32 Versus 64 Bit Versions of Windows

In the simplest terms, 32 bit and 64 bit refer to the way your CPU handles different forms of information. The 64 bit version of Windows is able to handle much larger amounts of RAM than the smaller bit system. A bit is short for "binary digit," and describes how your computer stores memory and data. Binary codes are streams of 1's and 0's and tell your processor how to do calculations. The 32 bit processor represents numbers from 0 to over 4 billion, while a 64 bit machine represents numbers from 0 to over 18 quadrillion.

Obviously, then, the larger machine can handle math with larger numbers. Understand, however that there will be very few of us home computer users who do that kind of mathematical equations at home. Academic institutions or private companies who solve very complex problems and have huge databases would be more interested in this calculation ability. For the average user, while you might see some benefits in using the larger version, many of your present programs may not have been written to take advantage of the extra power, therefore will use little of it.

Which Version is My Computer Running?

If you are running Vista or Windows 7 and are unsure which version your computer is presently running, click the "start" button, then "control panel," then "system and maintenance," and finally "system." You will be able to view what system type your computer is running. Before you decide to install a 64 bit version of Windows Vista or Windows 7, ensure your processor is capable of running it.

If you have large amounts of RAM installed on your computer (4GB or more) then you will see more benefits, as your system will likely be more responsive and able to run several programs at the same time. To determine if your processor is capable of running the larger version, follow the above instructions, however after you click on "system and maintenance," then click "performance information and tools." Then click the view and print details. Remember that if your computer is already running a 64 bit version, you won't see the listing. You cannot upgrade from the 32 to the 64 unless you want to re-install all your programs.

Windows 7-32 or 64 Bit?

There are several Windows 7 editions, and one of the choices you will be required to make is whether you want to run a 32 bit or 64 bit version. If your present computer is more than two or three years old, you may have no choice in the matter and might have to stay with the smaller processor, however if you have a newer computer, you can probably choose which version you prefer. Much of today's software has been written for a 32 bit system, and in order to take advantage of the 64 bit optimization, you will need specific software.

If you are a gamer, then you would be able to take better advantage of a 4GB or larger memory and the older 16 bit programs will not run at all on a 64 bit system. If you have a newer computer as well as the latest hardware and drivers, then it could very well be worth your time and trouble to move up to a 64 bit operating system, and before too long the 64 bit will be the industry standard anyway, so maybe it's time to upgrade.