32-Bit vs 64-Bit Computer or Laptop: Does It Really Matter?

Only a few years ago, 32-bit vs. 64-bit  was something that only people using Linux had to concern themselves with, but that has quickly changed. Now almost every computer or laptop has both 64-bit and 32-bit options. You might be preparing to purchase a new computer or do an upgrade to an existing system and wondering, “Which version should I choose?” or “Does it really matter and why?”.

The amount of data a chip can process at once is the main difference between 32-bit and 64-bit processors. The 64-bit CPUs can handle more memory and larger files. However, even if your computer has a 64-bit processor, it will not be able to benefit from it unless it also has a 64-bit operating system.

The primary benefit of moving to a 64-bit system is improved performance. The performance benefit is related to two factors: the ability to use more RAM and amount of data that can be moved around is increased. 32-bit operating systems are typically  limited to using 4 gigs of RAM, even if more is installed on the computer. This means that processing power has an upper limit. In contrast, 64-bit systems can access over 16 billion gigabytes of memory – much more than your computer can likely accommodate. This means that a 64-bit system can use much more memory and ultimately perform faster.

Keep in mind that only applications that are optimized for 64-bit will run faster than their 32-bit equivalents. Also, unless you are performing  very memory intense tasks like video editing or complex mathematical calculations you probably won’t notice a huge performance difference between a 64-bit and 32-bit system with the same amount of RAM.

There are a few considerations for moving to a 64-bit system. The first possible issue associated with 64-bit operating systems – one that might eliminate the option entirely – is does your CPU support 64-bit. The processor in your computer must have 64-bit support. Although the majority of computers today support 64-bit software, older or lower-end, less expensive budget devices may not.

Another possible challenge of moving to a 64-bit operating system is that some hardware drivers or other software programs may not be available in 64-bit versions. Although most 32-bit applications will function properly on a 64-bit operating system, some like low-level device drivers and anti-virus applications may not.

You should also be aware that more disk space is typically required to install a 64-bit operating system than the 32-bit version. However, this isn’t an issue on most modern computers given the extremely large hard drives.

If you still have more questions, feel free to contact one of our computer consultants.