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Monday, June 24, 2013

Choosing Between a 32-Bit and 64-Bit Operating System

For the high end user, knowing the difference between a 32-bit and a 64-bit processor and an operating system (OS) is vital.

The most basic difference is the amount of memory (RAM) that a 32-bit OS can make use of. If you want to use 4 GB of RAM with a 32-bit system – it is not going to work. Even if you install 4 GB modules, due to technical reasons (explained later), the OS will still be able to detect and make use of a maximum of 3.5 GB.

A computer running a 64-bit OS can process larger numbers and be more efficient with smaller numbers. It means that your computer will be fast. The better benefits of 64-bit computing goes to research institutions and companies where large number crunching calculations are performed. The average user can exploit the benefits of 64-bit computing below.

1. Access more RAM: With a 64-bit operating system, your computer can access more than 4 GB of RAM. So if you need to install more than 4 GB of RAM, 64-bit is the way to go.

2. Software comes in two versions: 32-bit and 64-bit. If a 64-bit version of your favorite application is available and you have a 64-bit OS, go for that. The 64-bit software would be faster and the benefits over a 32-bit version in that case are obvious – there will be a visible difference in processing speeds.

3. Some programs such as data encryption software can benefit greatly from 64-bit registers (if the software is 64-bit compiled) and effectively execute 3 to 5 times faster on 64-bit than on 32-bit.

4. A 64-bit OS can run 32-bit applications, there is backward compatibility.

5. If you have a 64-bit processor, you are safe for the future. 32-bit operating systems are yet to replace 64-bit and you would be already using 64-bit.

There are some drawbacks of 64-bit computing.

1. There are few 64-bit softwares available and to truly take advantage of 64-bit computing, the software has to be 64-bit also. This a drawback, meaning that if you use a 32-bit software on a 64-bit machine, there is no significant difference as you would get when you run the same software on a 32-bit machine.

2. Driver support: If you use a 64-bit OS, you have to use 64-bit device drivers. 32-bit device drivers, the ones that are usually supplied, won’t work with 64-bit. Before you upgrade ensure that there are 64-bit drivers available for your computer.

3. More RAM: 64-bit operating systems consume more RAM than their 32-bit counterpart. This is due to the fact that the same data occupies more space in memory on a 64-bit machine. Ensure that you have 3 GB and more RAM if you want a smooth experience.

4. More expensive.

32-Bit and 64-Bit Windows: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows. This information is available from Microsoft Corporation Windows website at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/32-bit-and-64-bit-Windows-frequently-asked-questions

What is the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows?
How can I tell if my computer is running a 32-bit or a 64-bit version of Windows?
How do I tell if my computer can run a 64-bit version of Windows?
Which version of Windows Vista should I install: the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version?
Can I upgrade from a 32-bit version of Windows to a 64-bit version of Windows?
Can I run 32-bit programs on a 64-bit computer?
Can I run 64-bit programs on a 32-bit computer?
How can I find programs and devices that work with the 64-bit version of Windows Vista?
If I'm running a 64-bit version of Windows, do I need 64-bit drivers for my devices?