What Are 32-Bit And 64-Bit Operating Systems?

We often hear that a given operating system these days is either 32-bit or 64-bit. What are the key difference between the two and which of them should you go for? The post below explores these questions.

32-bit operating system

Before we explore their differences, it is important to note that these days most of the PCs ship with 64-bit operating systems. This is especially true for high-end machines which pack heavy-duty hardware under the hood.

32-bit operating system:
A 32-bit operating system simply indicates that the processor is able to utilize 32-bit pieces of data. Typically, machines which have RAM of up to 4 GB are 32-bit or don’t need an operating system which is 64-bit. A 32-bit OS works fine with 4GB of RAM and is able to access a sufficient amount of this memory to get the work done. However, if you are using a 32-bit OS, you will need all software versions on your machine to be compatible with the 32-bit processor. That’s because a 32-bit machine can not run any software meant for the 64-bit architecture.

32-bit operating system does have its limitations. The most significant among these is that it can access 4GB of RAM at max. So if you have more RAM packed into your machine and want to do some heavy-duty intensive work such as 3D art rendering, you will need to shift to the 64-bit architecture.

64-bit operating system:
A 64-bit machine is able to store 264 computational values. With this capabilities, a 64-bit processor is able to access an immense amount of memory when compared with the 32-bit machines. For a comparison, 64-bit CPU can access four billion times as much physical memory as a 32-bit chip. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it does, since it also depends on the amount of memory that is available in your machine.

Like mentioned above, you don’t need to run a 64-bit OS on a PC that packs up to 4GB of RAM. This wouldn’t lend you any significant advantage and at most, you will simply have to hunt down 64-bit versions of every software that you install on your machine. However, if you have a significantly larger amount of RAM, then 64-bit can help you utilize that RAM far more effectively.

For instance, if you have 16GB of RAM and you have to perform 3D rendering on your machine, a 64-bit architecture will be the perfect choice in this case. 32-bit OS will not be very helpful in 3D rendering or any other graphics-intensive work and you will end up witnessing lag and breaks in the performance of the machine. 64-bit architecture, on the other hand, will allocate a sufficient amount of memory to these heavy applications, letting them run smoothly.

Operating system and architecture:
So you have a 32-bit CPU in your PC. In this case, you can only run 32-bit operating system on it. The hardware wouldn’t support a 64-bit operating system. However, if you have a 64-bit CPU, it will support both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. Same is true for all the other software. 64-bit machines can typically run all sorts of 32-bit software but 32-bit machines can not go beyond 32-bit software.

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Salman Latif is a software engineer with a specific interest in social media, big data and real-world solutions using the two.Other than that, he is a bit of a gypsy. He also writes in his own blog. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter .

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