Difference Between 32 bit & 64 bit Operating Systems
The terms "x64" and "x86" refer to different computer architectures used in modern processors. They indicate whether the processor and the operating system are 64-bit or 32-bit, respectively. Understanding the difference between x64 and x86 is essential when installing software, choosing an operating system, or ensuring compatibility with hardware and applications. Let's explore the details of each architecture:
- x86 architecture, also known as 32-bit architecture, is the older and more traditional architecture used in processors and operating systems. It takes its name from the original Intel 8086 processor, which was a 16-bit processor.
- The x86 architecture supports a maximum of 4 gigabytes (GB) of RAM, which means that 32-bit operating systems and applications can access up to 4 GB of memory.
- In practical terms, due to memory limitations, a 32-bit operating system might not be able to utilize the full 4 GB of RAM, as some memory is reserved for system processes and hardware mappings.
- The memory addresses in x86 architecture are represented using 32 bits, allowing a theoretical maximum of 2^32 (4,294,967,296) memory locations to be addressed.
x64 (or x86-64 or AMD64)
- x64 architecture, also known as 64-bit architecture, is the newer and more advanced architecture used in modern processors and operating systems. It evolved from the x86 architecture to support 64-bit computing.
- The x64 architecture allows for significantly larger memory addressing, enabling access to much more RAM. A 64-bit operating system can theoretically address up to 16 exabytes (EB) of RAM (1 EB = 1,024 PB), which is a massive amount of memory compared to the 4 GB limit of x86 architecture.
- With the ability to access more RAM, 64-bit systems can handle more complex applications, perform better with memory-intensive tasks, and support advanced software, particularly in fields like graphics, video editing, and scientific computing.
- The memory addresses in x64 architecture are represented using 64 bits, providing a much larger address space than the 32-bit x86 architecture.
- Memory Addressing: x86 architecture uses 32-bit memory addressing, limiting the amount of RAM accessible to around 4 GB, while x64 architecture uses 64-bit memory addressing, enabling access to much larger amounts of RAM, up to several exabytes.
- Application Compatibility: 32-bit applications are designed to work on both x86 and x64 systems, but 64-bit applications are specifically optimized for x64 architecture. However, most modern systems are backward compatible and can run 32-bit applications on 64-bit operating systems.
- Performance: In general, 64-bit systems perform better in memory-intensive tasks due to their ability to access larger amounts of RAM and utilize more powerful instructions.
- Compatibility: Some older hardware and software may not be compatible with 64-bit systems, as they were designed for 32-bit environments. However, most modern hardware and software support 64-bit architecture.
Choosing Between x64 and x86
For most users and modern systems, using a 64-bit operating system (x64) is recommended, as it provides better performance, access to more RAM, and compatibility with the latest software. However, if you have older hardware or specific software requirements, you may need to use a 32-bit operating system (x86). Always check the system requirements of the software and ensure that your hardware supports the chosen architecture.
How to determine if Windows OS is 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64)
Open the Power User menu. Press the Windows key + X to open this menu. Click on System.
There is ne another way you can understand that if your PC is running 64-bit Windows, you'll probably find a Program Files (x86) folder on your hard drive. This stores 32-bit applications, while the other 'Program Files' folder contains all the 64-bit apps you've installed.