Windows: 32-Bit vs. 64-Bit

General Information:

This article refers to the debate of 32-bit versus 64-bit usage for Windows. Windows has the ability to run a 32-bit version or a 64-bit version. These designations are used to describe the way in which the CPU handles information and basically how much RAM the CPU can store. The user can decide which version would be better suited for their individual needs.

Running a 64-bit version of Windows does not necessarily mean that the computer will run more efficiently. This can actually hinder the speed of the user's computer depending on the installed programs, drivers, and the computer’s processor. In order to fully utilize a 64 bit processor, the older programs and drivers installed on the computer need to be updated to 64-bit, since 32-bit programs & drivers are not supported by the 64-bit version of Windows.

Benefits of 64-Bits:

The main perks gained from installing a 64-bit version of Windows are the ability to access RAM above the 4-GB range and the advanced security features. The access to more memory allows for more efficiency when administering processes and consequently improves performance of the OS. While there are advantages to installing a 64-bit version of Windows, there are a few drawbacks as well. Although trends may be shifting, computers were historically shipped with the 32-bit processors. With these computers having a 32-bit architecture, the programs and applications written for them also have 32-bit architecture. For this reason, running a 32 -bit application on a 64-bit operating system will not be the optimal choice in relation to performance.  

32-bit drivers also may not be compatible with the 64-bit operating system. Users need to upgrade the driver's by switching to 64-bit when upgrading. Another potential obstacle is that older CPU architectures may not be supported whatsoever.

Things to Consider when installing 64-Bits:

Be familiar with these important items when considering installing the 64-bit version of Windows :

  • Device drivers must be signed digitally.

  • 64-bit device drivers may not be obtainable for some devices on the computer.

  • 32-bit device drivers are not supported.

  • 32-bit applications may not be 100% compatible with a 64-bit OS.

  • Some hardware devices may not be compatible with a 64-bit version of Windows. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

How can I find out if my Windows my computer is 32-bit or 64-bit?

Can I upgrade from a 32-bit version of Windows to a 64-bit version?

No.  You can only upgrade to another version of Windows with the same bit amount.If you wish to transition from a 32-bit version to a 64-bit version or vice versa, you would have to back up all of your files and perform a Custom installation of the version to install.  

Can I run 32-bit programs on a 64-bit computer?

Most programs made for the 32-bit version of Windows will work on the 64-bit version of Windows except for most Antivirus programs. Device drivers that are made for the 32-bit version of Windows will not work correctly on a computer running a 64-bit version of Windows.

How can I find programs and devices that work on a 64-bit version of Windows?

To find devices and programs, that work with Windows , look for products that have the "Compatible with Windows" logo. They have been tested to be compatible with both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows .

Do I need 64-bit drivers for my devices if I'm running a 64-bit version of Windows?

Yes.  All hardware requires 64-bit drivers to function on a 64-bit version of Windows.

9/5/2023 8:27:47 AM