Consumers have had the option of 64-bit Windows computing since the release of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition in May 2005, four years after the release of Windows XP 32-bit. At the end of 2006, Windows Vista 32-bit and 64-bit versions were released simultaneously. Yet chances are you're currently using a machine that runs the 32-bit version of Windows.
This is about to change. Windows 64-bit has started to gain a significant foothold in the past two years as more systems ship with 3GB or more of memory. However, with Windows 7, 64-bit computing is likely to become even more common.
What's the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit computing? In a nutshell, the numbers refer to the amount of bits a computer can process in one computation. They also translate into the amount of random access memory (RAM) a computer can address. A 32-bit Windows computer can address a maximum of 4GB of RAM, while a 64-bit Windows machine can address up to 128GB and even more (64-bit applications can address theoretically up to 16 billion gigabytes of memory). So the higher number of bit means better computing, both in terms of precision and capability.
Despite the potential, the transition to the new platform has been slow. This is because of the high price of RAM and the lack of device drivers and 64-bit software applications. (Drivers are a special type of software that make hardware components work with the operating system. Without the sound driver, for example, your computer wouldn't be able to play music.)
Back when Windows Vista was released, 2GB of RAM, which is the recommended amount to make Vista run properly, could easily cost a couple hundred dollars. (This is one of the reasons Vista failed so badly as a new OS release.) There was virtually no 64-bit application then, either, other than a few game demos, and most hardware vendors didn't provide the 64-bit version of the drivers. Apart from this, 32-bit computers have been able to satisfy most of our daily computing needs. … Read more