The terms 32-bit and 64-bit refer to differences in your computer’s processor architecture. Older single core processors are by default 32-bit processors. Most of the newer processors being shipped today are 64-bit processors. Sources from both Intel and AMD have stated that almost all the CPU’s that are being shipped today are 64-bit systems. The major difference between 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems is the ability to handle large quantities of RAM.
If you are running Windows 7 32-bit version, the maximum amount of RAM that you will be able to access is 4GB. In reality, the actual quantum of RAM that you will be able to access is 3.7GB. Whereas, with a Windows 7 64-bit operating system, your system can handle way more than 4GB of RAM. According to Wikipedia, a 64-bit processor can support up to 16 exabytes of RAM; which is way more than any desktop you are ever likely to use. For perspective’s sake, 16 exabytes is equivalent to 17.2 billion GB.
On a 32-bit system, usually, once the physical RAM has been utilized, the OS allocates virtual RAM to be used from the hard-disk space on the computer. Microsoft has been pushing for application developers to write programs that take advantage of the 64-bit architecture when they write new programs. For your system to take full advantage of a 64-bit OS and processor, all the installed programs should also be designed for the 64-bit systems.
The 64-bit systems and programs are referred to by the x64 nomenclature. The major advantage of an x64 operating system and processor is that it makes your system future proof. You can upgrade your RAM to as much as you need in the future. 64-bit Windows 7 gives you better security features. The device drivers are digitally signed which means that you won’t have random crashes. The major advantage of these systems is the ability to run 3D modeling software and intensive graphics processing software like Photoshop.
There are a few drawbacks of Windows 7 64-bit systems that you need to be aware of before making the switch. While all 32-bit programs will run fine on 64-bit operating systems, the drivers of older devices are not supported by 64-bit system. This means that legacy devices like printers or scanners may become incompatible after you make the switch.
The entire technology space is moving towards the x64 architecture. The only reason to use the 32-bit OS is if you have less than 2 GB on your system and if you have devices that need 16-bit drivers to run. If you have 16-bit applications developed for Windows 3.1 and DOS that you need to run, if that is the case, it is not yet necessary to make the switch to Windows 7 64 bit system.
George Webber writes about Entertainment, Technology and the Internet. He writes on behalf of www.1800cabletv.com – your gateway to the best cable companies across the nation.