We received a letter; our reader wonders whether there is any disadvantage in running a 32-bit operating system on a 64-bit computer.
The development of computer technology available for wide-spread consumption gained real momentum when the possibility of compatibility was created. From a hardware point of view, this means that ever newer generations of computer parts can be installed into the machines while still using the same operating system with the same software environment. The results are, mostly, an increase in speed or new funcionalities. Of course, development can mean that the installation of some parts will be impossible in time, for example, no ISA bus expansions can be used in 64-bit systems. This means that we have to give up certain areas of hardware compatibility, but this is not specific to 64-bit, instead, it stems from the characteristics of hardware development. In theory, 64-bit operating systems can also manage ISA bus expansions, if ever an ISA-capable 64-bit motherboard will be made.
Another important part of development is related to software compatibility. One of Microsoft’s priorities is the user-level compatibility of their various operating systems. The new operating systems are, at the user level, backward compatible with software released before. New user software, however, cannot necessarily be run on former generations of operating systems.
Therefore, 64-bit enabled computers mean that we have to renounce certain functions, but this does not stem from the 64-bit capacity, but rather from the development of the hardware. The options of 64-bit computing have been well prepared. PCs nowadays are mostly 64-bit capable in the terms of hardware, running a 32-bit software environment. So, if this had been a problem indeed, it would have come to light very soon.