When you think of Windows versions, you can think of Home or Pro versions. While these are really different, there is another factor that distinguishes Windows versions: Is the  system 32-bit or 64-bit?

You may have heard the terms 32-bit and 64-bit running around, but you never really understood them. Let’s take a look at where these definitions come from and what they mean for your computing experience.

What Makes a Computer 32 or 64-Bit?

Whether your computer architecture is 32-bit or 64-bit depends on the processor (CPU) inside your computer. Most computer processors fall into one of these two categories, and 64-bit has replaced 32-bit in the past few years. 64-bit processors are exponentially more powerful than their 32-bit counterparts in that they can hold and process much more information.

What is the Difference Between 32 and 64 Bit Windows
What is the Difference Between 32 and 64 Bit Windows

Calculating abbreviations is confusing. Anyway what is a CPU? And do I need a quad-core or dual-core processor? What about AMD or Intel? We are here to help explain the difference!

To understand the magnitude of the differences between 32-bit and 64-bit, you should have some knowledge of binary counting. Unlike our decimal system with ten digits in the digit, binary only has two: 0 or 1.

Therefore, a 32-bit number has 2 ^ 32 possible addresses, or 4,294,967,296. Conversely, the capacity of a 64-bit number is 2 ^ 64 or 18,446,744,073,709,551,616. Comparing ~ 4 billion bytes (about 4 gigabytes) to ~ 18 quintillion bytes (about 18 billion gigabytes or 16 exabytes) reveals a huge difference.

How Does Windows Make a Difference Between 32-Bit and 64-Bit?

If you are using a 64-bit processor, you must also use the 64-bit version of Windows to take advantage of it. 32-bit versions of Windows run on 64-bit processors but cannot use the extra power.

You cannot install the 64-bit version of Windows on 32-bit processors. However, 64-bit Windows is backward compatible with 32-bit software as we will discuss.

There are two important places where you might notice the difference between 32 bit and 64 bit in Windows. The first is that the 32-bit version of Windows can only use up to 4 GB (or less) of RAM. So if your computer has 16 GB of RAM but is running 32-bit Windows, it actually uses no more than 4 GB.

The other place you will find a difference is the   Program Files  folder. In the 32-bit version of Windows, apps  will be installed in one  Program Files folder. On 64-bit systems, there is an additional Program Files (x86)  folder for 32-bit software  . This is because writing software for a 32-bit architecture is drastically different from writing it for a 64-bit system.

What is the Difference Between 32 and 64 Bit Windows


When programs want to retrieve some shared information such as DLLs,  they need to look in the correct  Program Files directory. This is the reason Windows keeps them separate. A 32-bit program has no idea what to do with a 64-bit DLL.

 Note that in Windows 32 bit  is called x86  and 64 bit  is called x64 .

Older versions of Windows ran 16-bit software, such as Windows 3.1. 32-bit versions of Windows are backward compatible with these older programs. But if you have a 64-bit machine, you cannot run archaic 16-bit software. You will need to start emulating the 32-bit operating system.

Also, 64-bit Windows requires 64-bit device drivers. If you have an old printer or something that only offers 32 bit drivers, it will not work on your modern 64 bit system.

Differences Between 32-Bit and 64-Bit Programs

When you install software, whether you buy a 32-bit or 64-bit version depends on the vendor. Some developers only provide 32-bit version, sometimes let you choose and still others will automatically install the right version for you.

If you are running a 64-bit version of Windows, you should install 64-bit versions of the software whenever possible. But don’t worry if a vendor doesn’t offer the 64-bit version, because the 32-bit version will work just fine.

What is the Difference Between 32 and 64 Bit Windows


The 64-bit versions of the programs probably won’t blow you away at increasing speed. However, they take advantage of the increased security of the 64-bit architecture and can use more than 4GB of RAM at a time. Therefore, they are generally more stable and efficient than their 32-bit counterparts.

64-bit version  sunup  to see what they offer  , their sellers download page  Versions  or  Editions  note the connection like. Because 32-bit software runs on every system, it is understandably the default for some vendors.

Of course, if you are on a 32-bit system, only 32-bit software will work for you.

Am I Running 64-Bit Or 32-Bit Windows?

Now that we’ve discussed the differences between the 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows, we can find out which version you are running.

In Windows 10, right click the Start Button and   select System . You   can also browse Settings> System> About . Here  you will see Device properties header.

Next   System Type , Install 32 or 64 bit, plus processor architecture determines Windows lists.

What is the Difference Between 32 and 64 Bit Windows


In Windows 7 and earlier versions,  right-click Computer in the Start Menu  and   select Properties .  Use the shortcut Win + Pause to open this menu in any version of Windows  .  You will see the System type entry, along with your operating system and CPU architecture  .

What is the Difference Between 32 and 64 Bit Windows


Both panels   will list your Installed RAM here. On a 32-bit system,   if you installed more than 4GB this   will note  that something like 4GB can be  used .


Can I Upgrade 32-Bit Windows to 64-Bit Windows?

Your processor and operating system bit sizes must match. But if they don’t, you may be able to upgrade. 

Those running a 32-bit version of Windows on a 32-bit processor cannot upgrade. You will need to buy a new machine to take advantage of 64 bit. Any decent computer manufactured in the last few years must have a 64-bit processor and 64-bit Windows.

Now You Know The 32-Bit And 64-Bit Differences

64-bit computing is the new standard, but it hasn’t always been this way. Even though Windows XP offered a 64-bit version, it caused compatibility issues so few people used it. The use of 64-bit systems did not become very popular until Windows 7, and 64-bit is the standard for Windows 10 today.

An unimaginable amount of 4GB RAM when CPUs were first designed, is still a viable amount of memory for light use. However, as component prices continue to drop, lower-end machines continue to ship with more RAM. Eventually, this will completely override 32-bit systems.