You have most likely come across different variants of the same software with 32 bit or 64 bit options and wondered what is the difference between them and how does it impact a regular internet geek like yourself. Let us take a look at the core differences between the two and see which one is the best fit for you.
For starters, 32 bit and 64 bit is an architecture of the hardware which your CPU uses, in the older days, around 1990’s most if not all systems used CPUs with 32 bit programming architecture but as time has progressed technology has moved to newer 64 bit process architecture.
The 32 bit instruction set is often referred to as x86 while the 64 bit one is referred to as x64. If you are running windows on your system you can see 2 different folders with the title program files, one without any suffix and the other with an (x86) suffixed to it.
Why 2 Different Folders?
Since both the 32 bit and 64 bit architecture are fundamentally different processes there are two completely different ways to code for these processes. All applications use something called as shared resources, which on Windows is DLLs and on other operating systems are runtime libraries. If a 32 bit software searches for a DLL in the 64 bit folder it won’t find the required file and in turn crash.
How does Different Architecture Impact Users?
Well, all of this is for developers to think about what about normal users? How does a 32 bit or 64 bit OS impact a user? The basic difference between a 32 bit or a 64 bit OS for a consumer is the availability and usability of System memory i.e RAM. On a 32 bit OS the maximum amount of RAM which can be used is 4 GB (3.7 of which is actually usable as some of it is used to store the aforementioned libraries) whereas 64 bit OS can theoretically use 18 billion GB of RAM (Sadly unless we’re Bill Gates I don’t think we can afford that much ram given the current RAM Pricing)
Another key difference is that the current generation multi core CPUs can’t be made with older architecture and therefore any CPU with Two or More than Two cores will most certainly be based on the x64 Platform. As we all know in most cases more number of cores means faster processing and to enable the faster processing we require the x64 Architecture.
How it impacts different Operating Systems
Linux and MacOS both of which are based on a similar framework have different variants to them as well and until recently Linux and Linux distros recommended users to download the 32 bit variants but as CPUs have gotten more powerful with time OSs have too shifted from 32 bit to 64 bits.
Impact on Gamers and Power Users
A lot of the newer AAA titles require multiple cores and are based on the newer 64 bit architecture. Games like GTA 5 or Softwares like CAD don’t play well with the older 32 bit architecture as they require a lot of power to compute the problem.
Why Don’t We Abandon the 32 bit Architecture
Simply put we can’t abandon the older 32 bit architecture because there has already been tremendous development on the platform and to just abandon that and move on wouldn’t be a wise choice.
Final Verdict - Which One should you use?
If your system has more than 4 GB of RAM or if you are planning to upgrade to more than that then you will definitely require a 64 bit OS for the smooth functioning of day to day tasks and for optimum utilization of available resources. Also, if you use any heavy software like tools for engineering or graphic design then you will definitely require more than 4 GB of RAM and thereby a 64 bit OS. I recommend you to use a 64 bit variant of any OS or software you use as that will ensure the longevity and continuous support of the product.
I personally Run Windows 7 and Windows 10 both 64 bit on my rigs. Do let us know what operating system are you currently running on your system and which one do you prefer?