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By: Marcus Mic
What is all this fuss over 32 bit and 64 bit computing? Which scores higher and in what areas of computing? Let’s try to find out. Before we proceed towards the 32 bit vs 64 bit OS comparisons section, let’s first understand what a 32 bit and a 64 bit means and what both of these terms pertain to in computing context. 32 and 64 bits may refer to a variety of things in terms of computing and data processing on computers. However, most of the time when we talk of 32 bits and 64 bits, we usually refer to either microprocessors or operating systems. In the context of microprocessors, these bit values refer to the breadth of the process registers which are small data storage components that are a part of the CPU architecture. In the context of operating systems, 32 bit and 64 bit refer to memory addresses which locate the state information, also known as the memory of the computing system, where either a computer hardware or a computer program can deposit data and later retrieve the same from it. Here, we’ll discuss the various differences between 32 bits and 64 bits in terms of processors and operating systems.
32 Bit v s 64 Bit Processors
A brief introduction to 32 bit and 64 bit processors will assist in the understanding of both variants of operating systems. A 32 bit processor is one which has process registers or data buses wide enough to process data and memory addresses that can be laid out in 32 bits. Similarly, 64 bit processors have process registers or data buses wide enough to process data and memory addresses that can be laid out in 64 bits. As can be inferred from the number of bits, a 64 bit processor is capable of carrying double the amount of information to and from the computer’s memory. Therefore, when it comes to the question of 32 bit vs 64 bit speed, the 64 bit processors come out as the clear winner because if in a given time, one processor processes more information than the other, that simply means the former is faster in terms of the volume of information as well as the relative processing time. Therefore, the verdict definitely goes in favor of the 64 bit entrant in the 32 bit v s 64 bit processor duel!
32 Bit v s 64 Bit OS
So what is the difference between 32 and 64 bit operating systems? Theoretically, a 64 bit operating system will run faster than a 32 bit operating system due to the same logic as mentioned in the previous segment. However, there is one hitch here. While the processing capacity of a 32 bit operating system is limited to 4 gigabytes of RAM at a time, the processing capacity of a 64 bit operating system extends to a maximum of 16 hex bytes of RAM at a time. Confounded? Perhaps the following conversion to bytes would clear up the scene and help you better compare processing RAM capacity of these two operating system variants:-
- 1 gigabyte = 1073741824 bytes
- 1 hex byte = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes or 1018 bytes
- 1 hex byte = 1 billion gigabytes
Got the idea? Now, wondering what the aforementioned hitch is? Well for a 64 bit computer operating system to unleash its true processing potential, your system must have more than 6 gigabytes of memory or else the 64 bit processor might actually appear slower than the 32 bit. However, a 64 bit operating system can easily run all 32 bit applications and processes. Due to its large memory and faster processing capacity, a 64 bit processor improves the process and memory handling capabilities of your computer, enhancing your system’s speed. You may not be able to tell the difference externally but rest assured, a 64 bit processor does give your computer performance a phenomenal boost!
Also, besides higher and faster processing prowess, a 64 bit operating system harnesses way more virtual memory and can accommodate almost double the paging file size than what a 32 bit operating system can handle. Also, the hyperspace limit is also more than double in a 64 bit operating system as compared to a 32 bit one. Similar proportions apply to system caches, paged pools and PTEs. For instance, if you compare between a 64 bit version and a 32 bit version of a Windows OS , you will find in the technical specs that these proportions, indicating the superior operating capabilities of the higher bit version prevails. The same is true for any other operating system like Unbent, Linux, etc.
Considering the processing and performance capabilities, a 64 bit OS is a clear winner. However, depending upon your requirements and budget, you may find a 32 bit system more beneficial and economical if you intend to use it for most basic personal, office and household computing purposes. In these cases, you won’t notice much difference between 32 bit and 64 bit systems. However, if its heavy duty animation, graphics, multimedia and gaming that your system is going to be used for, a 64 bit processor is the wisest option as faster processing translates into better multimedia quality, superior animation functions and hitch free gaming experience. So, take your pick after thoroughly evaluating your computing needs.