Beginning of the End for Microsoft Windows 10 32-bit Processor Support

Microsoft just released their Minimum Hardware Requirements, which states that Windows 10 version 2004 will no longer include 32-bit builds for OEM distribution. Before you assume you’re paying the same price for a lesser product, understand the key words here are “for OEM distribution”; essentially, manufacturers will only receive and be able to distribute 64-bit Windows 10 builds starting with the latest version of Windows.

The important news: any new PC coming out starting this year (2020) will come with 64-bit Windows 10 and nothing else. That said, existing Windows 10 systems that are already running a 32-bit version will still get supported, in addition to the ability for users to still purchase 32-bit Windows 10 from other distribution channels. The only exception is that they are not OEMs. 

While the shift to 64-bit processors has been in progress for awhile, software like Windows has struggled to make the complete transition, still including unnecessary features, according to some developers. In the last few years, nearly every new computer produced has a 64-bit processor, even lower-end options like Intel Celeron chips or ARM processors in commercial phones.

All of this comes at no surprise, as Microsoft’s Windows has felt criticism for a long time for having to support a decade’s worth of computer versions. Contrary to company’s like Apple that maintain control over software and hardware, Microsoft is not so fortunate. 

For Microsoft, the shift to 64-bit processors is not an instant fix. They expect the transition to last several years before they reach a point where their software is free of 32-bit processors. Even Apple, with control over both software and hardware, saw a slow transition; pointing to the fact that Microsoft will be in transition for the foreseeable future. Still, a 32-bit processor-free world is in fact in Microsoft’s future–they just have to practice some extra patience in the meantime.

Jordan’s take:

  • Is this a wake-up call to businesses running old peripherals that only work with 32-bit drivers? Probably not. The types of businesses running 32-bit operating systems are the same ones running Windows XP or Windows 7 32-bit machines until they die.
  • Why would anyone use 32-bit, you may ask? There are two reasons: 
    • Low-cost notebooks or netbooks may use outmoded and lowest bidder components to keep their cost down (sub $200 range). These are still used in third world countries. These manufacturers need to start shifting to 64-bit architecture. 
    • A business may use an old dental sensor or proprietary peripheral (copier, pano, printer, MFP, etc.) that was only designed for 32-bit drivers. We’ve run into this several times over the last few years. One of our dental clients had to choose between replacing a pano for $150,000 or using the old pano with a 32-bit Windows workstation until it died. If you do a risk analysis, replacing the pano with a modern supported solution is going to win every time if the business wants to generate revenue from it reliably. 
  • At the very least, Microsoft is sending the signal that Windows 10 will be the last of the 32-bit operating system. We’re guessing in about ten years from now, 32-bit will be extinct once the current wave of 32-bit computers die a lonely and dusty death. 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to do a quick risk analysis of running outmoded technology in business, reach out to PK Tech here.