It is finally happening! Microsoft is now changing over to a 64-bit operating system by default instead of 32 bit. Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the first operating system to feature 32 bit optional. This means that all the applications included with Windows Server 2008 R2 will be native 64 bit. It appears Microsoft is now ready to embrace the 21st century and begin shipping their new server operating systems as 64 bit only.
For the system administrators that still want to run 32-bit applications inside of Windows Server 2008 R2 they will have to install WoW64. This application support layer is not included by default with the operating system. Hit the jump for more information and what this means to regular home users.
The Windows NT series of operating systems were the first to be released with native 32-bit support. Ever since, Microsoft has natively supported 32-bit applications with 64-bit applications being optional.
For most people this change means nothing. However, if Microsoft continues down this path, we may be looking at a 64-bit only operating system when Windows 8 appears on stores shelves 3-5 years after Windows 7. It also means that the 4GB memory limitation that is present with all 32-bit operating systems may become outdated.
If you are a system administrator and intend to work with 32 bit applications you do have one option. You must install the WoW64 application support layer to enable 32-bit support. To do this, just type the following into the command line:
start /w ocsetup ServerCore-WOW64
So what do you think this means for the future of Windows operating systems? Is this marking the end of 32-bit applications?