Topic: 32 versus 64 bit operating systems

Can anyone explain in not too technical a way, the advantages and disadvantages of 32 and 64 bit operating systems?

I presume, maybe incorrectly, that 64 bit addressing and arithmetic will inevitably use  twice as much memory, so do you need twice as much just to stand still?  Or is this a naive view, the actual data files will be no different I guess, so maybe there is some benefit, but not quite as much as you would expect? roll

Currently using Canon 5DII and NEX 6 with Olympus, Pentax, Canon and M42 converters.

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Re: 32 versus 64 bit operating systems

Most memory is used for data, and whether you store it in 32bit words or 64bit words doesn't really make a difference.The main advantage is that with 64 bit addresses it is possible to access vast amounts of RAM, which is turn reduces reliance on swapping (which is slow).

Re: 32 versus 64 bit operating systems

The benefits of 64 bits are rather limited. It is mostly related to the size of the "address space" as Graham mentions, and there is indeed a price to pay in terms of memory and code size.
There is also a bit of gain in speed overall, mostly due to 64 bits code being compiled for a more "modern" version of a x86 core and set of extensions.

So roughly it takes about 15% more space, eats roughly 15% more memory, and is 15% faster -- that on a x86 architecture. The only "clear cut" advantage is that each process can address more than 4GB of address space each. So that the "photoshop" sort of applications of the world that can take the most advantage of it.

The "64 bits" craze is pretty much like all the other crazes, mostly marketing !

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Re: 32 versus 64 bit operating systems

As commented by buze and Graham 64 bit allows you to install and use more than 4GB of RAM. This can be very helpful or irrelevant, depending on your usage patterns. There are other advantages but are less relevant to the end user and more for the programmer.
A slight disadvantage is that the compatibility of applications is not 100% there. Some 32-bit applications will not run correctly on 64-bit architectures/OSs, but this is a very minimal problem and is always improving. For example, I could not make my webcam (an older one) run on my 64-bit machine.

If you want to improve the performance of your computer, you should check two things:

- If you have 4GB of memory and a 32 bit system: check if you are using all or almost all of your memory frequently. If Windows reports a low amount of free memory, as Graham says your pc will probably be doing a lot of disk swapping and that is very slow. If this is the case, change the CPU+Operating system to a 64 bit combo, and then add more RAM.

- In any event replacing your hard drive with a SSD will surely improve the performance of your system. They are very expensive and only come in small sizes (compared to "normal" hard drives) but the performance gains are big. Spinning ("normal") hard drives are usually the weakest link on the performance chain of modern computers. Do your research before buying one, as they come with their own set of pros and cons.

Re: 32 versus 64 bit operating systems

I only have a 64bit system because I got a new computer and a 64bit Win7 was preinstalled.

OK, I can address more RAM than I could afford to buy. wink
But then, some older apps won't run without problems any more.

I could have done without 64bit...

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Things ON SALE!

Re: 32 versus 64 bit operating systems

When I upgraded my home-built system to Win7 64-bit, I also added a hard drive, and installed it on the new drive.  I could have installed it on a separate partition on the existing drive, but I wanted plenty of space.  Anyway, doing so allowed me to keep my XP 32 bit OS, and now I can dual-boot between the two.  I wanted to keep XP because of some older gear I still use that won't operate in Win7 -- such as a tablet, an HP S-20 scanner, and a couple of SCSI items.

I also added RAM so that my machine now has 8 gigs.  It's nice having the additional 4 gigs for image editing work.  The system definitely runs faster now when I'm editing images than it did before.

Re: 32 versus 64 bit operating systems

Thanks for the very useful responses folks.

When I come to upgrade the box, I may follow Michael's example and try to find space for both XP 32 bit and Windows 7 64 bit.

Currently using Canon 5DII and NEX 6 with Olympus, Pentax, Canon and M42 converters.

Photo Blog

Re: 32 versus 64 bit operating systems

The bits are transferred in parallel not serial, 64 bits in the same time 32 bits.  There is extended instruction set for working with 64 bit 'words', which takes advantage of the double-data parallel transfers.  Many programs now take advantage of the increased memory address space, however, not so many yet take full advantage, yet this is changing...  The OS does operate faster, the programs may or may not be faster.

I used 64 bit Ubuntu Linux on a fast multi-core machine, WOW!  XP runs in VirtualBox faster than native!  But that box takes 10 times as much power, so I don't use it much, except for batch conversions (solar power here).  Every day I use old Thinkpad T42p, 2.1GHz, 2GB, the one with the 132p/in IPS screen(!), the screen is better than my 21" monitor!

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Re: 32 versus 64 bit operating systems

A lot of useful information here guys. Thanks. smile

visualopsins wrote:

(solar power here).

You live off grid on solar? Interesting. I used to work with a friend installing solar, as well as living with it. wink
-Bruce

I put that adapter in a safe place, never to be seen again.