Difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Operating Systems

Windows OS

While installing different version of operating system or software programs into your computer system you first check whether your system is a 32 – bit or 64 – bit but have you ever wondered why this is important to check? What if you install a new software supporting 64 – bit windows operating system into an existing 32 – bit operating system? Will your newly installed software work? All these questions will be answered in this article.

To know the difference between 64 – bit OS and 32- bit OS, you must know what are actually bit, byte, and operating system. Well, if you already know do not directly jump off to the differences. We might have something to add to your existing knowledge.

Bit and Byte in computer system

A bit is the smallest unit to represent data in computer system memory. It is a binary number that is either 0 or 1. In other way, we can say that such memory is capable of storing 2 distinct values i.e., 0 or 1.

A byte is the collection of 8 bits that means the memory in such system can store 2^8 (256) distinct values. There are several other kind of memory units such as kilobyte, megabyte etc. Let’s see them first.

1 byte = 8 bits

1 kilobyte (KB) = 2^10 byte

1 megabyte (MB) = 2^10 kilobyte

1 gigabyte (GB) = 2^10 megabyte

1 terabyte (TB) = 2^10 gigabyte

1 petabyte (PB) = 2^10 terabyte

Modern computers have the ability to store large amount of data generally in MB, GB, TB and the networks are capable of transmitting millions or billions of bits in a second which are known as megabits per second (Mbps) and gigabits per second (Gbps), respectively.

What is 32-bit and 64 bit?

Hardware and software can be 32-bit and 64-bit which means the 32-bit system can utilize data in 32-bit pieces while 64-bit system can utilize data in 64-bit pieces. In early days of 90s computer system processor was of 32-bit which means the processor can processes 32 bits of data at a time. Then 32-bit operating system and memory was introduced for a 32-bit processor because they have to handle 32-bits of data at a time. By the term 32-bit I mean, the primary memory will have address space of 2^32 which is 4294967296 bytes (4 GB) and 32 bit address is required to store particular data at specific address.

As you guessed it right, 64-bit computer system processor can process 64-bit of data at a time. Such computer systems have 64-bit operating system and software programs to support 64-bit of data. They have RAM which have 2^64 address spaces which is equal to 18-Quintillion GB.

So, now you have a clear understanding of 32-bit and 64-bit, I will briefly explain the operating system and its functions.

What is Operating System?

You must have heard people talking about various operating system– Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, IOS but do you know what actually it does? Have you ever wondered why a computer cannot function without any appropriate operating system? Even not only your computers, your mobile phones, laptops, iPads and tablets all of them have operating system installed. So, without any further questions, I will explain you what exactly it is.  

An Operating System is the system software which is designed to manage computer hardware, software resources and provides services for computer programs. It acts as an interface between the computer user and the hardware components. Without operating system any software program is of no use, for example, MS word, MS excel, VLC media player, video games all of these programs need operating system to run.

As you can notice in the diagram the operating system is between the user and the hardware because user cannot directly work on CPU, memory devices like RAM, ROM, registers, cache memory, hard drives etc. Operating system provides an interface so user can work on hardware components of the computer system.

An operating system performs memory management, device management, communication management, Input output management and several other tasks.

Also Read – What is Operating System?

Difference between 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems

A 64-bit operating system can handle much more information than 32-bit operating systems; which means the 64-bit computer processor or CPU can process large amount of data than a 32-bit computer processor. The 64-bit computer system have 64-bit RAM and it can store more data than a 32- bit RAM. Now, you might have guessed, a 64-bit operating system is much better in processing, storing and transmitting humungous data at a time.

Have a look at the differences shown in tabular format:

S. No. Key 32 – bit Operating System 64 – bit Operating System
1. Data processing and storage A 32-bit OS can process and store less data than a 64 – bit OS. It can store maximum of 4 GB of RAM. A 64 – bit of OS can process and store more amount of data than 64-bit of OS. It can store 18- Quintillion GB of RAM.
2. System Compatibility A system with 32 – bit processor can run only on 32 – bit of OS. A system with 64 – bit processor can run either on 64 – bit or 32 – bit of OS.
3. Performance The 32 – bit OS is less efficient than a 64 – bit OS because of their limit of data processing. The 64 – bit OS handles more data and can transmit large amount of data at a time so it is more efficient than a 32 – bit OS.

Bottom Line

A 64 – bit OS have ability to handle more data than a 32 – bit OS, it is highly efficient and large storage space so modern computers have 64 – bit OS to increase the throughput. While installing a software program the end user must check the system compatibility that means whether the software is for 64 – bit OS or 32 – bit OS and accordingly appropriate software should be installed otherwise there a chance that it may not work in your system.

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