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X86 vs X64 architecture: Key Differences

Computer processors are the backbone of all devices we see today. Over the years, these processors have increased in capabilities exponentially to become the extreme performance machines they are today.

However, processer architecture is still something that remains misunderstood by many today. In this article, we’re putting x86 processors against their x64 counterparts to find out what’s the difference.

Also read: Intel i3, i5, i7 or i9? Which processor is right for you?


The architecture

Pretty much the only difference between the two is their architecture itself. x86 refers to a 32-bit system, while x64 refers to a 64-bit system. The x86 architecture was introduced in 1978, while the x64 came up more recently in 2000.

Processors: How many cores and GigaHertz do you need?

What this means is x64 processors have a lot more bits than an x86 one. The relationship lies in the Instruction Set Architecture or ISA initially developed by Intel. The x86 is based on the Intel 8086 microprocessor and its 8088 variant, which eventually started as 16-bit processors, eventually becoming 32 and now 64-bit as consumer needs increase and computers become more powerful.


RAM usage and efficiency

A 32-bit processor can only take advantage of about 4GB of RAM. Any more than that, and you’re practically wasting space. While 4GB RAM is still enough for basic tasks, most PCs these days come with 8GB RAM, meaning they’re equipped with 64-bit processors, which can take advantage of RAM up to 64 bits raised to the power of two. 

This also means that x64 processors work a lot more efficiently as compared to their x86 counterparts owing to their ability to deal with larger virtual address spaces — over 256TiB, which can be raised to 16EiB in the future. 


x86 vs x64

Here’s a head to head comparison between the two.

x86 Architecturex64 Architecture
Originated from Intel’s 8086 processorAn extension to the x86 architecture, developed by AMD
32-bit architecture 64-bit architecture
RAM usage limited to up to 4GBMassive RAM usage limit
Requires more registers to split values and store themCan store much larger values in the same number of registers
Less powerfulMuch more powerful and efficient as compared to x86

Conclusion

While older PCs mostly worked on x86 based processors, most modern machines function on the x64 platform, and that’s because the latter is better, faster and more capable than the former. So if you’re in the market for a processor, we definitely recommend getting an x64.

Also read: Is 64GB RAM overkill? Do I need it?

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