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Is it possible to run 64-bit applicatio…

Is it possible to run 64-bit applications in a 32-bit OS?

Dec 08 2015

Nowadays 64-bit operating systems are very widespread. But 32-bit OS are still present on the market, in quite obvious quantities. A lot of modern program tools are developed to be run only in 64-bit mode, because the maintenance of both 32 and 64 bit operating systems requires additional expenses.

For the users of 32-bit OS, it is sometimes necessary to use software designed only for 64-bit OS.

So what shall the user do if he/she is not ready to stop using the 32-bit OS as the main working system?

There are certain peculiarities in different operation systems, related to the 64-bit applications launch in the 32-bit environment. Firstly, starting 64-bit applications in the 32-bit environment you lose the benefit of using more RAM. Also, to support 64-bit applications your processor should have a 64-bit architecture. Let's take a look at some of the most popular OS.

In the macOS X the core is a hybrid one. It allows the running of any application regardless of its bit rate. The only difference between a hybrid core and a full 64-bit one is the inability to use more than 32 GB of RAM in the system. So at this moment there is absolutely no difference between loading in 32 and 64-bit modes. But in the future this difference will become more prominent due to the RAM usage increase, and further technological development.

For the family of Linux operating systems, and the 32-bit Windows OS, virtualization technology is used to run 64-bit applications in a 32-bit environment. There is a number of specialized software products that enable you to install a virtual guest 64-bit OS, where you will be able to install and run the required application. And if the operating system is not a free one, you will have to buy it.


A virtual machine is software that emulates the work of a hardware platform with all its components (a processor, memory, a hard drive, USB, optical drive, video and network adapters, etc.). A virtual machine allows you to install and run multiple guest systems (OS, running on virtual machines) within a single host system (OS, installed on the hardware) at the same time. The list of operating systems which can be installed on virtual machines, varies greatly and depends on the particular virtualization system.

Here are some popular solutions:

Oracle VirtualBox — a universal free virtual machine. VirtualBox is a very simple, powerful and free tool for virtualization, developed with the support of the famous Oracle Corporation. It is free, open source software. VirtualBox allows you to install almost any current operating system as a "guest" one, whether it be Windows, macOS or any of the numerous representatives of the Linux family.

VMware Workstation — for serious tasks. VMware Workstation is a powerful, paid, and the most reliable program for virtualization, that supports Windows and Linux OS. But this program can't be used for virtualization on macOS.

QEMU is a free open source program that emulates various hardware platforms.

Hardware virtualization

There are certain requirements for a 64-bit guest virtual machine to run in a 32-bit environment: the processor should have a 64-bit architecture and support hardware virtualization technologies such as Intel VT-x and AMD-V. Sometimes they have to be manually enabled in your system BIOS.

Cloud computing

All of these solutions demand specific performance from the system, and it's not always possible to achieve optimum performance from the desired application.

Cloud computing technologies development is in full swing at the moment. They allow you to deploy any OS on remote servers, and run your applications from there. At the same time, no restrictions will be imposed on your 32-bit system, as all calculations are made on the remote machines. One such example of this is Microsoft Azure, which can be used to deploy a great number of operating systems, and run various applications, including high performance ones.

Often gamers face the issue of running 64-bit applications on obsolete 32-bit machines. There are specialized cloud solutions for these tasks as well. For example, NVIDIA GRID. GRID runs 3D games on cloud servers, instantly encodes each frame and passes the results to any device with a wired or wireless high-speed Internet connection.


So, we can see that running 64-bit applications on 32-bit OS is possible, but there are certain difficulties. And since some of the solutions are paid, it is up to you to estimate which technology is best for you.

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