32 bit and 64 bit Operating Systems Explained
Help Desk - Hints & Tips

Windows 8 is available in both 32 and 64 bit versions but how do you know which one is best for you?  This article attempts to explain the differences between the versions and relevance of this choice to you.

The main differences between 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems relate to memory accessibility, memory management, and enhanced security features.

 

Since 1995, when Windows 95 was introduced with support for 32-bit applications, most of the software and operating system code has been 32-bit compatible.  32-bit systems were desired because they could address (point to) 4 Gigabytes (GB) of memory in one go.  Nowadays however some applications require more than 4 GB of memory to complete their tasks so 64-bit systems are now becoming more attractive because they can potentially address up to 4 billion times that many locations.

 

Windows 8 64 bit has the ability to make use of upto 512GB of memory (RAM).  Whilst 32 bit operating systems may recognise that the computer has more than 4GB of RAM they are unable to map it to allow programs to access it.  In other words they can't establish the address and therefore can't find the additional memory.  Because Windows 8 64 bit can map up to 512GB Ram it can manage processes more efficiently swapping processes in and out of the memory faster.

 

As the number of bits increase there are two important benefits.

 
  • More bits means that data can be processed in larger chunks which also means more accurately.
  • More bits means your system can point to or address a larger number of locations in physical memory (RAM).

 

So far everything is pointing towards you having a 64 bit operating system isn't it however there are a couple of things that may make you think twice.

 
  • In order to run a 64 bit operating system you need to have a 64 bit or 64 bit compatible processor in your computer (all modern processors are 64 bit)
  • Not all programs are 64 bit compatible, but as more people change to 64 bit operating systems more programs are being introduced so it is only a matter of time.
 
 
 

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