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Difference Between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7

32-bit vs 64-bit Windows 7

When upgrading to Windows 7, users are already faced with the tough decision of selecting from the six or so different versions. Adding to the difficulty is choosing whether to have a 32-bit or 64-bit installation. The biggest difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7, and one of the reasons why 64-bit operating systems even exist, is the increased amount of memory that can be addressed. 32-bit Windows 7 can only utilize a maximum of 4GB of memory. In contrast, 64-bit Windows 7 can manage up to 192GB of memory. Most modern computers already come with 4GB of memory which can be expanded to 8GB or even more. It’s just a matter of time when 4GB is simply not enough for the ordinary user.

Another advantage of 64-bit Windows 7 is the added security of enforcing DEP (Data Execution Prevention) on the hardware level rather than on the software level like 32-bit Windows 7 does. Software backed DEP is not as secure as hardware backed DEP as there are still ways to circumvent protections unlike in hardware backed DEP where the prevention is done by the processor and cannot be bypassed.

Although a 64-bit Windows 7 installation seem to have all the advantages, there still are reasons to choose a 32-bit installation; mostly for compatibility purposes. In order to install 64-bit Windows 7, you need to have a processor that is capable of 64-bit operation which can be a problem on older systems. On the other hand, 32-bit Windows 7 can be installed on both 64-bit capable and 32-bit only processors.

There is also the problem of older hardware and their drivers. Most hardware have drivers for a 32-bit operating system, but older ones, especially discontinued products, often don’t have 64-bit drivers. This hardware would function on a 32-bit Windows 7 but not on 64-bit Windows 7. You need to make sure that all your hardware is 64-bit compatible before going with 64-bit Windows 7.

Lastly, older software is also an issue. 32-bit Windows 7 can still run older 16-bit software that was meant for older systems like Windows 3.1. 64-bit Windows 7 is unable to. This problem is only encountered by businesses that rely on antiquated software.

Summary:

1.64-bit Windows 7 can accommodate more memory than 32-bit Windows 7.
2.64-bit Windows 7 has hardware backed DEP while 32-bit Windows 7 is software based.
3.32-bit Windows 7 can be installed on 32-bit and 64-bit processors while 64-bit Windows 7 requires a 64-bit processor.
4.32-bit Windows 7 still enjoys wider hardware support than 64-bit Windows 7.
5.32-bit Windows 7 can run old 16-bit programs while 64-bit Windows 7 can’t.


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1 Comment

  1. This doesn’t explain the fundamental difference between the two; what 32-bit and 64-bit actually mean, i.e. word size and why 64-bit can handle more.

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