What Is 64-Bit?

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Computer programs have become more demanding, so processor manufacturers agreed to create a new kind of processor that would meet these demands. The expansion of processors' registries to a 64-bit size opened the doors for larger amounts of data per processor cycle, making computers faster without having to increase processing speed. Despite such an improvement, only certain applications share this compatibility with the respective processor.

Definition

  • 64-bit signifies a type of processing in which the registries of a processor expand to hold twice as much data in them as a 32-bit processor. 64 bits is equal to 8 bytes, or eight groups of eight base-2 numbers. Each base-2 number represents 1 bit. This also represents a bit width in graphics processing related to graphics processing units (GPUs). When people talk about 64-bit, however, they're usually referring to a system's style of processing.

Benefits

  • For any application that's compatible with 64-bit mode processing, you end up doubling the amount of data the application can send to the processor. This essentially doubles the speed in which your processor performs complex operations. Applications run more smoothly, especially those that render heavy amounts of graphics, such as computer games.

Drawbacks

  • The fact that your processor runs on 64 bits doesn't necessarily bring any benefit to all of your programs. Your 32-bit applications won't use the larger registries in your processor since they weren't programmed to do so; their code only recognizes the basic 32-bit, 16-bit and 8-bit registries. You can't use the full potential of a 64-bit processor, either, if you have a 32-bit operating system installed.

Potential

  • 64-bit processing doesn't define any limit in processing potential. Data width grows as time passes, and newer processors may appear with 128-bit processing capabilities. Each time bit width doubles, so does the processing potential of any particular chip. Such an increase becomes logical when it's more cost effective than giving the processor more "muscle," or clock speed. Besides this improvement, other options such as changes in architecture exist.

Memory

  • Besides being able to tug a larger load per "tick," 64-bit processors also present the ability to allocate larger amounts of memory. 32-bit processors were limited to 4294967296 bytes, meaning 4GB (gigabytes), of physical memory, but this limit rises to 18446744073709551616 bytes, or 17179869184GB, with 64-bit systems. At the beginning of the 21st century, systems don't need such a large amount of memory, but the possibility remains, so systems integrate capabilities for memory capacities larger than 4GB.

References

  • Photo Credit cpu #7 image by Sergey Pesterev from Fotolia.com
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