Windows 8 to support 32, 64 or 128-bit?

Recently there have been rumours that the next version of Windows will move the whole platform completely over to 128-bit architecture, dumping 32 and 64-bit compatibility completely.

This first came about because of a news story broken by Microsoft Kitchen a few days ago in which Robert Morgan, a senior research and development officer at Microsoft posted the following on his LinkedIn profile.

Senior Research & Development
Public Company; MSFT; Computer Software industry

January 2002 – Present (7 years 10 months)

Working in high security department for research and development involving strategic planning for medium and long-term projects. Research & Development projects including 128bit architecture compatibility with the Windows 8 kernel and Windows 9 project plan. Forming relationships with major partners: Intel, AMD, HP and IBM.

Since then the sweaty masses have, frankly let their imaginations run away with themselves so I thought we needed to look at the situation more objectively, fact by fact.


It’s true that AMD and Intel are working on 128-bit chips, this is something that’s been out there for a while now.  But Windows 8 can’t possibly be 128-bit only.  The reasons for this are as follows.

Windows 7 is still, sadly, saddled with 32-bit compatibility.  This is despite the fact that almost every modern processor supports true 64-bit computing.  This is purely to maintain compatibility with older software (primarily in Microsoft’s most important market, business).  XP Mode, the virtualisation plug-in that allows you to run older software in a licensed copy of XP, goes some way towards addressing this and many people are hoping that 32-bit support will be dropped from Windows 8 completely.  Sadly though, it can’t happen.

This is because in order for XP Mode to work you need hardware virtualisation support on the motherboard and nowhere near enough motherboards yet support this.  By the time Windows 8 comes out it’s possible that all motherboards will, but Microsoft have to get started on Windows 8 code now, and they can’t guarantee this will happen.

It is for exactly the same reasons why Windows 8 can never be 128-bit only.  By the time the technology is mature enough Windows 8 will be ready to launch but the cost of the chips will still be extremely expensive.  They will, I predict, only be used in server farms for hard-core virtualisation tasks on servers.

It’s much more likely that Windows 8 Server will offer full support for 128-bit architecture and that the feature will then be ported to the business and consumer editions of Windows for Windows 9.

The move to 128-bit in itself isn’t such a big job, but it becomes a nightmare when you consider that you also have to maintain compatibility with 32-bit applications.  I can’t foresee a situation where we can have an operating system that supports 32, 64 and 128-bit code simultaneously while still remaining stable.  The only reason that Windows 8 Server could support it is because the 32-bit legacy support has already been dropped from Windows 7 Server.

For all the people who want to see 128-bit support in Windows 8, forget it.  Frankly you wouldn’t get any benefit from it at all anyway.  No software will be written to support it for years to come, full 64-bit support in software is only beginning to appear now, and it will offer the average user or gamer no additional benefits over the 64-bit architecture you already have.

Unless and until the whole computing experience we use in our daily lives demands a move to such technology, it will remain in the server farms of the future.

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16 Responses to Windows 8 to support 32, 64 or 128-bit?

  1. InducedChalice October 10, 2009 at 4:27 am #

    The main reason we’re beginning to drop 32-bit is not for performance, but to utilise more than 4GB of RAM. In theory, 64-bit would allow memory up to 16 exabytes. So if the move to a 128-bit architecture is going to be reached, there would need to be significant performance benefits to make the cost of 128-bit chips worthwhile.

    • some guy November 8, 2009 at 9:06 pm #

      The limit on many of today’s CPU’s is around 64GB. This is with the aid of a 36bit register on a 32bit CPU. By default, it is left at 4GB limit. The OS must supports this feature to be able to break that boundary.
      Of course, 64bit CPU’s have a limit of 16EB. Whilst 16 isn’t a high number, the EB follows Mega, Giga, Terra, Peta, and then Exa. Now it’s a huge. I will presume the CPU will have a larger register so the memory supported will also probably be greater; by how much I do not know

  2. nk October 10, 2009 at 5:53 am #

    Rumors are they are making it 128-bit *COMPATIBLE*, which means IF the need rises, it can be rebuilt with 128-bit support without a 1-2 year rewrite.

