Why do we have two Program Files folders?

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Microsoft’s Windows operating system has been available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions since 2005.
If you use a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows, your program files are stored in two different folders: 64-bit programs and applications are stored in Program Files (Program Files), while 32-bit programs and applications are stored in program files (Program Files x86).

Why do we have two Program Files folders?

So what is the difference between the two

64-bit applications are created to run on a 64-bit machine.
They take advantage of 64-bit architecture-specific system capabilities and access 64-bit versions of Windows program libraries.

Legacy applications and newer programs developed for 32-bit processors are known as 32-bit applications.
However, by using a compatibility layer called WOW64, 64-bit versions of Windows can still run these applications, which stand for Windows32 to Windows64.

Is it a bad idea to run 32-bit software on a 64-bit OS

Not in the least.
The WOW64 layer does an excellent job of simulating a 32-bit environment, and any performance degradation is minimal.
Because WOW64 can dedicate the maximum amount of RAM (4GB) to an application, simulated programs can have an advantage.
A portion of the RAM would be dedicated to the operating system kernel and other running applications on a true 32-bit machine.

Why are 64-bit and 32-bit applications stored in different folders

There are several reasons for this:

  1. It’s a quick and easy way to tell them apart.
  2. For example, if you install both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the same software on the same machine, this reduces the chances of a conflict.
  3. This increases the likelihood that older applications will run successfully, reducing the risk of them inadvertently interfering with 64-bit software.

What does x86 mean in a 32-bit folder

32-bit processors are also known as x86 processors.
The term “x86” was first used to refer to 16-bit processors, specifically the 8086 and 8088 processor architectures.
Later, the designation was expanded to include the 32-bit processor families 80386 and 80486.
To distinguish 64-bit processors from previous processor lines, they were called x64 when they first appeared.

Will the apps still work if I manually move them from one folder to another?

In general, if you manually install 32-bit software in the Program Files folder, it should work fine, similarly, 64-bit applications should work properly if you manually install them in the Program Files (x86) folder.
However, it’s better to leave them where Windows wants them.

Read more about the Windows system.