I bought a new Dell 64-bit laptop with Windows 8 pre-loaded. I installed Windows 7 as my software does not run on Windows 8. Now I need to use 32-bit drivers as 64-bit ones don't work. Has installing Windows 7 changed my laptop from a 64 to 32 bit? If so what are the implications?


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    Its not possible to use 32-bit device drivers on a 64-bit operating system. So if you installed a 64-bit version of Windows 7 you will be out of luck unless your willing to reinstall Windows 7 and use the 32-bit version. – Ramhound Jan 17 '14 at 11:51
  • @pabouk - I understand that. I was just pointing out the new title did not accurately describe the problem. The current title is much better. If I had a suggestion I would have done it myself. – Ramhound Jan 17 '14 at 13:27

The answer is, possibly.

The architecture of your computer is fixed, and is evidently 64-bit since you've had a 64-bit copy of Windows 8 installed on it previously. However, while it's not possible for a 32-bit computer to run 64-bit software, it's entirely possible to install a 32-bit version of Windows onto a 64-bit machine.

Check the copy of Windows you've got. Not all of them say, but depending on your disc it might be possible to install a 64-bit version instead with the same DVD - there will be a "version choice" menu if this is the case.

A quick way to check if your current installation is 64-bit is to examine your C:\ drive - look for the Program Files (x86) folder. Double-check by looking at the process list in the task manager - in 64-bit, running 32-bit processes are marked with a *32.

If neither of these markers are present, you're running 32-bit, and to use more than 4GB of RAM you'll need to reinstall.

Edit: The implications, added later, are essentially this:

  • 32 bit Windows takes slightly less space and memory to run.
  • 32 bit Windows cannot, as you've noticed, run 64-bit programs
  • 32 bit Windows cannot address 4GiB of RAM - if your computer has more, Windows won't make use of it.
  • 64 bit Windows cannot run legacy 16-bit Windows applications, like older DOS applications

There are some more, but I think those are key. It's not the end of the world, especially if you've not passed the RAM limit - and remember that mostly, programs and games aren't 64-bit anyway, and won't be able to address 4GiB of RAM even on a 64-bit OS.

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    Or just hit Win + Break and check "System Type", which will not only tell you the operating system's bits, but also what's supported by the CPU. – Mario Jan 17 '14 at 11:49
  • Useful, didn't know about that one! Thanks! – Xyon Jan 17 '14 at 11:56

It depends if your Windows installation is 32 or 64 bit. Start -> right click computer -> Properties

It should say there is it 32 or 64 bit variant...

To clarify, your laptop is still 64bit hardware, but it does need 64bit operating system to utilize it's full potential.

  • Yes, doing the checks advised above, and checking the installation disk I see that I installed 32-bit Wndows on the 64-bit machine. I guess I'll leave it at that as all my software ran on my previous machine which was 32-bit. Thanks for the feedback. – Patrick Jan 17 '14 at 20:00

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