Google has announced that it has begun automatically switching those who run the 32-bit version of its Chrome browser on a 64-bit Windows install to the matching 64-bit version as a means of improving performance and security.
When running a 64-bit operating system, the best performance comes from running applications also compiled for a 64-bit processor. It's not a requirement, however: With the right 32-bit libraries installed, any 64-bit operating system is free to run 32-bit - or even 16-bit and 8-bit, should libraries exist - code. Doing so, however, typically locks users out of more advanced features of their processor and reduces performance, while for software as notoriously memory-hungry as Google's Chrome browser can also restrict each thread to a maximum of 4GB of RAM regardless of how much is installed in the system.
From this week, however, the days of 32-bit Chrome on 64-bit Windows are numbered. Following release 58.0.3029.96, which is being rolled out now for automatic download and installation, Chrome will detect if it is running a 32-bit version on 64-bit Windows and check to see if the host system has more than 4GB of RAM; should that prove to be the case, Chrome will automatically download and install the 64-bit build and upgrade itself in-place, migrating users without notification.
'In order to improve stability, performance, and security, users who are currently on 32-bit version of Chrome, and 64-bit Windows with 4GB or more of memory and auto-update enabled will be automatically migrated to 64-bit Chrome during this update,
' explained Google's Chrome staff in a blog post
. '32-bit Chrome will still be available via the Chrome download page.
Thus far, Google hasn't indicated plans to force similar upgrades on other operating systems - likely as 32-bit-on-64-bit installations of Chrome on macOS and Linux are significantly less common.