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Is there any benefit from installing Windows 7 64-bit when you have less than 4GB or RAM?

Hi everyone.

I have a computer with Arch Linux x64 on it and 3 GB of RAM.

Recently, I have understood that this amount of RAM isn't enough for me, but I can't do an upgrade now.

And I remembered that 64bit OSes (and apps) uses more RAM than the 32bit ones. So, the question is - is it better to use a 32bit OS in these conditions than 64bit one to economise RAM?

Or it won't do BIG (remarquable) difference?

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marked as duplicate by Mokubai, Kyle, Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007, nhinkle, Bobby Apr 14 '11 at 10:26

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Read it, but didn't found the answer regarding how much is the RAM usage difference – Evengard Apr 13 '11 at 17:06
Long and short of it, 64-bit will use slightly more space (but not by a massive amount) for applications, will actually make use of >4GiB of memory if you upgrade, and will be able to use the extra 64-bit registers that were introduced which may improve performance by a couple of percentage points for applications. If you ever even want to think about upgrading then go 64-bit. – Mokubai Apr 13 '11 at 17:19
@Mokubai, thanks, but HOW MUCH more (in average) it will use RAM? Is it noticeable? Is it something around 100-200MB of more useable space for my whole 3GB, or more/less? – Evengard Apr 13 '11 at 18:16
The OS has some bearing on what the differences would be, you need to be more specific as to which OS – Moab Apr 13 '11 at 19:37

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The long and short of itis that 64-bit will use slightly more space (but not by a massive amount) for applications, will actually make use of >4GiB of memory if you upgrade, and will be able to use the extra 64-bit registers that were introduced which may improve performance by a couple of percentage points for applications some applications and by many percentage points for others.

If you ever even want to think about upgrading then go 64-bit.

64-bit will use more memory by requiring larger pointers for memory locations and code in programs, but I would not expect it to use a significant percentage more, modern programs are highly data orientated and that will be the same for both versions.

The fact that 64-bit would allow the OS to map device buffers and I/O out of the way of physical memory may give you more memory back though, it's all swings and roundabouts... I can test it a bit in a VM (can't dual boot my system atm), but I'll need a short while to check it out.

Also, there are the 64 to 32-bit compatibility libraries that are needed to allow both types of program to run at the same time and these will take an amount of memory though I'd be surprised if it was more than 100MB.

In summary if you are truly, honestly, painfully using every last bit of your 3GB of ram then 32-bit may be better as you could save a small amount of memory without all these extra bits that are needed for 64-bit.

Apologies for being a bit flippant, give me a day or two and I'll do some testing and get back to you.


I've done an install of both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Arch Linux on Virtualbox, just to get a feel for how much extra RAM it uses for 64-bit mode. I followed exactly the same procedures for installing each and before getting each memory indication I did a restart so that the reported memory was clean "from boot".

Bare bones install, no GUI, just basic install there is about 26MiB difference (32-bit is about 60% the memory footprint of 64-bit) which is no surprise as it's almost entirely code and no real data:

bare installed and running with the Virtualbox guest additions there is about 32MiB difference (32-bit is about 65% the memory footprint of 64-bit):


Then Gnome & GDM installed, no frills and running Epiphany there is about 80MiB difference (32-bit is about 75% the memory footprint of 64-bit):


So going up the scales of more code-orientated to more gui orientated we go from a 40% difference in size to a 25% difference in size. I would expect that difference to get smaller as you use more and more actual GUI type programs. There's also shared libraries to think about too, as more programs share the same code from a library they will not be using as much memory so the percentage size increase will be smaller still for a fully installed and ready to use system.

There is a definite memory hit taken for using 64-bit, but it will get smaller and smaller as you use programs that are storing and using data rather than actual hard code. The code for 64-bit Firefox will be a significant percentage larger than the 32-bit code, but the actual data stored to cache webpages between the two will be exactly the same.

I've not gone into how much you might save by the 64-bit kernel being able to remap devices out of the 32-bit address space, it's a bit more difficult to do in a virtual machine, but I personally would still take the hit and go for 64-bit.

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Wow thank you, waiting with impatience these tests – Evengard Apr 15 '11 at 8:54
@Evengard, I've updated my answer with some actual testing, it's a bit quick and dirty though... – Mokubai Apr 15 '11 at 14:11
Thank you! This is GREAT! I decided to stay on 64bit, thank you! – Evengard Apr 15 '11 at 18:42
It's also important to note that there's more to it than just RAM access. A 64-bit OS will be able to take full advantage of a 64-bit processor in all situations, regardless of the amount of RAM. If you install a 32-bit OS on a 64-bit machine you're wasting your hardware. These days (3 years after this answer) more and more 64-bit software and OS kernels are optimized to take full advantage of 64-bit CPUs, even if you're not doing heavy math-intensive computing. – Jason C Jun 13 '14 at 4:16
@JasonC I agree choosing 32bit vs 64 is more than a RAM concern. It enables your processor to process 2x more data per instruction cycle, that is if the memory register had more than 32bits of data. Then again CPUs pipeline instructions so that can be negated...Always choose 64bit unless your PROCESSOR is only a 32bit processor. In short, your processor should be the deciding factor...not the amount of available RAM. – Rafael Sep 8 at 4:26

If you're running heavy mathematical, scientific, or multimedia apps then the additional registers available on X86-64 (but not many other 64-bit platforms) may be worth installing a 64-bit OS for.

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I am running mostly virtualised OSes in software such as VirtualBox... Is it a class of apps which requires such enhancements? – Evengard Apr 13 '11 at 17:05
No, virtualization will usually not benefit from this. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Apr 13 '11 at 17:06

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