1. Introduction

In this tutorial, we’ll review 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. Firstly, we’ll define them. Secondly, we’ll review how they function. Then we’ll discuss their characteristics. We’ll also consider some examples of 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. Finally, we’ll highlight the differences between them.

But first, let’s consider some definitions.

2. Operating System Definition

An operating system is a collection of computer programs responsible for managing resources and executing operations in a computer system. The operating system takes the responsibility of ensuring that a computer system functions as it should. Additional functions of an operating system are memory management, security, hardware management, booting, and handling input-output operations.

Operating systems are used in every computing device that exists in the world today. This includes laptops, desktop computers, cellphones, tablets, video game consoles, and webservers. Common examples of operating systems are Microsoft Windows, Linux, macOS, Apple iOS, Android, and Chrome OS.

3. 32-bit

A 32-bit operating system, also known as an x86 or x86-32,  is an operating system with a processor capable of handling or transferring 32-bits of data, i.e., during CPU operations. These operating systems became popular in the 1990s with the emergence of Intel Pentium and AMD processors. They were considered a technological innovation compared to the previous generations of computing systems.

3.1. Characteristics

The most notable characteristic of 32-bit operating systems is that they have 4GB worth of random access memory (RAM). However, it only utilizes approximately 3.2GB of RAM because the rest is used for memory-mapped hardware devices. It is also important to note that they have approximately 4GB of addressable space. This refers to the amount of memory allocated for possible addresses.

Another characteristic is that 32-bit operating systems are only compatible with running 32-bit software applications. Most importantly, 32-bit systems are slow in computing calculations due to the amount of memory available. Due to this, they render graphics slower and at a much lower quality as compared to their 64-bit counterparts.

3.2. Examples

Some notable examples of 32-bit operating systems developed over the years are,

  • Windows 95
  • Windows 98
  • Windows XP

4. 64-bit

On the contrary, a 64-bit, x64, or x86-64 operating system has a processor capable of handling 64-bits of data. These systems were popularized in the 2000s, with the emergence of the 64-bit processors, although they had been in use since the 1970s but on a less commercial scale. They were seen as an improvement over 32-bit operating systems.

4.1. Characteristics

The main characteristic of 64-bit operating systems is that they can handle more than 4GB of RAM, even up to 17TB. A significant improvement over 32-bit systems. However, this is dependent on the hardware of the computing device. Additionally, 64-bit operating systems can handle both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. A built-in compatibility layer in most 64-bit systems makes this possible.

Furthermore, 64-bit operating systems can deliver better and faster graphics. This is because they can handle more data as compared to 32-bit systems. In essence, 64-bit systems also have approximately 16GB worth of addressable space.

4.2. Examples

Notable examples of 64-bit operating systems are

  • Windows XP Professional
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 10
  • Windows Vista
  • Linux
  • Mac OS X

5. Similarities and Differences

The main difference between 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems is the amount of data the operating systems are capable of handling. Some additional differences can be defined as:

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6. Conclusions

In this article, we defined 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. We’ve reviewed their characteristics, and finally, we listed some examples of 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems.

In conclusion, 32-bit operating systems are less utilized nowadays as compared to 64-bit operating systems.  However, 64-bit is preferred because it is faster, has more memory, and can present graphics better than 32-bit.

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