When creating a bootable Windows installer or installing the operating system from a CD, you need to decide whether you want a 32-bit or a 64-bit operating system. If you are not sure what these mean, this question can confuse you. Even worse, choosing the wrong option can affect system performance in the future.
Let's discuss the differences between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows and which ones to choose the next time you install Windows.
32-bit and 64-bit: what's the difference?
We discussed the differences between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows
What is the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows?
beforehand, what we will summarize briefly here. Whether you can install a copy of 32-bit or 64-bit Windows depends on the processor in your computer.
Like Windows, modern processors are either 32-bit or 64-bit. 64-bit computers can process much more information at the same time, making them more powerful.
If you have a 32-bit processor, you can only install 32-bit Windows. Conversely, although it is possible to install 32-bit Windows on a 64-bit processor, you must be running 64-bit Windows to take full advantage of a 64-bit CPU.
To determine if 64-bit Windows is installed on Windows 10, go to Settings> System> Info. Under the Device specifications Header next to System typeYou will see if Windows and your processor are 32-bit or 64-bit.
In previous versions of Windows, right-click computer in the start menu and select properties to display the same information. If you didn't know x86 refers to 32-bit architecture while x64 means 64-bit.
Should I download 32-bit or 64-bit Windows?
Nowadays 64-bit installations of Windows are far more common than 32-bit versions. However, whether you should install 32-bit or 64-bit Windows depends on your current setup.
If you buy a new off-the-shelf PC, it most likely contains a 64-bit copy of Windows. Since 64-bit is largely the standard, only low-end computers with a 32-bit processor are shipped today. You're done with a new PC with a 64-bit version of Windows installed on a 64-bit processor.
If you update a current Windows installation, the situation is different. If you are upgrading to Windows 10 from an earlier version, first check if your processor is 64-bit using the method described above.
If so, you should install the 64-bit version of Windows when upgrading. This secures your machine for the future and ensures that you do not have to upgrade again later. Those with a 32-bit processor can unfortunately only upgrade to a 32-bit version of Windows.
Install the correct version of Windows
While you can still buy a physical copy of Windows 10 in stores like Walmart and Best Buy, the best way to install Windows 10 for most users is through Microsoft's Windows 10 download page.
click Download the tool now Click the Media Creation Tool on this page. This will guide you through upgrading your current PC to Windows 10 or creating a bootable USB drive to install Windows
How to install Windows 10 from a bootable USB drive
on another machine.
If you go through the steps, the tool will ask you to choose one Architecture for installation where you can choose 64-bit or 32-bit. Windows recommends an option based on what your PC recognizes. Clear the check box Use the recommended options Field if you need to change it based on what you found earlier.
You should know that if you are running an original version of Windows, you can probably upgrade to Windows 10 for free
How to get Windows 10 for free or cheap
. Your current product key activates Windows 10 properly. If you need to buy a new license, don't worry about 64-bit or 32-bit when you get the product key.
Buying a license only entitles you to activate and use Windows. It is not tied to one of the types of architecture.
What are the advantages of 64-bit Windows?
Now that you know if you need 32-bit or 64-bit Windows, what does using a 64-bit edition of Windows 10 mean to you?
The biggest change is that x64 Windows can process a lot more RAM than a 32-bit edition. 32-bit operating systems are limited to using 4 GB RAM or less. Therefore, under 32-bit Windows, you cannot use RAM that you have installed above 4 GB. 64-bit systems can use more RAM than you will ever need
How much RAM do you really need?
(theoretically about 17 million TB).
On a 64-bit Windows system, you will also find two different ones Program files Folder in your system drive. Because 32-bit programs are inherently different from 64-bit software, they are separated from Windows.
So if you install software that is designed for x64 systems, it will be sent to the Program files Folder. 32-bit software goes in Program files (x86) instead. Only one is displayed on a 32-bit system Program files Folder because 64-bit software cannot be used.
Under the hood, 64-bit Windows is inherently more secure. Most of the improvements come from simple optimizations that go beyond the scope of this overview. An example is that 64-bit Windows enforces driver signing. While these changes don't make the operating system immune to attack, it's a more modern architecture that isn't held back by old exploits.
Choice of 32-bit and 64-bit software
Some apps like Google Chrome and Microsoft Office are available in a 64-bit version. These versions don't offer massive improvements over the 32-bit versions, but are somewhat more efficient and stable than their 32-bit counterparts.
Heavy programs like video editors and high-end games run better in their 64-bit versions. Multitasking is also becoming more efficient.
If you can choose between 32-bit and 64-bit apps on a 64-bit system, choose 64-bit for best performance. However, there is nothing wrong with running 32-bit apps on a 64-bit system, since most apps can't take advantage of the differences anyway.
You can see which apps are 32-bit on your system by opening Task Manager with Ctrl + Shift + Esc and check the Processes Tab. Everything with (32 bit) there is still no 64-bit next to its name.
32-bit vs. 64-bit: further considerations
As long as your computer / processor is relatively new, you should have no problems upgrading to a 64-bit version of Windows.
If your computer's processor was one of the earliest with 64-bit architecture, some minor functions may not be supported. This can cause problems with 64-bit Windows. However, you can run a tool like 64-bit Checker to make sure your hardware is ready for 64-bit Windows.
If you are currently using a 32-bit version of Windows and are planning to upgrade, you will need to reinstall. There's no easy upgrade path like upgrading Windows 7 to Windows 10.Read our guide to upgrade Windows 10 from 32-bit to 64-bit
How to upgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit in Windows 10
When you're ready.
If you are running 64-bit Windows, you also need to make sure that your hardware is compatible. Windows Update should automatically find drivers for your internal components, but outdated printers or other old peripherals may not have a 64-bit driver.
Archaic 16-bit applications such as DOS games do not work even on 64-bit versions of Windows. You must use workarounds to run legacy software on 64-bit Windows 10
How to run really old software on a 64-bit PC: 6 methods
Do I need 64-bit Windows?
64-bit Windows is standard for most people these days, and you should use it to take advantage of security features, better performance, and increased RAM capacity. The only reasons why you want to stick with 32-bit Windows are:
- Your computer has a 32-bit processor. Since you need to buy a new computer to install 64-bit Windows, stick with what you have now. Be sure to buy an x64 machine for your next computer.
- You are using old software or devices. Because 32-bit Windows was common for years, older devices only offered 32-bit drivers. If your printer is 20 years old, it probably won't work on 64-bit Windows.
- Hopefully you don't work with software from decades ago every day, but if you do, you should probably stop upgrading to 64-bit Windows. In both cases, you should update these tools so that you can modernize your system.
If you're having trouble installing apps after upgrading to 64-bit Windows, find out what to do if the Windows software doesn't install
What to do if the Windows software is not installed
Disclosure of partners: By purchasing the products we recommend, you are helping to keep the website alive. Continue reading.