Did you know that a 32-bit Operating System can run on a 32-bit or a 64-bit computer, but a 64-bit OS can only run on a 64-bit operating system? In fact, many computers on sale these days advertise their 64-bit Processor, but in fact are running a 32-bit Operating System. Why is that you ask? One reason for this is to increase Software Compatibility. Software Compatibility is not as much of a problem as it was 10 years ago though. Most 32-bit programs tend to run fine on a 64-bit operating system nowadays. This being said, if your PC is 64-bit capable and you have a copy of a 64-bit OS or can get a copy, I recommend installing it rather than a 32-bit version.
Here are a few benefits of running a 64-bit Operating System:
- More than 4GB of memory may be addressed, which is ideal for “heavy” applications, such as video game, CAD software and video editors. NOTE: Any 32 bit software you use will still be restricted to 4GB of memory. In order to fully utilize the installed RAM, you will need a 64-bit CPU, OS and Software.
- A 64-bit architecture provides more and wider general-purpose registers, which contribute to greater overall application speed. When there are more registers, there is less need to read and write persistent data to memory. Function calls are also faster in a 64-bit environment.
- More secure, the 64-bit processors made by AMD and Intel include hardware support for data execution prevention (DEP). Windows uses DEP to prevent malicious code from being able to execute, even when a buffer overrun occurs.
Here are a few detriments of running a 64-bit Operating System:
- 16-bit applications will no longer run. For most of us this is no problem, but if you use very old software (Made for Windows 3.1 or older) then chances are it will not work under a 64-bit OS.
- Existing 32-bit drivers no longer work. Older or poorly supported hardware may no longer be used. For example, an old scanner that barely worked in 32-bit Vista may not work in 64-bit Windows 7.
- Unsigned kernel-mode drivers no longer work. Unsigned kernel mode drivers will cause problems for old hardware in 64-bit Windows, although there is a way to bypass this check and install them anyways.
- Running some 32-bit applications on a 64-bit OS may be slower. 32-bit applications run under the Windows on Windows 64 (WoW64) environment, which emulates the old 32-bit Windows systems. This means that all 32-bit programs run through an additional layer in Windows before they can be processed. This usually results in around a 2% performance loss.
Is my computer capable of running a 64-bit operating system?
To quickly check your computer if it’s capable of running a 64-bit operating system, download and run 64-bit Checker from here:
Compatible with Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP, 2000, NT and Windows Me, 98, 95
Whether your computer is capable of running a 64-bit operating system or not, any PC with 2GB of RAM or less should just stick with a 32-bit OS. I say this because a 64-bit operating system uses more RAM than a 32-bit OS, and less than 2GB of RAM will run out fairly quick essentially starving software programs of RAM. This can dramatically slow down your programs.
In conclusion, 64-bit is not for everyone. Personally, I wouldn’t install a 64-bit operating system unless I had over 4GB of RAM installed in my system. Of course, that’s my personal opinion. If you run any kind of AutoCAD, Corel VideoStudio Pro, or any other kind of memory and CPU hungry software, it may be worthwhile to go with a 64-bit Operating System. Else, stick with what’s tried and true, 32-bit is so much more user friendly.