While downloading software off the internet, you often come across the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the same software setup. For Windows users, if you are unsure of which version needs to be downloaded, simply right click on the windows icon on the bottom-left part of your screen and chose System. Next you will see your system type information that specifies whether your computer is a 32-bit or 64-bit system. These days, most desktop computers have a 64-bit architecture with few phones having the same. The I-phone 5S was the first phone to have a 64-bit CPU architecture.
What is a bit?
A bit is a single binary character and the smallest unit of data storage that can only have 2 possible values, 1 or 0. So with 2-bits we could express 4 values, meaning x-bits could express 2x different values.
What does 32-bit mean?
The maximum number of values a 32-bit system can handle is 232 which amounts to 4294967296 or over 4.29 billion. This number also means that the maximum amount of RAM that the system can support is 4GB.
What does 64-bit mean?
No! 64-bit is not twice as much as 32-bit. A 64-bit system can allocate about 264 or 18446744073709551616 values which translates to 16GB of RAM.
What is RAM?
Random Access Memory is a data storage device that stores data temporarily. Unlike the hard drive, RAM is much faster and stores frequently used commands that can be accessed by the processor at higher speeds. Once the computer is shut down, all the memory stored in the RAM is earased. When a certain program is to be executed and no more space is available in the RAM, other programs that need not be used are simply shifted from the RAM to the hard drive.
More free RAM means more programs can be stored on the computer’s temporary memory, which means the computer would be more responsive under load. To take advantage of a 64-bit processor, you need to have more than 4GB of RAM. 32-bit applications would run on a 64-bit system but the true advantage would lie in running 64-bit applications.
How can 32-bit processors access more than 4GB RAM?
In an event that you might consider upgrading your 32-bit system to a 64-bit system, chances are that the programs currently running on your system won’t work properly post the upgrade. A feature called Physical Address Extension, allows 32-bit processors to access upto 64GB of RAM by adding 4 more bits to the standard 32. More details on PAE can be found on the Microsoft website.