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32-Bit or 64-Bit?
32-Bit or 64-Bit?
Making its debut in April 2005, the first version of 64-bit Windows was released
as Windows XP Professional x64 Edition. Although the 64-bit edition was a true
64-bit operating system (OS), it was plagued by spotty driver support that limited
its adoption. This was caused by the fact that the new 64-bit kernel required
64-bit drivers for all hardware devices. This vastly cut down on the number of
compatible hardware devices. Hardware manufacturers had little incentive to
rewrite drivers for the niche operating system. That all started to change with
the release of Windows Vista, which was the first Microsoft Windows release to
come out in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions at the same time. Hardware
manufacturers responded, and 64-bit drivers are now available for almost all modern
mainstream hardware.
The 64-bit Windows has become the standard choice for most users, and is
typically the version preinstalled on a new Windows 8 PC. But what is the real
difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 8?
Aside from the obvious fact that you need a 64-bit CPU to run Windows 8
64-bit (which just about any new CPU you buy today supports), other
differences exist, such as the ability to use more RAM, additional processing power,
and extra security features.
The primary advantage of a 64-bit operating system is the ability to utilize
the larger 64-bit registers that are a feature of the 64-bit CPU. This allows larger
calculations to be performed with one cycle and also addresses and accesses
significantly more RAM. With 32-bit Windows 8 the maximum number of memory
addresses available is 2 32 , which equals 4 GB of RAM that can be used. The 64-bit
Windows 8 can use up to 512 GB of RAM with the Pro and Enterprise editions.
Also, some features are included only in the 64-bit version of Windows 8, such
as PatchGuard. This is a helpful piece of technology that attempts to protect the
kernel of the operating system from being patched by malicious or legitimate
software. In my opinion, anything that tampers with the kernel is bad, because
it can affect the stability of your system. Microsoft is trying to put a stop to this
by implementing the PatchGuard feature and creating an API for legitimate
software to interact with the kernel in a safer way.
Some mathematics-intensive applications, such as rendering a 3D scene, also
perform better on 64-bit Windows 8 when used with a 64-bit version of the
rendering application. Encryption programs also seem to run faster on 64-bit
Windows.
Now that you know the benefits of the 64-bit version of Windows 8, it is
important to decide which is better for your hardware. For me, RAM and driver
support are the main decision factors. I tend to use 32-bit Windows 8 only on
virtual machines for testing and compatibility of very old applications. I use
64-bit Windows 8 on all of my hardware, so I can take advantage of more than
4 GB of RAM and the enhanced performance.
 
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