Updated: 01/05/2018 by Computer Hope

32-bit may refer to any of the following:

32-bit in white lettering on blue background.

1.32-bit is a type of CPU (central processing unit) architecture that transfers 32 bits of data per clock cycle. More plainly, it's the amount of information your CPU can process each time it performs an operation. You can think this architecture as a road that's 32 lanes wide; only 32 "vehicles" (bits of data) can go through an intersection at a time.

In more technical terms, this means processors can work with 32-bit binary numbers (decimal number up to 4,294,967,295). Anything larger and the computer would need to break the data into smaller pieces.

Processor examples

Specific examples of processors with 32-bit architecture would be the 80386, 80486, and Pentium.

Operating systems

Examples of the first 32-bit operating systems are OS/2 and Windows NT. Sometimes, versions of Windows that are 32-bit are called WOW32. Today, 32-bit operating systems are being phased out by their 64-bit counterparts, such as specific versions of Windows 7 and Windows 10.


A computer with a 32-bit processor cannot have a 64-bit version of an operating system installed. It can only have a 32-bit version of an operating system installed. It's like trying to squeeze a two liter bottle of soda into a 12 ounce can.

2. 32-bit can also refer to the number of colors a GPU (graphics processing unit) is currently, or capable of, displaying. 32-bit is the same as 16.7 million colors (24-bit color with an 8-bit alpha channel).

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