What advantage/disadvantage is there between 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows?Entire books have been written about this vast topic, but in a very small nutshell, the four primary areas of differentiation are memory, security, hardware and software compatibility or MEMSECHARSOCOM for acronym enthusiasts. Let’s take a look at each one:When it comes to memory, more is generally better. A 32-bit version of Windows can accommodate up to 4 GB (gigabytes) of RAM (random access memory), which is what your computer uses when running programs and loading files. Technically, a 64-bit version can handle up to 17.2 billion gigabytes of memory, but don’t rush right out to RAM-Mart to stock up because your computer’s motherboard can’t handle anywhere near that amount. 8GB of RAM is generally more than enough for most average users.For individuals particularly concerned about security, the 64-bit version of Windows offers better security in the form of improved encryption and greater protection from root kits and other malicious critters.Turning to hardware compatibility, if your computer or any of its peripherals (printer, scanner, monitor, etc.) are outdated, chances are they aren’t compatible with a 64-bit version of Windows, though updated drivers may be available. If you aren’t sure, check with a professional before upgrading or use Microsoft’s Hardware Compatibility Center at http://tinyurl.com/MrM-compatible.The same compatibility situation exists with software, although you can run 32-bit software on a 64-bit operating system. It just won’t be as fast. To visit websites with your 64-bit Windows, you will need a 64-bit version of Internet Explorer for optimum performance, or the 64-bit version of Firefox, Chrome or another browser.You may be asking yourself which version of Windows is better. The answer depends on your computing needs. If you use your computer primarily for Web browsing, email and word processing — as most of us do — the 32-bit version is fine. For users who run more memory-intense programs, such as video games or graphics programs, a 64-bit version would definitely be the way to go, along with 64-bit hardware and software.The question may be moot, however, because the trend is definitely toward 64-bit computing, so chances are any new system you purchase will be 64-bit. For additional 32- and 64-bit information, visit Microsoft’s 32- and 64-bit FAQ at http://tinyurl.com/MrM-3264. What is an image file? Is it a photograph? An image file, perhaps better known as a graphics file, will have a three-letter file extension that tells Windows which program to use to open that file. The most common image files have either a .JPG or .GIF file extension. Digital photographs are almost always in .JPG format, which has the ability to display millions of colors. A typical file name for an image file might be sunset.jpg, ocean.jpg, or sleepingpitbull.jpg. Whether you call them “pictures, “graphics,” “photos” or “works of art,” they are all image files.
Mr. Modem publishes “Ask Mr. Modem!” each week, featuring PC tips, tricks and plain-English answers to your questions by email. For more information, visit www.Mr.Modem.com.