Vernon from Tennessee writes:
What advantage/disadvantage is there between 32 bit and 64 bit Windows?
If you’ve ever tried to compare different computer or laptop models to see which is a better deal, you’ve realized it’s like comparing apples and oranges. There are just too many variables to be able to make this comparison valid. While browsing, you may have noticed that most non-Macintosh computers come with Windows pre-installed, though some come with a 32-bit version and others with a 64-bit Windows.
Higher numbers are typically better when looking at computer components and software, and this instance is no different. The 64-bit Windows is newer and better than the 32-bit in a number of ways. The 32-bit version of both Windows Vista and Windows 7 can only handle up to 4 gigabytes of RAM (random access memory), which is what your computer relies on when running programs and loading files. Your computer can’t truly utilize every byte of RAM, so you’re left with about 3 gigabytes of RAM to work with. The 64-bit version, on the other hand, can handle up to 17.2 billion gigabytes of memory. That’s four-billion times more RAM than the 32-bit! Don’t rush right out to buy that much RAM just yet though. Your computer’s motherboard can only handle so much RAM too, so you’ll need to check the specifications for it before adding mass quantities of RAM.
For those concerned about security, the 64-bit version of Windows offers better security than the 32-bit version. While the 32-bit version’s security is adequate for most of the general population, many individuals who are worried about online identity theft prefer the 64-bit because of its enhanced security features.
Like all new technology, the 64-bit Windows is not without its disadvantages, at least until the rest of the tech world catches up to Microsoft as far as technology is concerned. If your computer or any of your peripherals — printer, scanner, monitor, etc. — are even slightly outdated, chances are they aren’t compatible with the 64-bit version of either Vista or Windows 7. When Microsoft created the 64-bit Vista, they stopped supporting older devices, which means you won’t be able to find 64-bit drivers for these devices anymore. No drivers means you’ve got to upgrade to new peripherals.This is not always the case 100% of the time, so do double check with a professional before upgrading.
The same situation exists with software, although you can run software that is not 64-bit on a 64-bit operating system, it just won’t be as fast. If you plan to use the Internet on your 64-bit Windows operating system — and who doesn’t — you’ll need to use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 64-bit for optimum performance. Fans of other browsers, such as Chrome or Firefox, can still uses these browsers, but they are 32-bit, which makes having a 64-bit operating system unnecessary. Though Firefox has released a 64-bit version, most users have had extreme difficulties trying to install and run it, so it’s best to stick with the 32-bit version for now.
You may be asking yourself which version of Windows is better. The answer depends on your computer needs. If you use your computer primarily for Web browsing, e-mail and word processing, the 32-bit version is perfectly fine for the time being. For users who run more memory-intense programs, such as video games or graphics programs, it may be time to upgrade to the 64-bit Windows, along with 64-bit hardware and software.