One of the questions often ask those who have to change a computer, or doing installations or upgrades to the operating system or software user, is about the type of architecture that runs internally equipment. We have surely heard about if a processor or operating system version is 32 or 64 bits, but unfortunately these numbers mean nothing to us.
This is precisely the objective of this article, provide information on this subject so we can all know exactly are related to these figures and what its practical applications for daily work, since a wrong implementation of any of these platforms in certain tasks may result in a waste of money or even in a major loss of productivity.
As a first step, it should be noted that the terminology “PC 32 or 64 bits” refers to both the processor architecture and operating system used to process the data, i.e. both things go hand in hand, at least in most the cases. That said, we started the full article.
Main differences between 32- and 64-bit
Basically, the main difference between a 32-bit processor and a 64-bit processor is that the first is able to process bit sequences up to 32 bit, while 64-bit processors may extend to twice this capacity.
As we know, a PC processor is responsible for conducting all logical and mathematical calculations to get the results requested by the user, and thus must manage information packets at a certain rate.
At this point the main difference between both platforms is that in the case of 64-bit processors, these can work with twice the information in the same clock cycle that a processor of 32 bits, allowing them can access higher capacity memory and process much larger blocks of data, increasing by this way the performance and speed of the overall process.
Another difference, and why many professional systems prefer a 64-bit architecture, is that this type of processors can address theoretically up to 16 exabytes of memory while the 32-bit processors can only address 4Gb, more than enough amount of RAM for desktop computers in an office, but for more complex systems is a too low amount of memory.
As for Windows operating systems, the most important difference between versions 32 and 64 bits is that the first supports up to 4Gb of RAM, but which can only be used 3.25 Gb. In the case of 64-bit operating systems, can address up to 192 Gb of RAM.
A stark choice: What PC must I buy? A computer of 32 bits or one of 64 bits?
The first thing to think about when evaluating the purchase of a PC, especially if you are in doubt about which of the available PC architectures choose, is what is the use that will give the new computer.
In the event that only we use for common tasks in home or office, i.e. surfing the net, reading mail, making spreadsheets or write a document, a computer and operating system with a 32-bit architecture is enough because we should not subject the equipment to very complex tasks.
In addition the processing capacity of a 64-bit system costs a lot more money, and if we will not need this extra capacity, is useless to spend the extra cost of this type of 64-bit architectures to waste it.
Now, if we are professionals in some specialized area as the graphic design, architecture, engineering, video editing or other contexts where it is necessary more computing capacity beyond the usual, then the best choice is to have a 64-bit system, since this architecture can work with larger and complex numerical operations than a 32-bit system, type of architecture that will have to split the operations and instructions in various sequences, subtracting performance and capacity system-wide calculations, which does not happen in a 64-bit architecture, since is able to process more number of operations at the same time, making it much more stable and faster to the whole.
Migrating from a 32-bit to a 64-bit
If we are evaluating the possibility to migrate from a 32-bit system to a 64-bit, one of the first things we have to think about is in the software compatibility, i.e. programs and hardware drivers. It is extremely important that before starting with migration we are very sure that all our hardware such as cameras, scanners, printers and everything else, have a 64-bit version of its drivers. Otherwise, if you do not want to complicate, will touch go buy new hardware.
If we take into consideration the warnings of Microsoft on this point, install a hardware controller of 32-bit in a 64-bit version of the operating system, may result in errors or until even the device does not work. In the case of user programs, a software developed for a 32-bit platform can function normally on a 64-bit OS, but we will not have that extra capacity provided by these systems.
Fortunately, most programs, at least the best known, offers versions for 64-bit platforms, which has also allowed the expansion of this type of architecture, the same happens with the leading manufacturers and device drivers.
Another thing we have to consider is that if we want to migrate to a 64-bit architecture from a version of Windows 32 bits, it cannot be done by an upgrade or patch, will have to buy a specific version for that architecture. Of course if you use a free operating system like Debian or its derivatives like Ubuntu, migration not be a problem.
As we have seen, a 64-bit computer can be the ideal solution for all users that manipulate large amounts of data because of the way this architecture processes information.
Now, if we are users who only use the computer to perform basic tasks and little more, and never demand the computer with things too complex, a 32-bit is the answer to our needs, what also liberates us of a series of problems as the mentioned incompatibility of controllers and software.
In short, if you do not take advantage the benefits of 64-bit, spending it means to have this platform will not be justified in any way.