Windows 7 32-bit vs 64-bit
Computer users who want to buy Microsoft's latest operating system Windows 7 have two choices to make. First they need to decide on the edition of the operating system. At least three different editions are available for retail users, they are: Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate.
Windows 7 Home Premium is the cheapest of the three, Ultimate the most expensive. The more expensive editions come with additional features and it is up to the user to decide which features are needed and which are not.
Most home users will be perfectly fine with Home Premium, as the Professional and Ultimate editions concentrate on offering additional features to professionals and businesses mostly.
As I have said earlier this is only one of the two decisions that users need to make. They also have to decide whether they want to install a 32-bit or 64-bit edition of the purchased operating system. This decision does not have to be made during the purchase as the Windows product key is valid for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the selected edition.
But what's the difference? Take a look at the Windows 7 32-bit vs. 64-bit showdown below:
- A 64-bit compatible cpu (processor) is needed to install a 64-bit edition of Windows. Options to find out include consulting the papers that came with the PC / cpu purchase, asking the vendor or running a tool like 64bit Checker which can provide the information if Windows is already installed.
- 32-bit systems have a 4 Gigabyte RAM memory limit, which means they cannot address more than 4GB of RAM even if more is installed on the system. There are workarounds but not really for the average user. And not all of the 4 Gigabytes are available for the operating system as devices like the video card use that RAM as well. Microsoft has artificially limited the RAM available in 64-bit editions of Windows 7 to 16 Gigabytes for Windows 7 Home Premium, and 192 for Ultimate and Professional editions.
- 64-bit editions have additional advantages, including an increased per-process limit, hardware enabled DEP (data execution prevention) and better Kernel protection.
- But there are also a few downsides, at least for some users: This includes that 16-bit applications do not work anymore in Windows 7 64-bit, and that drivers need to be signed digitally. This could mean that some hardware or applications in rare cases do not work anymore on a 64-bit system.
- The majority of 32-bit applications will continue to work on a 64-bit systems. It can however happen that some applications do not work at all, or run slower than on a 32-bit system.
- The Windows 7 installation on the hard drive is larger for 64-bit editions of Windows. Microsoft recommends 16 Gigabytes of free space for 32-bit editions of Windows 7, and 20 Gigabytes for 64-bit editions.
Windows 7 32-bit vs 64-bit, which should you install? If your cpu is compatible with 64-bit editions of Windows, and you have or plan to upgrade to 4 Gigabytes of computer memory or more, then you should consider installing a 64-bit edition of Windows 7. Some users who need to work with 16-bit software, very old programs or stoneage hardware may want to consider using a 32-bit Windows 7 installation instead.
Users who do not know yet may want to consider visiting or using the following resources to aid them in their decision making process:
Have anything to add about 32-bit versus 64-bit Windows editions? Let us know in the comments.Advertisement