Is my Windows PC 32-bit or 64-bit? Why it matters

IDG.TV | Sep 28, 2016

Especially if you have an older PC, there’s a big difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows. Here’s how to find out what you have and why you should care.

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The reason we’re still talking about 32-bit Windows PCs is because tens or hundreds of millions of them are still around, even though you’ve been able to get a 64-bit Windows PC for over a decade! And the difference between them is going to matter if you want to upgrade.


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In a nutshell, when we’re talking 32-bit vs. 64-bit, we’re talking about hardware, and the amount of data that can move between, say, the CPU, and the RAM or the graphics card, at any one time. Think of the difference in traffic capacity on a two-lane country road vs. an four-lane freeway, and that’s the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit technology.


The primary issue with 32-bit PCs is that they can only handle up to 4GB of memory, and that’s not enough to run modern applications quickly. Even if you put in more RAM, the 32-bit CPU wouldn’t be able to use it. A 64-bit CPU can handle *a lot* more memory, so it can be a faster PC.


Windows comes in 32-bit or 64-bit versions so it can match the PC’s capabilities. You could mix them up, but running 32-bit Windows on a 64-bit PC would be a waste of good hardware, and running 64-bit Windows on a 32-bit PC would be impossible.


There’s an easy way to find out what your PC has. In Windows 10, hit the Windows key and go to Settings, System, About. There, under System Type, you can see my PC has 64-bit Windows and a 64-bit CPU.


If you have some ancient 32-bit system, just know that you won’t be able to add much RAM, and make sure the Windows version matches. If you have other questions about older PCs, write to us at answer@pcworld.com.
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