What is x86 Architecture and its difference between x64?

Have you ever come across x86 and x64 but do not know what they mean? No worries, as this blog will cover everything you need to know about x86 and its architecture together with x64 and their differences between each other.

What is x86 Architecture?

x86 is a family of instruction set architectures (ISA) for computer processors initially developed by Intel. They refer to the way a computer processor (CPU) handles information.

What is an instruction set architecture?

It is an abstract model of a computer that is also referred to as computer architecture. It is part of a computer that pertains to programming which specifies the behaviour of machine code. The instruction set is the language that a computer’s brain is designed to understand which provides commands to the computer processor and tells it what to do.

Back to the x86…

The x86 is developed based on the Intel 8086 microprocessor and its 8088 variant where it started out as a 16-bit instruction set for 16-bit processors where many additions and extensions have been added to the x86 where it grew to 32-bit instruction sets over the years with almost entirely full backward compatibility.

The bit in both 32-bit and 16-bit is shorthand for a number. For example, for 32-bit, the number will contain 32 bits which are binary digits that are either 0 or 1. For a 32-bit number, it will look like something like this 10101010101010101010101010101010.

Today, the term x86 is used generally to refer to any 32-bit processor compatible with the x86 instruction set. x86 microprocessor is capable of running almost any type of computer from laptops, servers, desktops, notebooks to supercomputers.


What is x64?

Similar to the x86, the x64 is also a family of instruction set architectures (ISA) for computer processors. However, x64 refers to a 64-bit CPU and operating system instead of the 32-bit system which the x86 stands for.

But why does x64 refers to a 64-bit system while x86 refers to a 32-bit system?

That was the question I asked myself too at first. However, this is because as when the processor was first being created, it was called 8086. The 8086 was well designed and popular which can understand 16-bit machine language at first. It was later improved and expanded the size of 8086 instructions to a 32-bit machine language. As they improve the architecture, they kept 86 at the end of the model number, the 8086. This line of processors was then known as the x86 architecture.

On the other hand, x64 is the architecture name for the extension to the x86 instruction set that enables 64-bit code. When it was initially developed, it was named as x86-64. However, people thought that the name was too length where it was later shortened to the current x64.


What is the difference between x86 and x64?

As you guys can already tell, the obvious difference will be the amount of bit of each operating system. x86 refers to a 32-bit CPU and operating system while x64 refers to a 64-bit CPU and operating system.

Does having more amount of bits in each operating system have any benefits?

Of course! This is one of the main reasons the number of bits keeps increasing over the years from 16-bits to 64-bits currently. As mentioned above, the bits are shorthand for a number that can only be 1 or 0. This causes the 32-bit CPUs not to be able to use a lot of RAM as 1 and 0, the total number of combinations is only 2^32 which equals to 4,294,967,295. This means the 32-bit processor has 4.29 billion memory locations each storing one byte of data which equates to approx. 4GB of memory which the 32-bit processor can access without workarounds in software to address more.

Today, 4GB is enough for basic tasks but if you wish to run multiple programs and other more heavy load tasks, 4GB is not sufficient. In addition, with a 64-bit system, it will be more efficient as it can process data in 64-bit chunks compared to 32-bit chunks. Your 64-bit system can also run 32-bit programs as they are backwards compatible. But, it doesn’t work the other way where a 32-bit computer cannot run 64-bit programs.

Example of x86 Single Board Computer (SBC)

ODYSSEY – X86J4125

ODYSSEY – X86J4125 redefines the SBC (Single Board Computer) with pre-installed Windows 10 Enterprise and Arduino Coprocessor onboard, enabling IoT (Internet of Things) easier than before.

With the fast development of IoT, more and more Edge Computing devices are connected to the Internet. Nowadays, a computer is not just a big rectangular black box under the desk, or a small portable device working on your knees. Computers are devices lying everywhere that doing calculating, communicating, and data storing. Based on this definition, we would like to introduce our brand new product – ODYSSEY – X86J4125.

ODYSSEY is a series of SBC (Single Board Computer), allowing you to build Edge Computing applications with ease. The ODYSSEY – X86J4125, which is based on Intel Celeron J4125, is a Quad-Core 2.0GHz CPU that bursts up to 2.7GHz. It has all the great features that a standard Computer needs, including an 8GB LPDDR4 RAM, 64GB eMMC Storage(optional), onboard Wi-Fi/BLE, Dual Gigabyte Ethernet Ports, Audio Input and Output, USB Ports, HDMI, SATA Connectors, PCIe, etc.

With simple connections to Mouse, Keyboard and Monitor to ODYSSEY – X86J4125, you will get a Desktop Mini PC right away. With eMMC versions, you even have the Windows 10 Enterprise pre-installed!

What can you do with the Odyssey other than building a mini PC?

With ODYSSEY – X86J4105, you can build your own NAS (Network-Attached Storage), your high-performance Virtual Router, or a 4G LTE Gateway in your IoT applications. There is an onboard ATSAMD21 Core, an ARM Cortex-M0+ MCU that allows you to program Arduino on the x86 platform. The Raspberry Pi compatible 40-Pin allows you to use hundreds of Pi HATs in the market. All of these features providing endless possibilities of using the ODYSSEY – X86J4105.

The ODYSSEY – X86J4105 is more than just a computer, with the Arduino Co-processor onboard, it can be used to connect with sensors, gyroscope, and much more. You can also use the ODYSSEY for your robotics projects, media centre, server cluster, IoT Gateway, router, etc. Why don’t you start exploring your IoT journey with the ODYSSEY today!

How to determine if your Windows OS is 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64)?

Now you know what is the difference between x86 architecture and x64 bit architecture how do you check whether your computer is an x86 or x64 system?

Well, Here is how to check if your computer is running a 32-bit system or 64-bit system for Windows OS with just one step

All you need to do is:

  • Press the Windows Key + X to open the power user menu and click on system.
  • Scroll down and you should be able to see your system type under device specifications

Summary

And that’s all on the differences between x86 and x64! Hope that you have learnt more about each of their architecture and how you can determine whether your windows OS is x86 or x64!

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