If you have bought a computer in recent years, chance is you run a 64-bit version of Windows on it. While Microsoft is still producing 32-bit copies of Windows 10, those are sold and deployed considerably less than 64-bit copies.
Microsoft itself has not released statistics about the distribution of 32-bit and 64-bit Windows systems. If you look at Steam's Hardware Survey, as flawed as it is, you will notice that 64-bit dominates the chart.
That is somewhat to be expected considering that games benefit from a lot of memory. Still, Windows 10 64-bit dominates Steam with 48.37% currently opposed to 32-bit Windows 10 with only 1.23%. The differences are less drastically for Windows 7 (28.82% to 5.40%) and Windows 8.1 (8.59% to 1.19%).
Things are different on the software side. Plenty of high profile applications are either only available as 32-bit versions, or prioritize the 32-bit version over the 64-bit version. This has been the case for the Firefox web browser for instance. Mozilla pushed the 32-bit version of Firefox on Windows, and is just starting to change that.
Differences between 64-bit and 32-bit programs
We talked about the differences of 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows back when Windows 7 was released. These are still true. While there are plenty of differences, the most important ones are that 64-bit Windows and programs may use more RAM, that 64-bit Windows offers additional security benefits, and that 64-bit Windows and programs are usually larger.
Find out if a Windows program is 32-bit or 64-bit
There are several ways to determine whether a Windows process is 32-bit or 64-bit. One of the best ways is to make use of the Windows Task Manager for that.
- Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-Shift-Esc to open the Task Manager.
All versions of Windows highlight 32-bit processes right away in the Task Manager. Any 32-bit program has a *32 listed after its image name so that you knew directly that it was a 32-bit process.
You can improve that by adding a dedicated platform column to the task manager that reveals right away if a process is 32-bit or 64-bit.
Step 1: First thing you may need to do is click on "more details", as the Task Manager that Windows 10 opens is not usable at all.
Step 2: The processes tab is of no use as well when it comes to determine whether a process is 32-bit or 64-bit. The important *32 addition is missing on that page.
Step 3: Switch to the Details tab. While that offers better information, it still lacks the vital information.
Step 4: Right-click on the title row of the tab and select "select columns".
Step 5: Locate and check "platform" when the new selection window opens.
Platform indicates directly whether a process is 64-bit or 32-bit.
Other means of determining whether a program is 32-bit or 64-bit are not as reliable. While you could look at the installation directory, Program Files (x86) or Program Files, it is not a 100% indicator as programs are not required to install in the right directory.
Also, this does not include any portable program you may be running, or programs that install in other directories by default.
Another indicator that seems to be reliable is to look at a processes compatibility information. Right-click on an executable file on the system or a process in the Task Manager, and select Properties from the context menu.
Third-party programs like Process Explorer may also be used to reveal whether a process is 32-bit or 64-bit.
This works similarly to how it is done in the Task Manager. Right-click on the title row in Process Explorer, select "select columns", and then select "Image Type(64 vs 32-bit) under "Process Image".
Now You: do you care if a program is 64-bit or 32-bit on your system?