Windows 10 can run on both, 32-bit and 64-bit hardware architectures. If you have a device running the 32-bit version, you can upgrade to the 64-bit version without purchasing a new license, but only when you have a compatible processor and enough memory. Also, there's not an in-place upgrade path to switch, which makes a clean installation of Windows 10 your only option.
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Although you can access virtually the same features using either architecture, you'll notice the benefits of the 64-bit version when the device can handle large amounts of memory (up to 2TB), instead of only 4GB, which is the limitation with 32-bit.
The ability to use more memory enables you to run several apps at the same time while keeping the device responsive, and you can run 64-bit as well as 32-bit applications. Also, and perhaps more important, it'll improve your productivity on memory demanding tasks. For instance, when rendering videos, working with virtual machines and opening tons of tabs on your web browser.
In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to properly upgrade your device from 32-bit to the 64-bit version of Windows.
How to check if PC supports 64-bit version of Windows 10
Windows 10 64-bit is only available on compatible hardware. If your device is currently running the 32-bit version, before planning the upgrade, you must find out if your machine includes a 64-bit processor, a minimum of 2GB of system memory, and whether the rest of the hardware has 64-bit driver support.
Verifying 64-bit compatibility using Settings
To tell if the processor on your device supports the 64-bit version of Windows 10 with the Settings app, use these steps:
- Open Settings.
- Click on System.
- Click on About.
Under the 'Device specifications' section, check the System type details.
If 'System type' reads 32-bit operating system, x64-based processor, then your computer is running the Windows 10 32-bit version on a 64-bit processor. On the other hand, if it reads 32-bit operating system, x86-based processor, then your device doesn't support the 64-bit version of Windows 10.
While in the 'About' page, it's also a good idea to check and make sure that the device has at least 2GB of memory, which is the minimum requirement to use 64-bit.
In the case that your device isn't capable of running a 64-bit version, you should consider purchasing a newer device that meets the minimum system requirements.
Verifying CPU compatibility using Coreinfo
Although newer devices are certainly capable of running any version of Windows 10, if you have a device with older hardware, you want to ensure the four essential features are present:
- Physical Address Extension (PAE).
- No-eXecute (NX).
- Streaming SIMD Extensions 2 (SSE2).
- CMPXCHG16b (CX16).
To check if the processor includes these features, you can use the Microsoft Coreinfo command line tool with these steps:
- Open the Microsoft Sysinternals website.
Click the Download Coreinfo link.
- Right-click the Coreinfo.zip folder and select the Extract all option.
Click the Extract button.
Type the following command in the address bar, and press Enter to open Command Prompt in the folder location.
Type the following command and press Enter:
Open the search feature (Ctrl + F keyboard shortcut), and look for these features:
Once you complete the steps, you should know whether your processor can handle the upgrade to the 64-bit version of Windows 10.
The installation wizard should be able to detect any compatibility issues with the processor before proceeding with the installation, but the Coreinfo tool allows you to check these features ahead of time manually.
Verifying driver compatibility
In addition, it's a good idea to check if other components like graphics and sound cards are compatible with the 64-bit version of Windows 10.
If your computer is running a 32-bit version, but the hardware is only a few years old, there's a good chance that you'll find a 64-bit version of the drivers, but it's not always the case. To avoid surprises, it's recommended to check your device manufacturer support website to see if you can find 64-bit versions of the drivers.
How to upgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit version of Windows 10
While you're entitled to install the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 10 with the same license, you can't perform an in-place upgrade. You must do a clean installation of Windows 10 to switch architectures.
Creating installation media
To perform a clean installation of Windows 10, you have to use the Media Creation Tool to create a USB bootable media. Connect a USB flash drive of at least 4GB of space to your computer, and then use these steps:
If you don't have a USB flash drive, you can find many reliable and inexpensive drives, such as the SanDisk 32GB USB drive, at Amazon.
Important: Starting with the May 2019 Update, Microsoft is updating the Media Creation Tool with some internal improvements and new color mode that uses a new light color scheme (instead of the purple color scheme). As a result, depending on when you're installing Windows 10, the tool may look different, but the steps outlined below are virtually the same.
- Open the official Download Windows 10 web page.
Under the 'Create Windows 10 installation media' section, click the Download tool now button.
- Double-click the MediaCreationToolxxxx.exe file to start the utility.
- Click the Accept button to agree the terms.
Select the Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC option.
- Click the Next button.
- Clear the Use the recommended options for this PC option.
Select the correct language and edition of Windows 10, and make sure to pick the 64-bit (x64) option for 'Architecture.'
- Click the Next button.
Select the USB flash drive option.
- Click the Next button.
Select the removable drive to create the bootable media.
Quick tip: If you don't see the flash drive in the list, click the Refresh drive list option, and then select the drive.
- Click the Next button.
- Click the Finish button.
After you complete the steps, the setup will download the required files, and it'll create the bootable media compatible with Windows 10 64-bit.
Installing Windows 10 64-bit
Once you have created the installation media, before you can proceed, you have to make sure that your device can start from USB. This means that you'll need to access the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware on your motherboard to change the boot order as necessary.
