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Super User has several questions asking how to check whether they have a 32-bit or 64-bit Operating System, and how to check if their CPU is 64-bit capable.

The majority combine both questions into a single post, despite being two distinct issues with different solutions.

Non-OS Specific

Windows

MacOS

Ubuntu


Essentially, there seem to be two distinct questions being asked.

  • How can I tell if my Operating System is 32-bit or 64-bit?
  • How can I check if my CPU is 64-bit compatible?

How should these questions be handled? Which ones should be closed as duplicates? Should a canonical question be chosen and tagged as ?

  • I was prompted to start this discussion after posting my own attempts to create a comprehensive answer. (OS & CPU) – Steven M. Vascellaro Jul 3 '17 at 17:29
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    Due to the unavailability of pure x86 (non-64-bit) CPUs on the market, and since few or none of them are being manufactured, questions about whether your CPU is 32 or 64-bit can start with "Unless you're purposefully running a vintage computer, it's almost certainly 64-bit. Trust me." -- however the OS ones can still be useful. – allquixotic Jul 3 '17 at 17:42
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    Sadly some atoms are not quite vintage yet. – Hennes Jul 3 '17 at 17:48
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    @allquixotic You would be surprised. I'm currently typing this on a 32-bit Lenovo ThinkPad T4440. – Steven M. Vascellaro Jul 3 '17 at 17:50
  • @StevenVascellaro Very surprised. I assume that T4440 is a typo, since it doesn't appear to exist, and that you meant T440. Lenovo's data sheet for the T440 only lists Haswell Core-i3, -i5, and -i7 processors, all of which are 64 bit (The p and s variants list different processors, but they're still all 64 bit Haswells). Are you sure you're not just running a 32-bit OS on top of 64-bit hardware? – 8bittree Jul 11 '17 at 20:38
  • @8bittree You are correct, it is a T440. However, System Information says that the system does use a 32-bit/x86 processor – Steven M. Vascellaro Jul 11 '17 at 20:44
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    @StevenVascellaro Interesting. I suspect that might not be the most reliable way to check what your hardware is capable of. The Core i5-4300U is 64-bit, according to Intel. – 8bittree Jul 11 '17 at 20:50
  • @Hennes If you mean the Bay Trail/Cherry Trail series, they are 64-bit, but cheap tablets (like mine) ship with 32-bit OSes to save memory. – user648246 Jul 15 '17 at 10:44
  • Sorry but 64bit CPU's are Intel64 or AMD64 only. 64 GP registers and a 32bit external bus doesn't make a 64bit processor. – Robert Fischer Jul 16 '17 at 10:50
  • Great topic btw. I see that much misleading material on tech forums and sites like Wikipedia and even Superuser I was considering asking the engineers if we could make a public awareness Wiki. In truth 64bit CPU's are Intel64 or AMD64. 36/40/64 internal registers & 32 bit bus does not maketh for 64bit :P x86-64 is ambiguous and confusing for consumers... None of Intel or AMD architecture manuals even contain the term x86-64. PS it doesn't help when MSDN/TN bloggers state a 64bit OS allows over 4GB of RAM to be used, conspicuously omitting the part about hardware support. – Robert Fischer Jul 16 '17 at 11:18
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    The question should be, "does my xxx processor support over 4GB RAM" Is it Intel64, AMD64? Yes, it's 64bit. If IA-32/32e no, it's 32bit, and upgrading to Windows x64 won't help... That's what users are really asking. It's in their own interest to understand there is hardware restriction as well as OS. – Robert Fischer Jul 16 '17 at 11:38
  • @RobertFischer, the existing questions cover far more than that, so it wouldn't be a good choice for the canonical thread. – fixer1234 Jul 16 '17 at 21:48
  • @fixer1234 Yes... MSDN obfuscating a basic concept to the extent they have is impressive, MS will be proud,, :P – Robert Fischer Jul 17 '17 at 0:48
  • In my opinion OS, and then broken into 32bit and 64 bit hardware. But clearly define what is 32 and 64 bit. Intel cites "64bit instruction set" which is ambiguous since it covers IA-32e.... I had a close look at the 2008 "Pushing the limits of Windows" blog....". The bottom screenshot which shows "all RAM appearing after upgrading to Windows 64 is a C2D Q8200 Alienware laptop, It had 8GB installed out of the box. The top "32bit Windows" screenshot is from an IA-32 P965. The meminfo versions are different too.. One below is compiled for AMD64. – Robert Fischer Jul 17 '17 at 1:41
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    I was originally thinking that CPU and OS should be separate chains. But it might actually be better to have a [32-vs-64-bit] tag that covers everything, which already exists. Many of the users ask because they don't understand the difference; separate chains would get muddy and require maintenance. Answerers won't have a problem with anything in a combined chain. BTW, there are tags for 32-bit and 64-bit that are probably just decoration in most cases. – fixer1234 Jul 17 '17 at 17:37

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