Windows 32-bit vs 64-bit: Which is More Secure?
Microsoft’s Windows Vista and the upcoming Windows 7 operating system’s installation DVD has 32-bit (x86) and 64-bit (x64) of Windows allowing people to install x64 of Vista if their PC is 64-bit capable (most modern PCs have support to x64 ). You’ll notice a great number of people are now running 64-bit of Windows because they did not have pay for it, if they already have the installation DVD of new Windows.
What makes some people decide to install 64-bit? Is 64-bit more secure than 32-bit? Will all your software work including third party protection tools will work with 64-bit? This article will discuss these questions.
Advantages of using Windows 64-bit
If you will install a 64-bit edition of Windows Vista or Windows 7, you are going to enjoy the following:
- You’re no longer stuck in using up to 4GB of RAM. Depending on edition of Windows, you can enjoy up to 8 to 128GB of RAM because only 64-bit edition of Windows can handle large RAM.
- Better response: If you have more RAM, you will definitely enjoy better response by your applications and you can run more applications at the same time without tweaking which application should use more RAM e.g. Virtual PC’s guest systems or the hosts system.
- Enhanced Security: Microsoft has added security feature in 64-bit edition of Windows. See next section on what are the security enhancements in 64-bit that you will not enjoy if you are running 32-bit of Windows.
Security Advantages in using Windows 64-bit
Protecting computers is not limited anymore by relying to antivirus and firewall. You are also no longer limited to protecting your PC by adding or modifying settings or group policy in Windows. Microsoft has enhanced security in Windows 64-bit that is not available in 32-bit:
- Hardware-based Data Execution Prevention (DEP): Modern CPUs are now supporting hardware-based DEP but only 64-bit of Windows supports hardware-based DEP. More information DEP here.
- Driver Signing: 64-bit of Windows will only allow installation of device drivers that is digitally signed by its developer. With Windows 32-bit, unsigned drivers is allowed to be installed which most beta-testers require for they cannot continue testing if the program they want to test is still holding a digitally signed drivers.
- Kernel Patch Protection (PatchGuard): One type of malware is called Rootkit. If you have 64-bit edition of Windows, you can enjoy protection against kernel-based rootkits. You can also avoid BSOD if you have 64-bit edition of Windows because PatchGuard does not allow any drivers to modify the kernel in Windows. Most bad driver or drivers that will modify kernel in Windows was seen the cause of BSOD or instability in Windows.
Disadvantages of using Windows 64-bit
There are people who will not install Windows 64-bit because not all software is developed with 64-bit support. Even the popular Flash Player, Windows SteadyState, Firefox browser and many others do not have official support for Windows 64-bit.
Device drivers that are not signed but safe to install (from a trusted developer) will not work if you have Windows x64. Your printers or any other peripheral will not work if the device drivers are not supporting x64.
Is Windows 64-bit more secure than Windows 32-bit?
It’s quite obvious that 64-bit of Windows is more secure than 32-bit. Imagine working on Windows without worrying whether the software or drivers are not any longer allowed modifying an important section in Windows – the Kernel. Imagine also that advanced malware that is taking advantage of the weakness in 32-bit will fail to work in 64-bit. The ability to have more RAM and the unique security enhancements in Windows 64-bit makes it more secure than 32-bit but before you plunge 64-bit, it is always recommended to check with the vendors of your software and hardware devices if they have installers that will work and developed for 64-bit. If not, you got to wait before you can take advantage of the security features found in using Windows 64-bit.