32-Bit vs. 64-Bit Computers and Photoshop: Should You Care?
Your next PC or Mac should be a 64-bit model. If your computer is more than a few years old, it is probably a 32-bit model, and it is probably time to upgrade.
32 bit and 64 bit refer to the size of the packets of data a modern computer communicates with. Think of it like a language with only 5 letters in the alphabet compared to a language with 26 different letters. 64 bit computers aren’t just twice as powerful – they are exponentially more powerful than their 32 bit counterparts.
Most modern software programs like Photoshop CS5 are capable of running in native 64-bit on both Mac and Windows. This means Photoshop can address all the RAM you can afford (instead of just 4 GB). The results are speedier operations – in some cases, up to 10 times as fast. The bigger the file you’re working on, the bigger the difference.
Fortunately, most programs are offered in both 32 and 64 bit versions. For example, the 32-bit version of Photoshop is on the same installation CD, so if your third-party plug-ins haven’t been updated yet, you can run Photoshop in 32-bit.
Note that in order to run 64-bit software, you need a 64-bit operating system and a 64-bit computer. Because both PCs and operating systems (Windows XP, Vista and 7) come in both 32 and 64 bit versions, you’ll need to know which kind you have first.
- Open the System Information. Open the Start menu, and click on Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> System Information
- Look in the System Summary. The System Information tool will display detailed information about your Windows operating system. Once opened it will show the “System Summary” – it’s an overview of your computer and operating system.
- Look for the System Type Item. On the right hand side of the window you will see a list of items. Look for the item called “System Type”.The value of this item will tell you whether your computer is 32-bit or 64-bit:
- x86-based PC: It’s a 32-bit computer.
- x64-based PC: It’s a 64-bit computer.
Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard”, was the first OS to fully support 64-bit applications on machines with PowerPC 970 or EM64T processors.
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