It’s processing time!

A reasonable amount of time ago I tried to explain a bit more about processors. What they do, which you should buy and what the options are.

There is however a lot more to be said about CPUs.

In this era of rapidly advancing technology it is a must to have hardware that can live up to the needs of the newly created software.

That is why most computer and laptops for sale in stores are equiped with 64-bit technology.
That’s very nice, the only problem is that most people are not aware what the difference is between a 32-bit and 64-bit processor.
Even some salesmen at the local computer store fail to explain correctly what the difference really is.

I’ll try to make it as clear as I can in this post. So next time a fancy salesman walks up to you and start talking about all these great new improved hardware, you can easly blow him out of his socks.

For starters… 64-bit technology isn’t something *new*. It has been around for quite some time. Ever heard of the nintendo 64? Indeed … :-)
Also the playstation 2 was already using 64 bit technology.
I did some research on this and the first time 64-bit came up was in 1961 when IBM delivered the IBM 7030 stretch supercomputer which used 64-bit data words and 32 or 64 bit instruction words.
In 1985 this first 64-bit implementation of the Unix operating system was released by a company named Cray. This OS was called UNICOS.

When it was first introduced for “personal computing” it wasn’t such a great success. The poor driver support and the fact that in those days (around 2000) 64 bit technology caused more problems than it solved. Most people sticked with 32-bit architecture.

Now we got that out of the way, I’ll explain you what the 32 and 64 actually implies.

This number refers to the register size of the CPU. This is a small amount of storage that the processor uses to keep the data it needs access quickest to insure optimum computer performance.

The number shows us the width of the register. So no need to explain that 64-bit can hold more data than 32-bit.

This is very important if we talk about RAM support. Because a 32-bit CPU can support up to 4GB of RAM (which is a maximum of 2³² addresses within the register).. (and yes I had to look this up, I’m not a walking calculator).

So the 64-bit CPU supports more RAM. Theoretically, these type of CPUs can store up to 17 billion GBs of ram. I kid you not…
This is, ofcourse, not realistic, since most operating systems only support up to a maximum of 64GB or for windows servers up to 192 GB ram (for linux 256, hah!).
Which is already pretty amazing.

Another great thing about this 64-bit technology is that your system will work more efficiently. Not only because you can store more RAM but also because of how the 64-bit CPU works. By the way the register of this CPU has been build, less process time will be used on, what is called, secondary processes.

There is also good news for windows users. In 32-bit technology a windows process could get 2GB of virtual memory allocated. Which is rather good. In a 64-bit architecture, this number is increased to 8TB.
A lot better.. No?

There are however also a few downsides. If you are using some older hardware, like a scanner or a printer. You’ll have a very hard time to find a 64-bit driver for it.
Besides that there is also the fact that not all programs or games actually support 64-bit.

And you one more problem, but honestly it’s more of an issue than a problem. Your motherboard also has a RAM limitation. If it only supports up to 4GB, then you can installed no matter which 64-bit CPU you like. It won’t be of any use if you are planning to upgrade RAM as well.

But the problems mentioned before are becoming less and less of a problem to be honest. Technology improves, so does hardware. If you have a choice… Go for 64-bit :-).


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