the part where I have to select the architecture I want. I chose 64-bit and then she asked me why. Why 32-bit or 64-bit? That was when I realised how so many people just use their computers without ever bothering to check what architecture they are running. When they compare their computers with their counterparts, they wonder why others seem to process stuff faster than theirs. Well, worry not! This week we will take a look at what the big deal is anyway.


First things first, definitions…

Architecture is the capabilities and programming model of a computer but not a particular implementation. Bit is short for “Binary Digit”. It is the smallest unit of data. A bit has a single binary value, either a 0 or a 1.


A little bit of history…

The 32-bit processor was the primary processor used in all computers until the early 1990s. Intel Pentium processors and early AMD processors were 32-bit processors. The operating system and software on a computer with a 32bit processor is also 32bit based, in that they work with data units that are 32 bits wide. Windows 95, 98, and XP are all 32-bit operating systems that were common on computers with 32-bit processors.

The 64-bit computer has been around since 1961 when IBM created the IBM 7030 Stretch supercomputer. However, it was not put into use in home computers until the early 2000s. Microsoft released a 64bit version of Windows XP to be used on computers with a 64-bit processor. Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 also come in 64-bit versions. Other software has been developed that is designed to run on a 64-bit computer, which are 64-bit based as well, in that they work with data units that are 64 bits wide.



A big difference between 32-bit processors and 64-bit processors is the number of calculations per second they can perform. This affects the speed at which they can complete tasks. 64-bit processors can come in dual core, quad core, six core, and eight core versions for home computing. Multiple cores allow for an increased number of calculations per second that can be performed. This increases the processing power and can help make a computer run faster. Software programs that require many calculations to function smoothly can operate faster and more efficiently on the multi-core 64-bit processors.

Another big difference between 32-bit processors and 64-bit processors is the maximum amount of memory (RAM) that is supported. 32-bit computers support a maximum of 4GB of memory. A 64-bit computer can support memory amounts of over 4 GB. This feature is important for software programs used in graphic design, engineering, and video editing as these programs have to perform many calculations to render their images.


Do I Need 32bit or 64bit?

As a general rule, if you are using RAM of 4GB and below, you don’t really need to use a 64bit based operating system. However if you are using 4GB and above, you definitely need a 64bit based operating system.


Can My Computer Support 64 bit Systems?

This is very important to know. Only 64bit based processors can run 64bit systems. To see if your processor is 64bit capable, follow the following simple steps.

  1. Open Performance Information and Tools by clicking theStart button, and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type Performance Information and Tools, and then, in the list of results, click Performance Information and Tools.
32-bit or 64-bit

Control Panel

  1. Do one of the following:
    • In Windows 7, clickView and print detailed performance and system information.
    • In Windows Vista, clickView and print details.
  1. 32-bit or 64-bit

    Performance & Info Tools

    In the System section, you can see what type of operating system you’re currently running under System type, and whether or not you can run a 64-bit version of Windows under 64-bit capable. (If your computer is already running a 64-bit version of Windows, you won’t see the 64-bit capable)

So, the next time you are in the market for a new pc, be sure to take this into consideration. Some people are looking to offload their almost obsolete 32-bit based systems.


If you found this helpful, please leave a comment.



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