Refers to CPUs that process 32 bits as a single unit. Although 32-bit CPUs were used in mainframes as early as the 1960s, personal computers began to migrate from 16 to 32 bits in the 1980s. Starting with the first 32-bit 386 chips in 1985, Intel x86 CPUs were built with a 16-bit mode for compatibility with 16-bit applications (see 386).|
The 32-bit mode does not result in two times as much real work getting done as in 16-bit mode, because it relates to internal processing. Disk, memory, cache and bus sizes and speeds play important roles in a computer's performance (see throughput). See 64-bit computing and bit specifications.
CPU Processed Memory
Environment At one time Capacity
64-bit 8 GB to TB
32-bit 4 4GB +
16-bit 2 1MB
8-bit 1 65KB