When reading about PCs and servers, you'll often see the CPU described by the number of bits (e.g., 32-bit or 64-bit), here's a little info about what that means.
refers to the number of
bits (the smallest
unit of information on a machine) that can be processed or transmitted in
parallel, or the number of bits used for single element in a data format. The
term when used in conjunction with a
microprocessor indicates the width of the
registers; a special high-speed
storage area within the
CPU. A 32-bit
microprocessor can process data and
that are represented by 32 bits.
64-bit therefore refers to a processor with
registers that store 64-bit numbers. A generalization would be to suggest that
64-bit architecture would double the amount of data a CPU can process per
cycle. Users would note a performance increase because a 64-bit CPU can handle
more memory and larger files.
One of the most attractive features of 64-bit
processors is the amount of memory the system can support. 64-bit architecture
will allow systems to address up to 1 terabyte (1000GB) of memory. In today's
32-bit desktop systems, you can have up to 4GB of RAM (provided your motherboard
that can handle that much RAM) which is split between the applications and the
operating system (OS).
The majority of
desktop computers today don't
even have 4GB of memory installed, and most small business and home desktop computer software
do not require that much
complex software and 3D games become available however, we could actually see this become a
limitation, but for the average home user that is very far down the road indeed.
Unfortunately, most benefits of a 64-bit CPU will go
unnoticed without the key components of a 64-bit operating system and 64-bit
software and drivers which
are able to take advantage of 64-bit processor features. Additionally
for the average home computer user, 32-bits is more than adequate computing
When making the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit desktop PCs, users won't
actually see Web browsers and
word processing programs run faster. Benefits of 64-bit
processors would be seen with more demanding applications such as video
encoding, scientific research, searching massive databases; tasks where being
able to load massive amounts of data into the system's memory is required.
While talk of 64-bit architecture may make one think
this is a new technology, 64-bit computing has been used over the past ten years in
database management systems. Many companies and
organizations with the need to access huge amounts of data have already made the
transition to using 64-bit servers, since a 64-bit server can support a greater
number of larger files and could effectively load large enterprise databases to into memory
allowing for faster searches and data retrieval. Additionally, using a 64-bit
server means organizations can support more simultaneous users on each server
potentially removing the need for extra hardware as one 64-bit
replace the use of several 32-bit servers on a network.
It is in scientific and data management industries where
the limitations of the 4GB memory of a 32-bit system have been reached and the need
for 64-bit processing becomes apparent. Some of the major software developers in
the database management systems business, such as Oracle and SQL Server, to name
just two, offer 64-bit versions of their database management systems.
While 64-bit servers were once
used only by those organizations with massive amounts of data and big budgets,
we do see in the near future 64-bit enabled systems hitting the mainstream
market. It is only a matter of time until 64-bit software and retail OS packages
become available thereby making 64-bit computing an attractive solution for
business and home computing needs.
Hardware Today: SGI's Altix Takes Off at NASA
A few years back, a discussion of supercomputing architectures would have turned
to talk of Cray or IBM eServer systems. You probably wouldn't have heard much
about running Linux on Intel processors. However, with the maturation of
open-source technology and the development of Intel's 64-bit technology, the
supercomputing dialogue is different these days.
Critical considerations in 64-bit microprocessor design
When people talk about 64-bit computing, it's not always clear what they mean.
Most often, they mean some combination of register width, bus width, or address
space. For the purposes of this article, it means a processor with 64-bit
registers and 64-bit addressing.
Power Mac G5
The new Power Mac G5 line extends as far as you require. Up to two 64-bit G5
processors reaching top speeds of 2.5GHz, room for up to 8GB of main memory.
While compatible with 32-bit applications and existing deployment and management
tools, Windows XP 64-Bit Edition provides more efficient processing of extremely
large amounts of data, supporting up to 16 terabytes of virtual memory.
The RS/6000 64-bit Solution
This paper describes 64-bit technology and its value ... implementation for the
RS/6000 64-bit solution. The essence of the RS/6000 64-bit computing strategy is
Vangie 'Aurora' Beal
Last updated: December 08, 2004