What is the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows?

The terms ‘32-bit’ and ‘64-bit’ refer to the way a computer's processor (also called a CPU) handles information. The 64-bit version of Windows handles large amounts of random access memory (RAM) more effectively than the 32-bit system.

How can I tell if my computer is running a 32-bit or a 64-bit version of Windows?

To find out if your computer is running a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows in Windows 7 or Windows Vista, do the following:

  • Open System by clicking the Start button, right-clicking Computer, and then clicking Properties.

  • Under System, you can view the system type.

Which version of Windows should I install: the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version?

To install a 64-bit version of Windows, you need a CPU that's capable of running a 64-bit version of Windows. The benefits of using a 64-bit operating system are most apparent when you have a large amount of random access memory (RAM) installed on your computer, typically 4 GB of RAM or more. In such cases, because a 64-bit operating system can handle large amounts of memory more efficiently than a 32-bit operating system, a 64-bit system can be more responsive when running several programs at the same time and switching between them frequently. 

How do I tell if my computer can run a 64-bit version of Windows?

To run a 64-bit version of Windows, your computer must have a 64-bit-capable processor. To find out if your processor is 64-bit-capable, do the following:

  • Open Performance Information and Tools by clicking the Start button, and then clicking Control Panel.

  • In the search box, type ‘Performance Information and Tools’, and then, in the list of results, click Performance Information and Tools.

  • Click View and print detailed performance and system information. In the System section, you can see what type of operating system you're currently running under System type, and whether or not you can run a 64-bit version of Windows under the ‘64-bit capable’ section. (If your computer is already running a 64-bit version of Windows, you won't see the 64-bit capable listing.)

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