How to upgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit version of Windows 10

Windows 10 32-bit to 64-bit upgrade
Windows 10 32-bit to 64-bit upgrade (Image credit: Future)

Windows 10 can run on both 32-bit and 64-bit processor architectures. If you have a computer with a 32-bit setup, you can upgrade to the 64-bit version without acquiring a new license. The only caveat is that there is no in-place upgrade path to make the switch. The only option is to perform a clean installation of Windows 10.

Although each version delivers the same features, when you upgrade to the 64-bit (x64) version, the device will be able to take advantage of large amounts of memory (up to 2TB) instead of the 4GB limitation with 32-bit (x86).

Accessing more memory allows you to run more apps simultaneously without affecting the experience, and you can work with a mix of 64-bit and 32-bit programs. Also, perhaps, more importantly, it will help you improve productivity on memory-intensive tasks. For instance, rendering videos, running virtual machines, and opening many tabs on your web browser.

This guide will walk you through the steps to upgrade a computer from a 32-bit to a 64-bit version using an existing genuine license.

How to check 64-bit hardware support on Windows 10

If you want to upgrade a system from Windows 10 32-bit to the 64-bit version, you first need to determine whether the processor has 64-bit support, 2GB of memory, or more, and whether the remaining parts have support for 64-bit drivers.

Determine 64-bit compatibility from Settings

To check whether the processor can run the 64-bit of Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on About.
  4. Check the Installed RAM details.
  5. Confirm that the information reads 2GB or higher.
  6. Under the "Device specifications" section, check the System type details.
  7. Confirm the information reads "32-bit operating system, x64-based processor."

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Once you complete the steps, you can determine whether the device runs the 32-bit version of Windows 10 on a 64-bit processor. However, if it reads "32-bit operating system, x86-based processor," the computer does not support the 64-bit version of Windows.

If the device can't run the 64-bit version, consider purchasing a new device that meets the system requirements.

Determine CPU compatibility from Coreinfo

Although most computers using relatively modern hardware can work with any version of Windows 10, you still want to confirm that the four essential features are present on the processor:

  • Physical Address Extension (PAE).
  • No-eXecute (NX).
  • Streaming SIMD Extensions 2 (SSE2).
  • CMPXCHG16b (CX16).

To confirm the processor has the required features, you can use the Microsoft Coreinfo command-line tool with these steps:

  1. Open the Microsoft Sysinternals website (opens in new tab).
  2. Click the Download Coreinfo link.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Right-click the Coreinfo.zip folder and select the Extract all option.
  2. Click the Extract button.

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  1. Type the following command in the address bar and press Enter to open Command Prompt in this folder location.cmd

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  1. Type the following command and press Enter: coreinfo
  2. Search (Ctrl + F keyboard shortcut or Ctrl + Shift + F on Terminal) for these features:
    • PAE.
    • NX.
    • SSE2.
    • CX16.

(Image credit: Future)

After you complete the steps, if the tool confirms that the features are available, you can upgrade to the 64-bit version of Windows 10.

While the upgrade process should be able to confirm the processor compatibility, the "Coreinfo" tool allows you to check these features ahead of time.

Determine driver compatibility

Also, it's recommended to check whether other components (such as graphics and sound cards) are compatible with the 64-bit version of Windows 10.

If the computer has the 32-bit version of Windows 10 and the hardware is relatively new, there is a good chance that you will find 64-bit versions of the drivers. You can check the device manufacturer support website to confirm that the components have drivers for the x64 architecture.

How to upgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit on Windows 10

A Windows 10 product key allows you to install the 32-bit or 64-bit version. The only caveat is that you can't perform an in-place upgrade. Instead, you must delete the previous setup and perform a clean installation to change architectures.

Create installation media

As part of the architecture upgrade process, you have to use the Microsoft Media Creation Tool to create a USB bootable media by connecting a USB flash drive of at least 8GB of space to the computer, and then use these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft download page (opens in new tab).
  2. Under the "Create Windows 10 installation media" section, click the Download Now button.

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  1. Double-click the MediaCreationToolxxxx.exe file to launch the tool.
  2. Click the Accept button to agree to the terms.
  3. Select the "Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO file) for another PC" option.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Clear the "Use the recommended options for this PC" option.
  3. Select the correct language and edition of Windows 10 for the new installation.
  4. Select the 64-bit (x64) option for "Architecture."

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Select the "USB flash drive" option.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Select the USB flash drive to create the bootable media.
  • Quick tip: If you don't see the flash drive, reconnect the device, click the "Refresh drive list" option, and select the drive from the list.
  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Click the Finish button.

Once you complete the steps, the tool will proceed to download the installation files, and it'll create the bootable media compatible with Windows 10 64-bit.

If you don't have a USB flash drive, you can find many reliable and inexpensive drives (for example, the SanDisk Cruzer Glide CZ60 32GB) on Amazon.

Windows 10 32-bit to 64-bit install

When you are ready to upgrade to Windows 10 64-bit from 32-bit, before proceeding, you may need to change some settings to allow the computer to start from a USB flash drive. This requires accessing the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) on the motherboard to change the boot order.

Usually, the process requires hitting one of the function keys (F1, F2, F3, F10, or F12), Esc, or Delete key as soon as you start the computer. However, the instructions can be different depending on the manufacturer and even per device model. As a result, you may need to check the manufacturer's support website for more specific details.

After accessing the firmware, open the "Boot" menu page, configure the boot order to start from the USB flash drive, and save the changes.

Warning: This is a friendly reminder that you will be making changes to the current setup, which may cause problems and even data loss if you don't do this correctly. Before proceeding, it's recommended to make a temporary full backup of your PC. It's also a good idea to create a copy of your files to an external drive or OneDrive, as you'll have to restore them after the upgrade.

To switch from the 32-bit to the 64-bit version of Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Start PC with USB flash drive.
  2. On "Windows Setup," click the Next button.

(Image credit: Future)
  1. Click the Install Now button.

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  1. Click the "I don't have a product key" link to continue (assuming that the computer was already properly activated).

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  1. Select the edition of Windows 10 (if applicable). This selection must match the edition of the license activated.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Check the "I accept the license terms" option to continue.

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  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Click the "Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)" option.

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  1. Select the partition with the current installation of Windows 10 (usually "Drive 0"), and click the Delete button to remove the partition from the hard drive.
  • Quick tip: If you see multiple partitions on the primary hard drive (Drive 0), select and delete each one. Windows 10 will recreate the required partitions during the installation process automatically. It's not necessary to remove the partitions on secondary drives.

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  1. Select the empty drive labeled "Drive 0 Unallocated Space."
  2. Click the Next button.

Windows 10 64-bit install

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After you complete the steps, the setup will install the 64-bit version of Windows 10.

Once the installation completes, you will have to continue with the on-screen directions to finish the out-of-box experience (OOBE), which allows you to create a new account, configure the preferences, and choose the privacy settings.

It's also a good idea to check for updates on Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update to ensure that the latest patches and drivers are installed.

Finally, remember to restore your files from a previous backup and reinstall your applications, including those designed for the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 10.

More resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10 and Windows 11, visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.