What is the Difference Between 32 bit and 64 bit?

In general, personal computers come in two popular variant such as 32 bit operating system/processor with 32-bit and operating system/processor with 64-bit. Many of us are aware of these terms but few people know its technical differences. So, I’ve decided to clear the differences between 32 bit and 64 bit which would help you at the time of purchasing a new computer.

32-bit vs 64-bit

Bit, it is a term which you must be hearing frequently in day to day life. You might ask “Will this 32-bit software run on my 64-bit operating system?” Well, before determining the software to install on your computer, you need to understand about a “bit”.

What is a bit?

In English language, a bit is a small piece, part or quantity of something. However, in the computer world, it is not the same. Just like kg is the unit of weight, km is the unit of distance, a bit is the unit of information. A bit is the most basic unit of information which can store only two values either 0 or 1. In the central processing unit, a bit refers to a memory. In case of distance 1000 meter makes a 1 km just like that 8 bits makes a byte.

Now the question arises what is the difference between 32 bit and 64 bit.

Differentiation of 32-bit and 64-bit

Let’s compare 32-bit and 64-bit in terms of memory and speed.

RAM Support

32-bit can support 4GB RAM and to be more precise it can support 3.25GB RAM as a part of the registry is used to store some temporary values. However 64-bit can support 4 billion times of RAM as compared with 32-bit RAM. It can support up to 16EB RAM, which is virtually unlimited. So if you have a 4GB RAM you don’t need a 64 bit processor as 32-bit processor will work fine in this case. Although, for higher RAM you will need a 64-bit processor.


In the case of 32-bit, data is loaded from the disk and is stored in the memory. This process is repeated and it produces slow speed. The system needs to go back to the disk to perform operations, which slows down the whole system. Thus 32-bit are much slower.

In 64-bit, large number of processors is added in the memory. This means more data can be loaded from the RAM than the disk itself. Thus, it is very much faster than 32-bit.

Which 32-bit and 64-bit combinations are compatible and will work together?

Most of the times confusion remains whether which version is compatible with another version. Will 32-bit support 64-bit? One of the most basic rules is that 32-bit will run on a 64-bit component, but 64-bit does not run on a 32-bit component.

The main reason that a 32-bit will always run on 64-bit is that the 64-bit components have been designed to work in that particular way. However the newer version of 64-bit processors are backwards-compatible and thus can run on 32-bit software.

For better understanding, let me explain the various combinations of compatibility from the basic of computer. Your PC has three main parts:

                   Processor -> Operating System -> Applications

                     (Basic level)

So, to run a 64-bit Operating system, you need 64-bit processor. Likewise, to run 64-bit applications, you need have both 64-bit processor and operating system. Now, you might ask, when we mixing the 32-bit and 64-bit parts then? For this question, I’d suggest you to have a general rule in mind.

“ A 32-bit runs smoothly on the basic level 64-bit component”

So, a 32-bit OS runs on 32-bit/64-bit Processor and 32-bit applications run on 32-bit/64-bit OS.

Is it still not clear? Check the below table

  • If you have 32-bit Processor
    32-bit OS32-bit ApplicationWill work
    32-bit OS64-bit ApplicationWill not work
    64-bit OS32-bit ApplicationWill not work
    64-bit OS64-bit ApplicationWill not work
  • If you have 64-bit Processor
64-bit OS64-bit ApplicationWill work
64-bit OS32-bit ApplicationWill work
32-bit OS32-bit ApplicationWill work
32-bit OS64-bit ApplicationWill not work

I hope that you’re clear with the compatible bit combinations.

How to find whether a processor/software is 32 bit or 64 bit?

To know whether your computer or laptop is having 32-bit or 64-bit processor/OS, right click “My Computer” and select “Properties”, you’ll be able to see the system details.

The very simple way to find out about the bit memory of your software is by opening it in a task manager. Just open the task manager by pressing control + alt + delete simultaneously to display the status of the software.


Final Words

To install the exact operating system and applications, it is essential to know what type of processor of your computer. On the other hand, it is important to know the operating system of your computer to install the right software. 64-bit have lots of memory and could handle larger files whereas 32-bit is limited to 4GB of memory. Most of the manufacturers build PCs with 64-bit processor and thus users are installing 64-bit OS/Applications on it.

Are you clear with the differentiation between 32-bit and 64-bit? Express your views in comment section.

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