The 64-bit operating system is one that is capable of storing information in memory that is at least 64 bits or 8 bytes wide. They are also based on registers, address buses, or data buses of that same size. A bus is a subsystem that transfers data or power between computer components inside a computer or between computers. The bus is controlled by a device driver similar to those that control outside peripherals like a mouse or printer.
64-bit CPUs have existed in super computers since the 1960’s and work stations and servers since the 1990’s. While this architecture has been around for awhile, 64-bit operating systems are relatively new concepts in the computer world. Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X Tiger are all 64-bit operating systems.
The advantages to 64-bit operating systems are far-reaching. They are more powerful and more reliable than the 32-bit systems. The 64-bit operating system can address more memory directly without using complex indexing or register-addressing schemes. Because internal memory is several orders of magnitude faster than storage, combining a 64-bit processing architecture with more RAM lets a processor pull more data into memory and operate on it directly, increasing performance manifold.
A 64-bit file system also can improve disk management. Rather than having to take a large disk, such as a 9 GB storage module, and segmenting it into 32-bit addressable chunks (2 GB each), you can address the entire disk. That can help, for example, both in database performance and the performance of the operating system itself.
64-bit operating systems are great for user who need to access very large data stores. The system is valuable in industries such as CAD (computer aided drafting), science and engineering, human resources, and financial modeling. Users working with these computer-intensive applications will probably see immediate improvement with 64-bit machines over 32-bit machines running at the same clock rate and with similar memory configurations.
There is a simple analogy that can help explain the difference between a 32-bit operating system and a 64-bit operating system. A 32-bit addressing environment can keep track of the name and address of every person who has lived in the United States since 1997. A 64-bit environment can keep track of the name and address of every person who has every lived in the world from the beginning of time. That’s a powerful system!
The advent of the 64-bit operating system is technology that has been sorely needed for some time. Users notice a marked improvement in performance, storage, and much more with these new, powerful 64-bit operating systems.