Knowing Your Bits

In this post I want to explain how to tell what bit your processor is running at. There are different ways to tell depending on what operating system you are running. My goal is to show you how to tell in XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Linux. You may be asking yourself “Why is it important to know what bit your operating system is running at?”

Mostly, it has to do with how your processor calculates. 64 bit systems can calculate larger data sets much quicker than a 32 bit system, and with more  accuracy. I’m not going to get into advantages or disadvantages in this post, but perhaps some time down the road. But knowing what your processor can run, and your Operating System is important for running applications. Most Software built in the last several years has been built for 64 bit machines, but also have a 32 bit counterpart for older machines. While you can usually run a 32 bit piece of software on a 64 bit machine, you cannot run 64 bit on 32 bit. This should make sense for obvious reasons.

When installing software it is usually important to be mindful of which version you are installing. While it is possible to download, install, and run 32 bit versions, it is almost always better to install the 64 bit if your machine allows it; again, for technical reasons. There are special occurrences that may sway your decision, but if you are unsure always follow that guideline.

Windows:

To check your windows bit type:

For Vista & Windows 7, the easiest way is:

  1. Go to your Start button (Windows Icon in the lower left-hand corner)
  2. Highlight “Computer” with your mouse
  3. Right-click and select “Properties” from the drop down menu
  4. Read “System Type” in the “System” section

The other method:

  1. Go to your Start button (Windows Icon in the lower left-hand corner)
  2. Type “system” into the search box and wait for the list to populate
  3. Select “System” from the Control Panel section
  4. Read “System Type” in the “System” section

For XP:

“If you have Windows XP, there are two methods to determine whether you are running a 32-bit or a 64-bit version. If one does not work, try the other.

Method 1: View System Properties in Control Panel
  1. Click Start, and then click Run.
  2. Type sysdm.cpl, and then click OK.
  3. Click the Generaltab. The operating system is displayed as follows:
    • For a 64-bit version operating system: Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Version < Year> appears under System.
    • For a 32-bit version operating system: Windows XP Professional Version <Year> appears under System.

    Note <Year> is a placeholder for a year.

Method 2: View System Information window
  1. Click Start, and then click Run.
  2. Type winmsd.exe, and then click OK.
  3. When System Summary is selected in the navigation pane, locate Processor under Itemin the details pane. Note the value.
    • If the value that corresponds to Processor starts with x86, the computer is running a 32-bit version of Windows.
    • If the value that corresponds to Processor starts with ia64 or AMD64, the computer is running a 64-bit version of Windows.”

This was taken from a KB article(http://support.microsoft.com/kb/827218)

Linux:

type:
$ less /proc/cpuinfo

look in the “flags” section. If you see the flag “lm” that means you are using a 64 bit processor. “lm” stands for “Long Mode.” If lm is missing, that means you are running 32 bit.

As always, hopefully this post was useful to you. This knowledge may be helpful in the future.

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