32-bit computing corresponds to processor architecture and microprocessors that can process data and use memory addresses represented in 32-bits, as well as operating systems and software or applications that natively run on 32-bit processors.
Note that one bit generally represents an individual byte. It is also worth mentioning that a byte is a unit of data or digital information. A more specific representation is that a 32-bit system is capable of addressing about 4,294,967,296 bytes or 4GB of RAM.
Machines based on 32-bit computing were common in the 1990s and the early 2000s. However, because of its limitations and disadvantages, the arrival of 64-bit computing has been gradually rendering them obsolete and out of place in the current ecosystem.
The Notable Disadvantages of 32-Bit Computing: Limitations and Present Issues
Remember that a 32-bit computer system also represented addressable memory. It specifically can address up to 4GB of memory. This was a notable upgrade to an 8-bit system. However, with the introduction of the 64-bit system, this has become a disadvantage.
A 64-bit system is considerably superior because it can address up to 17,179,869,184 GB or 16 exabytes. This figure is a huge limit from the 4GB limit. Machines such as personal computers and mobile devices are now sporting 8GB to 64GB of memory.
Installing or adding more memory on a 32-bit machine will not make a difference because it is limited to 4GB. But doing so in a 64-bit machine would result in significant and noticeable performance improvements and overall system efficiency.
When it comes to processors and operating systems, an xx-bit generally means how many ones and zeroes can be used to represent data. A system that can process more bits can also handle more data at once. This is the reason why 64-bit systems are superior.
A 64-bit processor can perform more calculations than its 32-bit counterpart. This also means switching to a 64-bit architecture increasing the processing power of a processor and the overall capabilities of the entire computer or machine.
The hardware performance also translates to software performance. Writing applications for a 64-bit system promotes hardware-software optimization. These applications can also take advantage of higher memory capabilities.
Another limitation or disadvantage of 32-bit computing is compatibility. Specifically, a 32-bit central processing unit would not be able to run a 64-bit operating system. The same is true for drivers and applications written to run on a 64-bit operating system.
Windows 11 is only available at 64-bit but it still supports 32-bit applications. However, when it comes to macOS since the macOS Catalina version, 32-bit apps are no longer compatible with this desktop operating system from Apple.
It is also important to highlight that most manufacturers and vendors are no longer producing hardware for a 32-bit computer system. The same is true for software developers that are now writing applications for 64-bit operating systems and processors.