BITS & BYTES: How to tell if your processor is 32-bit or 64-bit

2012-12-05T15:45:00Z BITS & BYTES: How to tell if your processor is 32-bit or 64-bitApril Miller Cripliver Times Business Columnist
December 05, 2012 3:45 pm  • 

Q: I am running Windows XP and want to upgrade to Windows 7. How can I tell if my computer has a 32-bit or 64-bit processor?

A: This is a deceptively simple question because it is possible to install a 32-bit operating system onto a 64-bit computer, but it is not possible to install a 64-bit operating system onto a 32-bit computer.

If you want to upgrade your operating system, you’ll want to take full advantage of your computer’s capabilities. This is why you’ll need to know whether to buy a 32-bit operating system or a 64-bit version.

If you right-mouse click Computer and then click on Properties, you can read 64-bit or 32-bit operating system there. However, if it says 32-bit operating system, you’re still not sure you’re not using a 64-bit processor. To be sure, try these steps:

  • If your Start menu is configured for Classic Start menu, right-click the My Computer icon on your desktop and click Properties.
  • If your Start menu is the Windows default Start menu, click the Start button, then right-click the My Computer icon in your Start menu, then click Properties.
  • Click the Advanced tab.
  • Click Environment Variables.
  • In the "System variables" list at the bottom of the Environment Variables window, look for a variable called Processor Architecture. If your PC has a 32-bit processor, this variable will have a value of x86. If it has a 64-bit processor, this variable will have a value of x64.

For those running Windows 7, follow the above directions, right-mouse clicking Computer instead of My Computer. Choose Properties, then click the Advanced system settings link on the left side of your screen. Choose the Advanced tab, then click the Environment Variables button. Again, look for the 32 or 64 in the Processor Architecture area of System variables for your answer.

Opinions are solely the writer's. April Miller Cripliver, of Chesterton, has a doctorate in management information systems and is a computer hardware and software consultant. E-mail your computer questions to, and specify your operating system and other pertinent PC information.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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