32 Bit vs 64 Bit? Which One Should I Choose?
You probably saw these terms when looking at a new PC or installing new software. There could be two versions of the same program or the same operating system: 32 Bit or 64. We will take a look at the main differences between these two.
32-Bit Operating System
A 32 Bit CPU architecture can transfer 32 bits of data, referring to the amount of data that your CPU can process. Most of the computers made in the 1990s and early 2000s had a 32-bit processor that only works with a 32-bit operating system. The 32-bit system addresses 4,294,967,296 bytes of data (4 GB of RAM or physical memory), although it can only access less than that (3.5 GB usually).
64-Bit Operating System
A 64 Bit CPU architecture processes information and memory addresses on 64 bits of data. A 64 Bit processor can reach 16 exabytes (17,179,869,184 GB) of RAM, even more than the actual operating system allows. As an example, Windows 10 has a ceiling of 2 Terabytes of RAM. A 64 Bit processor can support both a 32 Bit and 64 operating systems.
Difference Between 32 Bit and 64 Bit
We looked at what both mean. Now we will dive into each and compare the main features of both systems and know their differences.
Older computers have a 32 Bit processor. That means it will only run a 32-bit operating system or lower, and a 32-bit OS would only run properly 32-bit software or below. If you want to get retro and have 16-bit programs, go for 32 Bit then.
A 64 Bit software wouldn’t work as intended (or not at all) on 32 Bit processors. But a key difference is that a 64 Bit processor can run both 32 and 64 Bit operating systems. It would run software with no issues on both architectures as they are backward compatible. But for older programs, you will need to emulate a 32 Bit system, as a 64 Bit can’t run 16 Bit software.
The 32 Bit processors are less efficient than 64 Bit processors. You can compare it as 32 Bit reaches less than 4 GB of RAM, while 64 Bit has larger RAM capacities, topping 16 Billion GB.
A 32 Bit system has dual-core and quad-core versions of it. A 64 Bit system comes with dual-core, quad-core, six-core, and eight-core versions. Multiple cores increase the speed of calculations per second, processing power, and data transfer.
On multitasking, a 64 Bit computer shouldn’t have problems with it. It’s very good for stress testing and checking graphics performance, ideal if you want to dive into playing graphic-intensive games.
It is pretty hard to get a 32 Bit processor as most modern computers are built on a 64 Bit processor nowadays. As an example, Intel has been selling a 64 Bit structure since 2001.
PCs with a 64 Bit operating system will still get infected by malicious software and ransomware. But it has more security features than the ones with a 32 Bit operating system. A 64 Bit Windows OS requires driver signing, a digital imprint that guarantees that the files were tested on the operating system. It’s a Microsoft protocol that would prevent malware’s unsigned drivers from getting into your system as they will find it difficult to bypass the 64 Bit mandatory signing.
It also has a compatibility layer that puts limits on 32 Bit programs, and with that, it makes older malware unable to run on 64 Bit versions.
There is a 32 Bit operating system version for Windows XP, Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10, as there is for Linux too.
They also have their 64 Bit versions of those OS until Windows 11. From now then, Microsoft will only develop versions for 64 Bit. Linux has its 64 Bit OS and Apple started to do only 64 Bit versions for Mac since the Mac OS X Snow Leopard in 2009. Going further, the latest version of Mac OS Catalina only supports the 64 Bit version of any software.
The iPhone 5S was the first smartphone to implement 64 Bit version of their operating system, thanks to the A7 Apple chip. In 2015, the company mandated that every iOS software should be built in 64 Bit, and after an update in June 2016, any 32 Bit app would trigger a “not optimized” warning when launched.
Android got its 64 Bit upgrade since Lollipop 5.0. All versions before were 32 Bit. But unlike iOS, later versions of Android still support most applications on 32 Bit. Although, that could change in future versions, so keep an eye on that.
For mobile, getting 64 Bit processors is not only about more RAM capacity. It doesn’t secure a better performance just getting x64. It has more benefits, like cycling more data and launching apps faster, moving forward to be built on better hardware and get improved features, and having better encryption.
How to Check if Your Operating System Is 32 Bit or 64 Bit
Perhaps you just simply don’t know which version of the OS you installed. In a few steps, you can check it out on your PC.
- First, open File Explorer. You can see it on Windows Search Bar (it has a “Folder” icon), you can type it there or press the Windows key + E.
- Then, on the left-side bar of the File Explorer window, right-click on “This PC” and from that menu, select “Properties” (last option).
- It will redirect you to an “About” window, and on “System Type” you will see the version of your current OS.
- Click the “System” menu button in the upper right corner (the one that looks like a gear).
- Select “System Settings” from the drop-down menu.
- It will pop up in the “System Settings” menu. There, select “Details” (again, a gear icon).
- A new window will appear. In the “Overview” section, we can check some specifications of our system, and on “OS type,” it should say if it is 32 Bit or 64 Bit.
- Open the Apple menu by clicking on the “Apple” icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
- Select “About this Mac.” It will pop up a new window.
- In “Overview,” click “System Report” (the left button).
- Then, check “Processor Name” and which processor you have on the machine. Then you should check with the Apple table and check if they are built on 32 Bit or 64 Bit.
This will require third-party apps like CPU-Z, AnTuTu Benchmark, or AIDA64, as they can tell your Kernel architecture with certainty. You can do a fast check first:
- Go to the “Settings” menu (displayed with a gear icon).
- Select “About Phone.” You should check your Kernel version.
- If not, on the same window, select “Software Information,” and there should be your Kernel version.
- If it has a string of text that says “x64”, that would be enough to know that it is 64 Bit. On some models, it will even appear on the “Android Version.” If not, you should double-check with the apps mentioned before, as sometimes it could be 64 Bit system, but it is not displayed.
This would not be necessary as every iPhone since 5S that has Apple 7A chip and further are made in 64 Bit architecture. Also, the iPad Air and iPad Mini 2 or later are made with 64 Bit OS. Anything before was built on 32 Bit versions.
32 Bit vs 64 Bit - Who Wins?
Looking at the difference between 32 Bit and 64 Bit, the latter are the clear winners, as most computers and mobile devices are moving toward the “64 Bit world.” It improves every aspect that 32 Bit offered, from a bigger ceiling for RAM, more memory addresses, better security features, better graphics performance, faster and better performance, and the possibility to improve your hardware as it happens on mobile devices where 32 Bit gets its limitations.
Even developers should start to forget about making 32 Bit software, as we are starting to see that 64 Bit will put behind most of the 32 Bit programs in the not far future.
Upgrade from 32 Bit to 64 Bit
The first thing you need to check is if your current setup has a 64 Bit processor. As we noted, a 32 Bit processor will not support 64 Bit OS and neither 64 Bit software. If it isn’t a 64 Bit processor, you better try to get new hardware or buy a new 64 Bit computer. Most PCs built on this day come with a 64 Bit processor.
That said, now is the time to get a 64 Bit version of an operating system. Since Windows XP Professional, all Microsoft operating systems come with a 64 Bit version. Since the last edition, Windows 11, they will push forward to only 64 Bit Windows.
Linux has a lot of versions for 32 Bit and 64 Bit. Debian, Mageia, and Leap are some of their 32 Bit OS. Meanwhile, we got Ubuntu, Mint, and Kali as some of the 64 Bit versions.