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Windows 7, Vista, XP: 32-bit vs. 64-bit

The way a CPU handles information is measured in bits. The two options available now are 32-bit and 64-bit. There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows that are only compatible to 32-bit and 64-bit processors respectively. Put differently, a 64-bit version of Windows operating system only works for a computer that has 64-bit processor. The 64-bit handles a larger amount of RAM compared to 32-bit. A 32-bit version of Windows has a rough limit of about 3.2 GB of memory. To verify which version of Windows is on your computer, click on start--> right-click computer--> properties.

When we compare 32-bit to 64-bit, for 64-bit, we are talking about more memory accessibility, enhanced security features, and management. A 64-bit Windows version does not support 16-bit programs like 32-bit does. Majority of device drivers are written for 32-bit, therefore it is difficult to find programs written for 64-bit. This makes it a bit of a tough decision when trying to choose between the two operating systems.

PatchGuard or Kernel Patch Protection feature, that is only available in 64-bit, helps to protect against malicious programs from tampering with the Windows kernel. These malicious programs make systems unstable by changing some aspects of computer kernel. It is the job of PatchGuard to ensure that this does not happen. Kernel Patch protection is not available in 32-bit.

The 64-bit Windows also has the following security features: mandatory driver signing, removal of 16-bit subsystem, support for DEP, removal of 32-bit drivers. 64-bit does not only comes with enhanced security features but also increases memory support and performance far beyond what 32-bit has to offer. One major disadvantage of 64-bit program is that not all hardware devices are compatible with the 64-bit version of Windows 7 or Vista. All supported device drivers must be digitally sign. Bottom line, it is difficult to find programs written specifically for 64-bit. Lastly, upgrading from 32-bit versions of any Windows to the 64-bit version of Windows is not possible at this point.

The way of the future is 64-bit for sure. However, you need to make the choice based on what type of software and hardware you are running. If your software and hardware is not supported by or will not run well in 64-bit, then you need to go with the 32-bit version. However, if you can, it is probably better to lean towards the 64-bit version of Windows due to the expanded memory capabilities, the increased security, and the fact that 64-bit software is the way of the future.

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