32-Bit vs. 64-Bit

A 64-bit vs 32-bit graphic
© Tim Fisher

In the computer world, 32-bit and 64-bit refer to the type of central processing unit, operating system, driver, software program, etc. that utilizes that particular architecture.

  • 32-bit hardware and software is often referred to as x86 or x86-32.
  • 64-bit hardware and software is often referred to as x64 or x86-64.
  • 32-bit systems utilize data in 32-bit pieces while 64-bit systems utilize data in 64-bit pieces. In general, the more data that can be processed at once, the faster the system can operate.

    There are several other advantages to a 64-bit system as well, most practically the ability to use significantly greater amounts of physical memory.

    64-bit and 32-bit Operating Systems

    Most new processors today are based on the 64-bit architecture and support 64-bit operating systems. These processors are also fully compatible with 32-bit operating systems.

    Most editions of Windows 10Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista are available in 64-bit format. Only Windows XP Professional is available in 64-bit.

    All editions of Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP are also available in 32-bit.

    Not Sure if the Copy of Windows on Your PC is 32-bit or 64-bit?

    See Am I Running a 32-bit or 64-bit Version of Windows? to find out.

    Knowing is important so you can be sure to install the right kinds of software and device drivers. For example, a native 64-bit software program is the right pick when given an option between 32-bit and 64-bit, but it won't run at all if you're not running a 64-bit version of Windows.