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What differs computers from 32-bit - 64-bit


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#1
iAmXquisite

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I have been thinking about it and what is it that makes the computer 32-bit from 64-bit

Is it the motherboard or the cpu or just the OS?
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#2
underscor3

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In answer to your question, a 32-bit system requires a 32-bit CPU and operating system, while a 64-bit system requires (surprise) a 64-bit CPU and 64-bit capable operating system.

Now, in detail:

The processor (CPU) is what handles all of the data moving into and out of the computer. Your computer uses memory (Random Access Memory, or RAM) to store data and make calculations. At the simplest level, data in a computer is represented as a bit. A bit can hold either two values; as humans we represent those as either a 1 or a 0. Similarly, the CPU addresses the RAM using bit addresses; that is, each location in memory is kept separate and given an individual address. This address, at the most simple level, is represented as a series of bits. Now, a 32-bit CPU can handle memory locations up to 32 bits long. I won't get into the binary math now, but a 32-bit address scheme allows for around 4 billion separate addresses. This equates to a maximum memory capacity of around 4 GB- if you add any more, the CPU simply lacks the ability to use all that RAM.

Now, in a 64-bit system, the processor is capable of using up to 64 bits to allocate memory; this means that the system can handle a lot more RAM (16 exabytes, or EB, which is way above what consumer PCs will ever use).

Operating systems are written to take advantage of the hardware that's built into the computer. For example, Windows XP was written as a 32-bit operating system because it ran on 32-bit hardware. When a program asks for memory, or the computer performs a calculation, everything is working together to know that memory addresses are going to be limited to 32 bits. A 64-bit operating system can only run on 64-bit hardware; otherwise, the computer could try to access memory or run programs that the CPU doesn't support, and that's when bad things start to happen! Thankfully, most 64-bit programs have safeguards built in so that if they detect they're running on a 32-bit system, they won't run. However, 32-bit programs can run on a 64-but system with no problem.

Prior to roughly 2005 or so, every production computer ran a 32-bit OS- 64-bit systems were still relatively expensive to produce, and the technology just hadn't matured. CPU maker AMD introduced the first 64-bit consumer CPU, the Athlon 64, in 2003, though 64-bit operating systems didn't make their way to the majority of the consumer market until the release of Windows Vista.
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#3
iammykyl

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Now that was the simplest yet extremely clear explanation I have come across in a long time. Great Post. Thank you.
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#4
underscor3

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Thanks. :) I'll write up a quick binary math post later tonight when I get home.
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#5
iammykyl

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Was doing some research and browsing this article,
> http://www.answers.c...86-architecture
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