The long wait for 64-bit PC software continues

Michael lasky By Michael Lasky

Even though 64-bit PCs have been available for seven years, the promise of 64-bit computing has been delayed by a dearth of 64-bit software.

The situation is improving — slowly — but many major PC applications remain 32-bit affairs.

Microsoft likes to boast about the extra performance delivered by the 64-bit versions of Windows. Likewise, PC vendors continue to pitch the benefits of 64-bit PCs over their 32-bit brethren.

That’s all well and good — and theoretically true — but without software optimized for 64-bit machines, using those more-advanced processors for everyday tasks is like running a Formula One race car on regular gas.

The primary difference between 32-bit applications and their 64-bit counterparts is the size of memory the programs can address. Computers use only two digits (ones and zeros), so a 32-bit program can track 2^32 (2 to the 32nd power) memory addresses — about 4GB. This is the basis of the “4GB memory limit” for 32-bit hardware and software.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2010-01-28:

Michael Lasky

About Michael Lasky

WS contributing editor Michael Lasky is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California, who has 20 years of computer-magazine experience, most recently as senior editor at PC World.