Microsoft is still offering both architecture i.e. 32 and 64-bit versions of Windows. Which version of windows should you install? 32 or 64 bit? This is the most asked question from an amateur computer user to a professional one. The 64-bit version of Windows is also known as the “x64” version of Windows, while the 32-bit version is also known as the “x86” version.

Computers with 64-bit CPUs can run 32-bit operating systems, but there’s really no reason for them to do so anymore. Even on a 64-bit operating system, you can still run 32-bit applications just fine.

32-bit versions of Windows are limited to 4 GB of RAM, which is a small amount these days when even budget PCs these days usually have 8 GB or more. If you want to actually use more than 4 GB of RAM—and you probably do—you’ll need a 64-bit version of Windows.

In addition, 32-bit programs (even if they’re running on a 64-bit Windows operating system) can only access 2 GB of RAM each. Modern demanding games and professional tools can easily use more than 2 GB of RAM.

Given that limitation, it’s no surprise that many applications now require a 64-bit operating system. For example, if you want to play the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V and many other PC games released in the last few years, you’ll need a 64-bit version of Windows. ZBrush, a 3D modelling tool, discontinued its 32-bit version. Even NVIDIA has stopped working on its 32-bit graphics drivers, so you’ll need a 64-bit operating system to get new graphics drivers for NVIDIA hardware.

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64-bit versions also have a number of useful security features that 32-bit versions of Windows just don’t. For example, an expanded address space allows Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) to better protect against attacks on programs. Drivers must be signed unless they’re installed in a special boot mode, Kernel Patch Protection prevents applications from patching the Windows kernel in memory on 64-bit versions of Windows, and Data Execution Prevention (DEP) has more restrictive settings on the 64-bit edition.

If you’re using a very old computer with a 32-bit processor, you don’t have a choice. Some manufacturers may only offer 32-bit drivers for particularly ancient hardware devices, and you’d need a 32-bit version of Windows to run those. The 32-bit version of Windows also allows you to run 16-bit software written for Windows 3.1, which is a feature not found in 64-bit Windows.

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How to Check Whether You’re Using 64-bit or 32-bit Windows

If you’re not sure whether your computer has a 64-bit version of Windows—or even a 64-bit CPU—you can check from within Windows.

On Windows 10, head to Settings > System > About. Look to the right of the “System type” entry. If you see “64-bit operating system, x64-based processor,” your computer is running a 64-bit operating system. If you see “32-bit operating system, x64-based processor,” your computer is running a 32-bit operating system but is capable of running a 64-bit operating system.

Microsoft should make the 32-bit version of Windows harder to access. Some people might need it, but average Windows users shouldn’t be able to accidentally install a version of Windows 10 (or even Windows 7) that has so many limitations with modern hardware and software.

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