When you received your Windows 10 upgrade, Microsoft will have automatically provided you a like-for-like 32-bit operating system. But if you’d like to upgrade to the 64-bit version of Windows 10, you can – provided your hardware supports it.
Why upgrade? The 64-bit version enables you to use more than 3.75 GB of RAM, providing you with a faster Windows 10 experience. Moreover, 64-bit Windows 10 requires NX support as standard, gifting your processor another layer of protection from malicious attention. For more information please see the Hardware Specification section below.
Upgrading to 64-bit Windows 10 can be a quick process, depending on your existing system settings and system hardware, and I’m here to guide you from one to the other.
Before you begin upgrading, you’ll need to confirm if your system architecture is 64-bit capable. Head to Settings > System > Update & Security > Activation. This screen contains your System type. If you see “32-bit operating system, x64-based processor” you’ll be able to complete the upgrade. If it says “32-bit operating system, x86-based processor” as per the below image, you have a 32-bit CPU meaning you will not be able to upgrade.
Next, we’ll check your system hardware for compatibility. Some of the earlier 64-bit processors do not have the required features to run Windows 10 in 64-bit mode, even if they are 64-bit compatible processors. Download and install system information application CPU-Z. Run the application once it is installed.
Windows 10 specifically requires PAE, SSE2, and NX. I’ve highlighted their respective entries in the above image, but here is why they are needed:
- Physical Address Extension (PAE) gives 32-bit processors the ability to use more than 4 GB of physical memory on capable versions of Windows, and is a prerequisite for NX. PAE will be represented by either “EM64T” or “AMD64” in the system instructions.
- NX helps your processor guard against malicious software, adding more stringent security for 64-bit processors. NX support will be indicated by either “VT-x” or “VT-d”.
- SSE2 is a standard instruction set on processors, increasingly used by third-party applications and drivers. It appears as is if supported.
Turning On NX
If you don’t immediately spot the NX indicators “VT-x” or “VT-d” – don’t panic. Some older processors require you to manually enable NX in the system BIOS. Access to the BIOS varies by manufacturer, but you’ll normally find the correct key to press is displayed during the boot process.
Once you’re in, browse to the Security tab, or otherwise begin the search for NX Settings (or on some systems XD Settings). Once found, toggle the setting On, then Save and Exit.
If there are no settings to alter, you have two options: contact your system manufacturer to ask if there is a relevant BIOS update, or begin searching for a system with the correct compatibilities.
New 64-Bit Drivers
Before upgrading, you should also double-check if your system hardware is 64-bit compatible. 64-bit versions of Windows require 64-bit drivers, and following the upgrade some of your old 32-bit drivers will fail to work. Most modern hardware will support a 64-bit driver out-of-the-box, but if you’re running anything old, you might struggle for support.
You can check compatibility by heading to the hardware manufacturer’s website. There is no need to download the drivers as Windows 10 and Windows Update should take care of everything for you, but at least you’ll be aware of an issues before upgrading.
You’re Cleared for Installation
Almost. There is no direct path for a Windows 10 32-bit to 64-bit upgrade. This means you’ll be performing a clean install, which in turn means you’ll need to back up your important files, music, photos, work – anything that would make you utter a thousand curses if you were to lose it. This process will wipe your installed programs and files.
To begin the upgrade process, first ensure your existing Windows 10 license is activated. Head to Settings > System > Update & Security > Activation and double-check. When you upgraded or installed Windows 10, Microsoft etched your product code into the system hardware. This means following the clean installation, Windows 10 should activate of its own accord. If you have any difficulties, please see our Ultimate Windows 10 Activation FAQ.
Now, head to the Microsoft website and download their Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. Install and open the application. Select Create installation media for another PC. Select your corresponding Language. Ensure the Edition matches your own, and under Architecture select Both (we select “Both” in the event you need to reinstall Windows 10 32-bit). Finally, select which form of media you’d like the installation to install to.
It is now time to reboot your system and install Windows 10 64-bit from the media you just created. Follow through the instructions, selecting your keyboard and language settings, then choosing Custom install to overwrite the existing 32-bit installation.
When prompted for a product key, skip the process and continue. As mentioned, Windows 10 will take care of your product key following your reboot into the operating system.
Congratulations, you’ve just upgraded to Windows 10 64-bit!
Things to Remember
This is a relatively painless process so long as you check your system settings before boarding the upgrade train. Make sure you:
- Check your license is activated,
- back up your files to a secure location, i.e. not on the drive you’ll be upgrading, and
- double-check your system hardware compatibility.
Do this, and your upgrade should be absolutely fine!
Have you upgrade your Windows 10 installation? Do you have any upgrade tips for our readers? Let us know below!