Windows 7 comes in two flavors – there’s the x86 32-bit version and the x64 64-bit version. When you buy a Windows 7 DVD, you have the option to install either of these editions so which one should you choose for your computer?

Choose between 32 and 64 bit

First, it depends on the processor that you have on your computer. For instance, if you have a 32 bit processor chip (like Intel’s Pentium or Celeron series), you have no option but to install the 32-bit edition of Windows.

However, if your CPU has a 64-bit processor (like Intel’s Core i5 & i7 series or AMD’s Phenom and Athlon range), you have the option to install both 32-bit x86 and the 64-bit x64 version of Windows.

A major advantage with 64-bit is that it supports more RAM (> 4GB) so if you have any of the ‘big’ software applications (like a video editing software), it should run faster on a 64-bit Windows machine provided the RAM is more.

All software programs written for 32-bit version of Windows should work on the 64-bit version of Windows as well though that’s not true for hardware device drivers.

Drivers designed for 32-bit versions of Windows won’t work on computers running 64-bit versions of Windows. So if you have an old printer with a driver for x86 version of Windows, it may or may not be compatible with the 64-bit version of Windows.

Which Windows Version Do I Have?

To determine which version of Windows is currently installed on your computer, click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties.

  • For a 64-bit version operating system, “64-bit Operating System” appears for the system type under System.
  • For a 32-bit version operating system, “32-bit Operating System” appears for the system type under System.

Finally, while it makes sense to go for a 64 bit edition of Windows, the only bottleneck is the hardware. If you have old legacy hardware that doesn’t have signed drivers for 64-bit Windows, it may not be compatible with a 64-bit version of Windows.

Related: Which Windows 7 Edition Should I Buy?