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What does x86 mean

The term x86 is a computer based term that you might have seen when discussing operating systems, computer programs or CPU (central processing unit). But, you might be wondering what does x86 mean. This article will answer that question and take a look at what this means for you.

What does x86 mean?

x86 is a generic name given to Intel processors beginning with the 8086 processor released in 1978. However, the name only became popular after the 32-bit 80386 was released. The original processor (8086) was a 16-bit processor, but today x86 refers to the 32-bit processors and programs. Much of the software written in the last 30 years is written to support x86 processors and this is only starting to change in the recent years. This includes the operating systems Windows, Linux and Mac OS X which to this date have both 32 bit (x86) and 64 bit versions available.

Limitations of x86 processors and programs

The limitations of x86 based (32 bit) operating systems like Windows is that the program can only access 4gb of memory in total (including graphics memory) whether or not your processor is 64 bit compatible. This means that as computers begin to move towards 4gb of RAM and higher that x64 (64 bit) operating systems will be required.

64 bit processors (also referred to as x64 or x86-64) have become commonplace since they were introduced by AMD in 2003. They are fully backwards compatible with x86 programs, but may see performance benefits when programs are written to specifically take advantage of 64 bit processor. There were some compatibility issues between 32 and 64 bit operating systems, however, today the newer 64 bit operating systems are backwards compatible with most 32 bit programs.

If you liked this post you might also like to read our article – how to choose a computer.

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