Theory – 32 vs 64
These magic numbers for the uninitiated mean nothing more than the operating system's capacity – that is, the ability of the processor and RAM at one time to exchange a certain number of bits of information. This is a very General definition, for a complete understanding of the picture you need to study the subtleties of the computer architecture. Until 2004, when choosing the operating system version, it was important to know the bit size of the installed processor, but 32-bit processors are no longer available, so the issue has disappeared by itself.
You need to know whether 32 (it is also called x86) or 64-bit Windows is installed only in case of installation of programs offering such a choice.
How to determine the operating system bit
Despite the complicated instructions on the official website of Microsoft, it is extremely easy to determine the bitness of your operating system. For all versions of Windows methods differ only in visual design. A small difference is for Windows XP.
In Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8, the bitness information is in the same place. Do right-click on the icon My computer, select Properties. In the window that opens there is a tab General or System, usually it will be shown by default. Look for the item Type of system and look at the desired data. The same can be seen by finding the System icon in the control panel – Start > Control Panel > System.
The line with information about the bitness will look like this – System Type: 64-bit operating system.
For Windows XP, there is one caveat: if the bit is not explicitly specified, the system is 32-bit. And if it is defined as 64-bit, the answer is obvious.
What is the practical difference
The main difference between 32 and 64-bit systems is the amount of RAM. There is a limit of 4 GB for 32 bit, which actually gives a modest result in the range of 3.3-3.5 GB. If you put more memory, it will still only work a little more than three gigabytes. This limitation cannot be bypassed.
64-bit systems support a much larger volume. The maximum limit is set to 192 GB in the example of Windows 7. It is clear that even close to the limit is almost impossible, not to mention to surpass it.
Skeptics claim that programs for 64-bit systems take up more space on the disk and in the RAM, but it is not so important. Music and video files consume the most space during permanent storage, and the installed 64-bit system by definition has a richer volume of RAM than the x86 version.
The use of a 64-bit operating system is unavoidable when working with heavy hardware loads for processing large amounts of information. Three-dimensional graphics, video editing and transcoding, sound capture and processing are much more comfortable within the 64-bit system. Moreover, many large software developers are going to refuse to support 32-bit systems in the next versions of their software.
Finally, it is worth noting: outdated programs work fine on a 64-bit system, but be sure to take care of the latest versions of drivers. The drivers for x86 systems cannot be installed on a 64-bit system. If you do not have the right driver for your device (high-quality, but an elderly sound card, TV tuner, a variety of capture cards), you will either have to refuse to upgrade the operating system, or look for a replacement for the device.