64-bit CPUs are compatible with 32-bit Microsoft operating systems, although it performs best with 64-bit.
In computer architecture, 64-bit integers, memory addresses, or other data units are those that are 64 bits wide. Also, 64-bit central processing units (CPU) and arithmetic logic units (ALU) are those that are based on processor registers, address buses, or data buses of that size. A computer that uses such a processor is a 64-bit computer.
From the software perspective, 64-bit computing means the use of machine code with 64-bit virtual memory addresses. However, not all 64-bit instruction sets support full 64-bit virtual memory addresses; x86-64 and ARMv8, for example, support only 48 bits of virtual address, with the remaining 16 bits of the virtual address required to be all 0's or all 1's, and several 64-bit instruction sets support fewer than 64 bits of physical memory address.
The term 64-bit also describes a generation of computers in which 64-bit processors are the norm. 64 bits is a word size that defines certain classes of computer architecture, buses, memory, and CPUs and, by extension, the software that runs on them. 64-bit CPUs have been used in supercomputers since the 1970s (Cray-1, 1975) and in reduced instruction set computers (RISC) based workstations and servers since the early 1990s. In 2003, 64-bit CPUs were introduced to the mainstream PC market in the form of x86-64 processors and the PowerPC G5.
A 64-bit register can hold any of 264 (over 18 quintillion or 1.8×1019) different values. The range of integer values that can be stored in 64 bits depends on the integer representation used.