Nvidia has announced that it will end support for 32-bit operating systems this month, including Windows 10. The company states:
Game Ready Driver upgrades, including performance enhancements, new features, and bug fixes, will be available only on 64-bit operating systems. Critical security updates will be provided for 32-bit operating systems through January 2019… Software upgrades with new features, security updates, and bug fixes will be available only on Windows 64-bit operating systems. Existing features and services such as optimal game settings will continue to work on Windows 32-bit operating systems.
This change is unlikely to impact many users. The last operating system to enjoy a larger 32-bit market share than 64-bit was Windows Vista. Beginning with Windows 7 in 2009, most machines went 64-bit. There have been exceptions for years — there are probably still a handful of low-end 32-bit netbook SKUs wandering around in various locations — but the Steam Hardware Survey suggests that usage of 32-bit Windows is fractional.
Data from the Steam Hardware Survey for March 2018
For all the talk about Steam Machines, SteamOS, and Mac support, the fact that 97.94 percent of Steam users install Windows shows how fractional support for these other operating systems really is. Not that this makes such support bad — it’s just a tiny chunk of Steam’s overall market share. Just for fun, we decided to drop into the Wayback Machine and see how Windows market share has changed since the launch of PUBG in China. The results below are for July 2017:
Data from the Steam Hardware Survey for July 2017
Overall market share for Windows only shifts from 97.94 percent to 96.12 percent, and we already knew Windows 10 was much more popular in the West before new metrics flooded Steam, but the 64-bit versus 32-bit ratio does change slightly. Today, just 1.93 percent of all Steam Hardware Survey respondents are using 32-bit OSes. In July 2017, that figure was 6.09 percent. Chances are good that at least some of those 6 percent of users are still using 32-bit operating systems — they’re just not captured any more in the larger data set.
But given how many machines Steam runs on and the general longevity of PC’s these days, the impact of this shift is likely to be small. With 64-bit OSes having been popular for nearly a decade, it’s time to say good-bye to the 32-bit era.
Note that this does not mean 32-bit games will be impacted in any fashion, just that new drivers will no longer be deployed for 32-bit systems. If you prefer building actual 32-bit systems for gaming, this shouldn’t impact you either, though you might want to archive a copy or three of older drivers in case Nvidia decides to pull them offline at some point (the company has announced no plans to do this; we’re just thinking ahead). Keep in mind that this shift isn’t just Windows-centric — Linux and FreeBSD are also impacted.