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How Do I Know if I’m Running 32-bit or 64-bit Windows? [Answers]

Friends and family members seem to ask me all the time whether they are running 32-bit or 64-bit Windows, and I’ve finally realized that it would make more sense to show everybody how to figure it out for themselves. Here’s the two-step process to find out for yourself.

Checking on Windows 7 or Vista

If you’re using Windows 7 or Windows Vista, all you have to do is pop open your start menu, right-click on the Computer item, and then choose Properties.

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Now you’ll see the System information screen—which you might note that you can also get to from Control Panel if you prefer—and down in the system section you’ll see “System type”, which will say 32-bit Operating System or 64-bit Operating System depending on which version you have installed.

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Checking on Windows XP

There’s almost no point in checking on Windows XP, because you’re almost positively running a 32-bit version. If you insist, however, you can right-click on My Computer, choose Properties…

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And then you’ll see the System Properties window—if you are running a 32-bit version of Windows it won’t say anything here other than Microsoft Windows XP, but if you were running a 64-bit version, it would say that on this window.

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What’s the primary difference between the two? You’ll notice that my Windows 7 laptop has 8GB of memory—you’ll need a 64-bit operating system to take advantage of the full amount of memory, since 32-bit Windows can only handle about 4GB.

For more on this topic, you can check out my guide over at Lifehacker on the difference between 64-bit and 32-bit operating systems.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/12/10

Comments (12)

  1. Bruno Casarini

    Instead of using the mouse to go to your computer’s properties, just hit the windows key+pause/break.

  2. The Geek

    Good point!

  3. Conn09

    Hey Bruno, thanks for that shortcut i didn’t even know that the pause/break button was any good at all.

  4. Conn09

    Can Windows 32bit actually use 4GB then, i thought that it was dispelled as a myth. If it’s true i’ll have to buy another 2GB stick of RAM, i’ve got 3GB atm so one must be a 1GB stick because theres only 2 slots

  5. James

    Ctrl – Shift – Esc = task manager

  6. jon_hill987

    @Conn09: A 32bit operating system has space to address 4GB of memory, however there is other memory that needs to be addressed as well as your RAM. The memory in your Graphics and Sound card also needs addressing and the OS allocates address space to these first before moving on to your RAM. If you have a 1GB graphics card that gets addressed first and the 3GB remaining address space will be given to your RAM regardless of how much RAM over 3 GB you have.

  7. Ed

    When using 64 bit OS, how do you know which IE version you’re using (64 or 32), and how do you switch from one to the other?

  8. Allison

    All I want to know is if MS already “fixed” IE’s security gaps and it’s now a reliable browser. It’s just a shame that almost no one prefers it against Firefox or Chrome. I myself have IE 8 and don’t use it because I don’t want to run the risk of “anything” getting through. Thanks!

  9. Lisa

    I tried Google Chrome a few times, only to find it does not offer a history erase. Got that off my system.

  10. Richard

    Hi Lisa,

    Google Chrome does offer a history erase. From any Chrome browser window, hit CTRL-H, and in the top right of the window you should see ‘Edit items…’.

    From the window that comes up you can erase either all the history or just the items you tick.

  11. Gloria

    I hate internet 9 how can I get internet 8 back.

  12. Shannon

    How do I find this info when the operating system won’t load? I need to order a recovery disc to load the new hard drive as my old hard drive just crashed and needs replacing.

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