What Is the Difference Between “Program Files” vs “Program Files (x86)” Folder In Windows?

Windows stores the installed programs and applications files and folders in the Program Files directory. But after Windows Vista, the “Program Files x86 ” directory also appears which has a very similar name. They are generally located into the Windows operating system installed partition which is “C:\” by default and the full paths are “C:\Program Files\” and “C:\Program Files x86\“.

With the Windows 95 operating system version, the operating systems are provided as 32-bit. Before that Windows operating systems were 16-bit. The 32-bit operating systems gained popularity where installed applications also provided as 32-bit. The Windows stored the 32-bit applications in the C:\Program Files by default.

With the emerge of the 64-bit operating systems where Windows Vista was the first 64-bit end-user operating system released by Microsoft new era started. The 64-bit supports both 32-bit and 64-bit without a problem where 64-bit Windows operating systems also support 32-bit and 64-bit programs and applications. In order to stored built-in and installed applications 64-bit Windows operating systems created an extra Program Files directory where the “Program Files” directory is used by the 64-bit applications and programs. “Program Files (x86)” directory is created in order to store 32-bit applications and programs.

“Program Files” Directory 64-bit

The 64-bit applications and programs are stored under the “C:\Program Files” . As 64-bit applications can load and use 32-bit libraries and DLLs this directory may have links to the “Program Files(x86)” directory to use 32-bit libraries and DLLs.

Program Files 64-Bit Applications and Programs

“Program Files x86” Directory 32-bit

32-bit applications and programs are stored under the “Program Files x86”. 32-bit applications and programs can not use 64-bit libraries and DLLs so there is no link from the “Program Files x86” to the “Program Files”.

Program Files x86 32-Bit Applications and Programs

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