Running 32-bit Apps on Windows 7
The good news is that for most applications, you don’t need to do anything special to run them on Windows 7 64-bit edition. Run applications the ‘normal’ way and they should automatically run in the proper mode.
Windows uses a system called ‘WOW64’ which stands for ‘Windows on Windows 64’ to do a few things in the background to keep the process seamless, including registry and file redirection. WOW64 manages separate directories for both 32-bit and 64-bit applications. The following locations are used:
- 32-bit applications are stored under c:\program files (x86)
- 32-bit system files are stored under c:\windows\syswow64
- 64-bit applications are stored under c:\program files
- 64-bit system files are stored under c:\windows\system32
An easy way to determine if you’ve installed a 64-bit or 32-bit application is to go under the c:\program files\ directory. If it’s under ‘c:\program files (x86)’, it’s a 32-bit app (Figure 2).
Before we dig into troubleshooting potential issues, let’s discuss how to determine if an application is running in 32-bit or 64-bit mode.
Start the application as you normally would.
- Open Task Manager by going to the Windows button and typing ‘task manager’.
- Under the ‘Applications’ tab you will see a list of all running applications. Right click on the application you want to investigate and select ‘Go to process’.
- This will bring you to the Process tab and will highlight your application.
- You will notice some applications have ‘*32’ after them – these are the applications that are running in 32-bit compatibility mode. Applications without are running in 64-bit native mode. You can see from Figure 3 that my copy of Firefox is running in 32-bit mode.
In most circumstances, it’s perfectly fine to let applications run in 32-bit mode. The application may not take full advantage of the resources offered, but most applications don’t need the full power of your computer to run well. In any case, you may want to check with the developer of your favorite applications to see if they offer a native 64-bit version.