I have been reading quite a bit about how Windows 7 handles 32-bit versus 64-bit applications (including details of system32 and wow64), and am surprised by the amount of contradictory information available.


  1. Do 32-bit applications see the registry any differently than 64-bit applications?
  2. Does the directory (folder) in which an application is stored make any difference to Windows 7 regarding how the application behaves or sees the registry or file system? Or are the 'Program Files' and 'Program Files (x86)' directories strictly for organizational aesthetics, and not for function?
  3. Does Windows 7 simply determine if an application is 32-bit or 64-bit at runtime, or does anything else determine how an application is interpreted? Does the directory in which an application is located affect speed or accuracy of this determination in any way?

Best response will answer all three parts of this question, but all answers are welcome.

  1. 32Bit applications read from the Wow6432Node keys.
  2. The directory makes no difference. The 2 folders are predefined so that you can have a 32Bit and 64Bit version of the same tool installed.
  3. sure Windows determines that it is a 32Bit version and uses the WoW64 subsystem to run 32Bit application on a 64Bit Windows.
  • Thank you! To make sure I understand correctly, the directory makes no difference and Windows determines at runtime if the application is 32-bit or 64-bit. If it is 32-bit, Windows automatically has it use WoW64, otherwise Windows leaves it alone and runs it normally. Did I summarize correctly? Could you then create a single directory called 'Hello' and place all applications (32bit and 64bit) in there? – RockPaperLizard Oct 16 '14 at 6:14
  • The following thread indicates that my understanding is completely wrong: http://superuser.com/questions/118628/merging-program-files-and-program-files-x86-folders-in-windows-7-64-bit But hopefully all the info in that thread is wrong. – RockPaperLizard Oct 16 '14 at 6:57
  • 1
    you can install the tools where you want. – magicandre1981 Oct 16 '14 at 14:39
  • You can install your 32- and 64-bit tools in the same directory. It's been done before. For example, an IDE that we use for web development, called PhpStorm, comes in both 32- and 64- bit versions, which are both installed in a folder under Program Files (x32). – RobH Apr 22 '16 at 17:36

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