Program file và program file x86

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Chris HoffmanEditor-in-Chief

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He"s written about giải pháp công nghệ for over a decade & was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The Thủ đô New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami"s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the Đài truyền hình BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have sầu been read nearly one billion times---and that"s just here at How-To Geek. Read more...

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UpdatedOct 2, 2017, 1:18 pm EDT| 4 min read
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There’s a good chance you have sầu both the “C:Program Files” and “C:Program Files (x86)” folders on your Windows PC. If you poke around, you’ll see that some of your programs are installed in one thư mục, & some are installed in the other.


32-bit vs. 64-bit Windows

RELATED: What"s the Difference Between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows?

Originally, Windows was only available as a 32-bit operating system. On 32-bit versions of Windows—even 32-bit versions of Windows 10, which are still available today—you’ll only see a “C:Program Files” thư mục.

This Program Files folder is the recommended location where programs you install should store their executable, data, and other files. In other words, programs install to lớn the Program Files folder.

On 64-bit versions of Windows, 64-bit applications install to the Program Files thư mục. However, 64-bit versions of Windows also support 32-bit programs, and Microsoft doesn’t want 32-bit và 64-bit software getting mixed up in the same place. So, 32-bit programs get installed lớn the “C:Program Files (x86)” thư mục, instead.

Windows runs 32-bit applications on 64-bit versions of Windows using something called WOW64, which stands for “Windows 32-bit on Windows 64-bit.”


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When you run a 32-bit program on a 64-bit edition of Windows, the WOW64 emulation layer seamlessly redirects its tệp tin access from “C:Program Files” to “C:Program Files (x86).” The 32-bit program tries to lớn access the Program Files directory và is pointed to lớn the Program Files (x86) folder. 64-bit programs still use the normal Program Files folder.

What’s Stored In Each Folder

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In summary, on a 32-bit version of Windows, you just have sầu a “C:Program Files” thư mục. This contains all your installed programs, all of which are 32-bit.

On a 64-bit version of Windows, 64-bit programs are stored in the “C:Program Files” folder & 32-bit programs are stored in the “C:Program Files (x86)” folder.

That’s why different programs are spread across the two Program Files folders, seemingly at random. The ones in the “C:Program Files” thư mục are 64-bit, while the ones in the “C:Program Files (x86)” folder are 32-bit.

Why Are They Split Up?

This is a compatibility feature designed for old 32-bit programs. These 32-bit programs may not be aware that a 64-bit version of Windows even exists, so Windows keeps them away from that 64-bit code.

32-bit programs can’t load 64-bit libraries (DLL files), and could crash if they tried to load a specific DLL tệp tin and found a 64-bit one instead of a 32-bit one. The same goes for 64-bit programs. Keeping different program files for different CPU architectures separate prevents errors lượt thích these from happening.

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For example, let’s say Windows just used a single Program Files thư mục. A 32-bit application might go looking for a Microsoft Office DLL tệp tin found in C:Program FilesMicrosoft Office and try lớn load it. However, if you had a 64-bit version of Microsoft Office installed, the application would crash and not function properly. With the separate folders, that application won’t be able khổng lồ find the DLL at all, because the 64-bit version of Microsoft Office would be at C:Program FilesMicrosoft Office and the 32-bit application would be looking in C:Program Files (x86)Microsoft Office.

This also helps when a developer creates both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of an application, especially if both need lớn be installed at once in some situations. The 32-bit version automatically installs to lớn C:Program Files (x86), and the 64-bit version automatically installs to lớn the C:Program Files. If Windows used a single thư mục, the application’s developer would have sầu to have the 64-bit folder install khổng lồ a different folder to lớn keep them separate. And there would likely be no real standard for where developers installed different versions.

Why Is The 32-bit Folder Named (x86)?

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You won’t always see “32-bit” and “64-bit.” Instead, you’ll sometimes see “x86” and “x64” to refer khổng lồ these two different architectures. That’s because early computers used the Hãng Intel 8086 chip. The original chips were 16-bit, but newer versions became 32-bit. “x86” now refers to the pre-64-bit architecture—whether that’s 16-bit or 32-bit. The newer 64-bit architecture is referred to as “x64” instead.

That’s what “Program Files (x86)” means. It’s the Program Files thư mục for programs using the older x86 CPU architecture. Just note, however, that 64-bit versions of Windows can’t run 16-bit code.

This Doesn’t Normally Matter

RELATED: What Is the AppData Folder in Windows?

It doesn’t normally matter whether a program’s files are stored in Program Files or Program Files (x86). Windows automatically installs programs to lớn the correct folder, so you don’t have to think about it. Programs appear in the Start menu and function normally, no matter where they’re installed. Both 32-bit and 64-bit programs should store your data in folders like AppData and ProgramData, and not in any Program Files thư mục. Just let your programs automatically decide which Program Files thư mục lớn use.

If you’re using a portable app, it can run from any thư mục on your system, so you don’t have sầu to lớn worry about where khổng lồ put them. We like putting portable apps in Dropbox or another type of cloud storage thư mục so they’re available on all our PCs.


You’ll sometimes need to lớn know where a program is stored. For example, let’s say you want to lớn go inkhổng lồ your Steam directory khổng lồ baông xã up some files. You’ll find it in C:Program Files (x86), as Steam is a 32-bit program.

If you’re not sure whether a program you installed is 64-bit or not và you’re looking for its installation folder, you may need to look in both Program Files folders khổng lồ find it.

You can also look in Windows 10’s Task Manager.

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On 64-bit versions of Windows, 32-bit programs are tagged with the additional “(32-bit)” text, giving you an indication that you’ll find them in C:Program Files (x86).


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Chris HoffmanChris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He"s written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The Thủ đô New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami"s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets lượt thích the Đài truyền hình BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times---& that"s just here at How-To Geek. Read Full Bio »

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