Support for 64-bit versions of web browsers on Windows is severely lacking. Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome are not offered as 64-bit versions on Windows yet, at least not when it comes to stable browser versions.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer is offered as 32-bit and 64-bit versions, and certain Firefox forks such as Pale Moon or Waterfox are offered for both architectures as well. As far as Firefox itself is concerned, Mozilla publishes a low-priority 64-bit version for Windows to the Nightly channel.
One of the core reasons why support is lacking is that the majority of browser plugins are not offered as 64-bit versions.
This is however going to be less of a problem with the decline of plugins in general.
The Chromium team announced today that it has started to release 64-bit versions of Chrome Dev and Canary for Windows.
The builds are only available to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, even though it is not clear if the limitation is enforced if you try to run the browsers on Vista or if this is just a support-thing.
It is interesting to note that the 64-bit version is advertised as the main version on the download pages. There is still a link for other versions, but the main browser version supplied by Google on those pages is 64-bit.
You can install the new version on top of the old one on Windows as data is preserved in the process so that you do not need to uninstall the 32-bit versions before you install the 64-bit version of Chrome on your Windows PC.
According to the Chromium team, a 64-bit version of Chrome takes full advantage of 64-bit application capabilities. As far as speed is concerned, the team noticed an average of 25% improvement in performance especially in graphics and multimedia content.
Security too is improved by making use of operating system features exclusive to 64-bit applications such as High Entropy ASLR on Windows 8. It will also help protect the browser better against exploitation techniques according to Google.
The Chromium team noticed improvements in regards to the stability of the browser as well. According to information posted by the team, the crash rate of the render process dropped to nearly half of that of 32-bit Chrome versions.
How to find out if you are running 32-bit or 64-bit Chrome
I could not find a way to find the information when running the browser. Thankfully though there are a couple of options.
- Fire up the Task Manager with Ctrl-Shift-Esc and check if the chrome process is displayed with a *32 at the end or not. If it is not, it is 64-bit.
- An alternative to that is to right-click on chrome.exe in the user directory, select properties, and there compatibility. If Vista is the earliest operating system offered for compatibility mode, and if all settings are grayed out, it is a 64-bit application.