    The dropping of 32-bit support is possible, although unlikely. Microsoft wanted to ditch 32-bit version on Windows 7 but the majority of users won’t be happy with this for obvious reasons. 16-bit support only ceased with the release of the 64-bit OS, so I’m guessing the 32-bit support will die very slowly like what happened to 16-bit support.

  3. nk October 10, 2009 at 6:19 am #

    “[…] and it will offer the average user or gamer no additional benefits over the 64-bit architecture you already have.”
    Wrong. Have you never heard about Streaming SIMD Extensions? Many applications take advantage of these 128-bit registers to accelerate floating-point calculations.

    Most people say the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit didn’t change a thing because they are not actually using all the benefits from the 64-bit computing. For example, try using the calculator to compute the factorial of like 100000 on both versions and you’ll see the difference.

  4. Robert Morgan October 16, 2009 at 5:46 am #

    where was this first reported?

  5. Stannieman December 24, 2009 at 3:06 am #

    “compute the factorial of like 100000”
    Yes, x64 of 128 will be faster than 32, but only when the app (in this case the calculator) is a x64 or 128 app. As far as I know a 32bit calc on a x64 os won’t be faster than a 32bit calc on a 32bit os.

  6. Lennon March 7, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    Why not just skip 128 and 256 and go right to 512 bit?

    • Admin_RobertCity March 9, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

      Because 1240 bit is way cooler.

      • Toxe April 9, 2010 at 11:30 am #

        isn’t 1024 and then 2048?

        • Admin_RobertCity April 10, 2010 at 7:35 am #

          I made it up

  7. bill May 16, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    updating hardware requires updating software,,,and what bit to run should be a program that tells the user what his existing hardware will do and not do and how cost effective it will be. Someone should write this software as we all go forward where no man has gone before. Peace and Prosper V

  8. William E Baldwin October 2, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    Ok. I have read the comments for and against dropping 32-Bit, and going to 64/128 Bit for Windows 8/9. SO here is my two cents:
    I have been using Windows computers sence Windows 3.11, which was early 1990’s. Than every version up to Windows 7 Home Prem. I remember when Windows 95 came out and was the first 32-Bit OS. Remember that 32-Bit CPU’s were anything from the 80386DX and newer… the 286 was 16. SO how many years was 32-Bit CPU’s used for 16-Bit Windows Apps? Not sure, but a lot. It will be the same with 64-Bit CPU’s running 32-Bit OS’es and apps. Plus a quick question? How will being 100% 64-Bit and 100% 128-Bit or 50/50 help you do “normal” day to day tasks? Will it make Facebook, or Yahoo/ Hotmail email better? Will MS word work better? No.. no it wont. Not at all. If anything in our “32-Bit world” they will work harder, and crash more. The internet speed is up to your ISP, not your OS. If you want better games, don’t buy a $2000 128-Bit future CPU, just get a X-Box/ PS3..much better than PC games anymore. I have a few of both 360 and PC games. Its like the calc statement above, weather 32 or 64-Bit, it starts and calculates just as fast. So move on, get a girl, new hobbies, fix a classic car, seriously.

  9. nick January 9, 2011 at 4:04 am #

    ?? 128 bit would be the most pointless thing ever, i mean i dont need 4gb of memory even when i use the most memory intensive apps, i have 2gb of memory and when i run games (starcraft 2 mw2 half life simcity) i rarely go over 1 gb. Y would anyone ever need over 16 exbytes of ram??

    • Johndavid February 2, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

      because you will.. 128/64 bit drop the 32 bit and move on from xp which was 10 plus years ago… join the rest of the folks that look to evolve.

  10. Srlan February 5, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    Let’s See!!! 80 Cores processors. 12 Processors 32 bit, 12 processor 64bit and 56 processors 128 bits!!! 32bit Windows run on 32bits processor, …
    This way compatibility is not a problem.

  11. Crytec2 February 10, 2011 at 6:29 am #

    11128 i the most os version

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