Usually, this process requires hitting one of the function keys (F1, F2, F3, F10, or F12), the ESC, or Delete key as soon as you start the computer. The only caveat is that these settings will be different per manufacturer, and even by computer model. So make sure to check your device manufacturer's support website for more specific instructions.
While in the firmware interface, find the 'Boot' menu, and configure the boot order to start from the USB flash drive, and save the new changes.
To perform a clean installation of Windows 10, restart your computer with the bootable media, and then use these steps:
Warning: This is a friendly reminder that you'll be making changes to your current installation, which can cause problems and even data loss if you don't do it correctly. It's recommended to make a temporary full backup of your PC before proceeding.
- Start PC with USB flash drive.
On 'Windows Setup,' click the Next button.
Click the Install Now button.
Type the genuine product key (if this is the first time installing Windows 10), and click the Next button. If you're reinstalling Windows 10 to switch from 32-bit to 64-bit on Windows 10, click the I don't have a product key link to continue (assuming that your device was already properly activated).
Select the edition of Windows 10 (if applicable). This selection must match the edition your license activates.
- Click the Next button.
Check the I accept the license terms option to continue.
- Click the Next button.
Click on the Custom: Install Windows only (Advanced) option.
Select the partition with the current installation of Windows (usually 'Drive 0'), and click the Delete button to remove the partition from the hard drive.
Quick tip: If you have multiple partitions, on the primary hard drive (Drive 0), select and delete each one of them. Windows 10 will recreate the required partitions automatically during the installation process. Also, you don't have to remove the partitions on secondary drives, because it's not a requirement.
- Select the empty drive labeled 'Drive 0 Unallocated Space.'
- Click the Next button.
Once you complete the steps, the setup will proceed with the installation of Windows 10 64-bit. After multiple restarts, you'll have to continue with the on-screen directions to complete the out-of-box experience (OOBE) to create an account using a local or Microsoft account, set your preferences, and choose your desired privacy settings.
While in the desktop, it's a good idea to open the Windows Update settings page from the 'Update & Security' section inside the Settings app, and click the Check for updates button to install the latest security updates and missing drivers.
In the case that some of the drivers aren't available through Windows Update, use the manufacturer's support website to download the missing drivers. Then reinstall your applications, including those designed for the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 10, and remember to restore your files from backup.
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More Windows 10 resources
For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:
Mauro recommends all these affordable accessories
Hi, I'm Mauro Huculak, Windows Central's help and how-to guru. I wrote the post you're reading now, and I know the Windows OS inside and out. But I'm also a bit of a hardware geek. These are some of the affordable gadgets on my desk today.
Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse($72 at Amazon)
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Supernight LED light strip($20 at Amazon)
You could just use a regular light bulb in your office, but if you want to add some ambient lighting with different colors, an RGB LED strip is the way to go. This one is Mauro-approved.
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Microsoft released several new Windows Insider builds since the final release of its new Windows 10 operating system a couple of months ago.
The company released patches for Windows 10 RTM as well but those were largely security or stability related and not feature updates.
Sources close to Microsoft indicate that this will change in early November when Microsoft plans to release the Windows 10 Fall Update to the release version of the operating system.
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The new update, previously known as Threshold R2 introduces improvements to existing features as well as new features to the operating system.
The update has no prerequisites and can be installed on any Windows 10 RTM version right away as it is cumulative in nature. In addition, it is installed via Windows Update under the name 'Windows 10 November 2015'.
Since it is delivered via Windows Update, it is installed right away unlike Windows Insider builds which are more like full installations of Windows.
Important changes in the Windows 10 November 2015 update
- Start tiles support jumplists.
- Desktop tiles can have their own color and you may show three or four medium tiles per group now.
- Additional Cortana features: inked notes, track movies and ticketed events, missed phone calls, energy saving, syncing of messaging and calling history.
- Microsoft Edge upgrades: improved HTML5 and CSS3 support, and ECMAScript 6 and 7 support, tab previews, Favorites and Reading List synchronization, F12 tools can be docked to the window, search engine setting in its own pane.
- Locate your device with GPS and Location tracking.
- Disallow apps to: access call history, access and send emails.
- New Default apps: Skype Video, Messaging, Phone, Sway.
- All built-in applications are updated to more recent versions.
- Improved memory management
- Reworked Environmental Variables window.
- Windows 10 can be activated with a Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 key during or after installation.
- Apps can be installed to other drives.
- Option to define where offline maps are stored.
- The color set under Personalization now affects titlebars as well.
- Improved -- more consistent -- look of context menus and drop downs.
- Improved dark and light theming.
- Cortana support for local accounts.
- Start supports up to 2048 tiles after the update instead of just 512 (which caused display issues').
- Two windows snapped side by side can now be resized (horizontally)
- The Control Panel's Theme Settings have been reverted back to the Windows 8.1 state giving you more options.
If you are running a Windows 10 Insider build you are benefiting from most of these changes already. Some add features and improvements to Windows that Microsoft did not have time for before release, while others improve how you work with the operating system.
It is a marginal update more than a massive feature update but still something that most users will welcome with open arms.
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One feature that won't be part of the Fall update is extension support in Microsoft Edge. This won't come before 2016 which means that we still don't know how well it will work out after all.
Now You: What's your take on the feature additions? Anything you are excited about?