32 bit vs 64 bit

Microsoft Windows 7



32 bit vs 64 bit – Introduction

Microsoft Windows 7 is offered in 32 bit or 64 bit versions for all available editions with the exception of the Starter Edition.

So, once you have made a decision to purchase Microsoft Windows 7 and have decided upon which Edition you wish to choose – see our guide to Microsoft Windows 7 Editions for help in deciding – you then need to make a choice, 32 bit vs 64 bit?

The 64 bit operating system, and more importantly, 64 bit processors have been around for a long time, indeed Windows XP – 64 was the first step towards offering a Microsoft Windows 64 bit operating system.

Windows Vista took 64 bit computing further to the forefront offering 64 bit versions for some of its many guises but Microsoft never really seemed to encourage or promote 64 bit operation until now.

Finally Microsoft seem to have got their act together and with Microsoft Windows 7, 64 bit operating systems are to be found on pretty much all new PCs and Laptops.

Previously consumers were getting a mixed message regarding 64 bit computing but now, even though Windows 7 is available in both 32 bit and 64 bit flavors, there would appear to be a lot more support for 64 bit computing with the required 64 bit drivers becoming far more readily available.

As a big step towards encouraging the uptake of the 64 bit versions of Windows 7, Microsoft will be supplying both versions of the software on the DVD that you purchase.

And, if you purchase say the Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium Edition as a 64 bit version, actually your supplied DVD will incorporate and load the software for all 64 bit versions of Windows 7.

Users will then be able to purchase an upgrade product license via ‘Windows Anytime Upgrade’ and already have the software loaded ready to activate!

Pretty neat huh!

Remember though that you will still need to perform a ‘clean install’ of a Windows 7 64 bit version if you previously had a 32 bit version installed and you cannot do this via ‘Windows Anytime Upgrade’ – it’s not simply an ‘over the top’ upgrade.

32 bit vs 64 bit – What’s the difference?

So, what is 64 bit computing and what is all the fuss about?Well, 32 bit and 64 bit are, to put it simply, the data and address size that can be supported by your CPU and operating system.

In order to use the 64 bit version of Windows 7 you must have a processor capable of 64 bit operation.

Generally all Intel processors from the Core 2 Duo onwards are 64 bit compatible and AMD processors from Athlon 64 onwards.

The bit size (16 bit, 32 bit, 64 bit etc.) refers to the length or width of address and data that can be handled and generally the larger it is the more data that can be transferred and processed per clock cycle.

64 bit architecture also means that the effective upper limits of memory that can be addressed also increases.

Back in the early days of Windows 3.1 computing with 16 bit architecture the upper limit of addressable memory was 512MB.

The coming of 32 bit Windows Vista allowed up to 4GB and the change to 64 bit Windows 7 allows you to address up to 16GB with the Home Premium Edition and 192GB for Windows 7 Ultimate, Professional and Enterprise Editions!

32 bit vs 64 bit – Pros?

So, what are the main advantages of 64 bit computing?

With Windows 7 64 bit you can break the 4GB physical memory limit making you a little more future proof as you will be able to start off with 4GB which Windows 7 will run pretty damn fast with and when funds allow upgrade to a higher capacity memory should you feel the need at a later date.

Although Windows Vista and Windows 7 in 32 bit version can address up to 4GB of RAM in actual fact only around 3.2GB of this is usable memory due to system constraints requiring the use of part of the memory for memory mapping of certain devices such as a graphics card for instance?

Windows 64 bit drivers are all Digitally Signed which means that they have been certified by Microsoft for correct operation and compatibility and should therefore not cause your PC to crash.

64 bit Windows 7 has improved security features over its 32 bit counterpart incorporating ‘Kernel Patch Protection’ which prevents malicious programs from corrupting the Windows kernel.

64 bit Windows 7 supports more RAM and with multiple applications running simultaneously or for video editing, Photoshop manipulation, gaming Cad etc. you will get an improved, more responsive computing experience.

The majority of 32 bit applications will work perfectly well under Windows 7 64 bit and with the uptake of 64 bit Windows computing this will only improve further.

32 bit vs 64 bit – 64 bit compatibility?

How do I check my PC for suitability of operation under 64 bit Windows?

As mentioned earlier in this article, if you have an Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64 processor or above then you are pretty much good to go.

For confirmation of this in Windows XP go to ‘Start’ > ‘Control Panel’ > ‘System’ and then click on the ‘General’ tab to confirm what processor type is installed in your PC.

You should also use the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to check that your PC can run 64 bit Windows 7.

Following this, use the ‘Windows 7 Compatibility Center’ to check that your PCs devices have 64 bit drivers available and if not you will need to consider whether or not you are happy to upgrade your devices that do not have the 64 bit drivers available.

32 bit vs 64 bit – Should I stick with 32 bit?

Are there any reasons not to upgrade to Windows 64 bit and stick with the 32 bit version?

Well, there are a few scenarios where you would be better off with Windows 7 in its 32 bit guise.

If you have only say 2GB of RAM and you have no plans to increase your RAM size then Windows 7 32 bit will run faster that its 64 bit cousin. Windows 7 64 bit needs 4GB of RAM or more to really fly - 3GB or more is sufficient.

Perhaps you have older devices such as printers or scanners etc. that do not have 64 bit drivers available for them and you do not wish to lose the use of these devices then you will need to stick with 32 bit Windows as the 64 bit version will not work with 32 bit drivers.

64 bit vs 32 bit – Our advice?

What would we recommend when weighing up between 32 bit vs 64 bit?

Well most new PCs and Laptops will come with Windows 7 64 bit pre-installed.

If you are building a new PC with up to date components then our advice would be to make sure that you install 4GB or more of RAM and purchase Microsoft Windows 7 64 bit Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate.

You will end up with a more responsive PC which will be capable of running multiple applications to the best of their ability – 64 bit essentially gives you twice the amount of bits per clock cycle as the 32 bit counterpart.

You will be able to add and address more memory at a later date as funds allow thereby allowing memory hungry applications to operate simultaneously without degrading performance.

Future proof – now that 64 bit computing has been embraced it would be silly to resist switching over as 32 bit computing will soon be going the same way as the older 16 bit systems did.

Microsoft advise all potential users of Windows 7 to run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor before purchasing Windows 7 in its 32 bit or 64 bit guise – it’s definitely a good idea to run this tool as you may find that some device, program, or other on your PC is not compatible and may require upgrading.

We hope you have found this article on 32 bit vs 64 bit Windows interesting and informative.

Please use Contact Us if you have any comments or suggestions that you would like to add.

Return from 32 Bit vs 64 Bit to PC Tips and Tricks homepage