Google are “pulling the plug” on support for “Chrome” on all 32-bit systems! What does this mean?
In general computing terms 32-bit and 64-bit systems have been around for many, many years, but here I am specifically referring to the effect on, and the history of, Home and Small Business PC systems. My dates are from memory, and not necessarily accurate, but they are close enough for the purpose of this topic.
Now, there are three factors in this equation – the CPU or “chip” (Intel or AMD for example), the RAM memory cards, and the Operating System (Windows, Linux, Apple – yes, this really does affect all 32-bit operating systems!).
64-bit addressing was around back in the 70’s, and PC systems that had 64-bit capability were around in the early “noughties” (2001-2004), but they tended to be for larger, more expensive systems. So the common configuration of, for example, a “home PC” going back 10+ years was a 32-bit CPU, a maximum of 2Gb of RAM, and a 32-bit Operating system.
A 32-bit system allowed storage to be addressed using a value made up of 32-bits. Interpreting “32 binary bits” in terms of decimal numbers, this limited the range of addresses that could be generated, and hence the usable size of the RAM, to 4Gb. Since most home-use PCs in those days only had a maximum of 2Gb of RAM (it was expensive!) that was fine … and even when the “CPU” first became capable of addressing a larger memory, the general costs (especially for the home user) meant that the operating systems provided with most PCs still only used 32-bit addressing.
Most PCs manufactured in the last few years all have CPUs that support 64-bits! That does not however, mean that the operating system run on those PCs was 64-bit, as the 32-bit was often cheaper and these things are built “to a price”. Today, of course, most PCs have at least 4Gb of RAM and come with a full 64-bit configuration (owners of new PCs can stop reading here!)
So the impact of this Google edict is really to hit those people with 32-bit Operating Systems!
How do I know if I have a 32-bit system? For a start, you will have been getting, or will now get, a warning message every time you open your Chrome browser! If you want to be sure then you need to check your PCs “system info” display; how you do this depends on your system, and there are too many options to list the details here – so just ask Google the question, such as “how to display system information for xxxxx” where “xxxxx” is your Windows, Linux, or Mac/OS specific name.
What will happen to Chrome? Well, it seems that Google will just stop sending automatic updates for Chrome to your PC; Chrome will still work, but as your browser is the most used “front-line tool” to access the Internet it needs to be protected against coding errors and new “malware” is created to exploit these seemingly every day! [ Let’s be honest, it would be a remarkable achievement to write any computer code that is truly perfect, so there are always likely to be “loopholes” which can be exploited by those nasty people out there! ] Therefore you will have a reduced level of security.
What can you do? Here are a few options:
- Do nothing and put up with the warning messages and reduction in security levels
- Change to use another browser (remember, you can still use Google to search! Many people confuse “Chrome” and the “Google Search Engine” they are separate entities)
- Update your current Operating System to a 64-bit version – IF your PC’s CPU is also 64-bit capable.
- If your CPU is not 64-bit capable, then buy a new PC
If you do anything confidential (e.g. Internet Banking) on your PC then I would have to advise against option 1 ! If you do not however, then the decision is yours. Do bear in mind though, that over time (which may be quite a while, who knows?) other service providers may also drop support for these older 32-bit systems, so while you can buy time now the “writing is on the wall” …
On a personal note: While I can understand that Google do not want to support systems such as Windows XP (which are themselves no longer supported by Microsoft, etc) and wish to save development time and costs for what they see as a diminishing (as many/most people upgrade their systems over time) and insecure market, I am not sure that I approve of the time-frame. Although Google say that this has been declared for some time, I have only started getting reports of the warning messages (usually the first sign for the average user) since Christmas?
There are still many users out there who, for one reason or another, cannot upgrade their systems and are now going to be left either “in limbo”, or be forced to change browsers (OK if you are IT literate) to avoid the reduction in security as Chrome no longer gets its updates.
Perhaps, Google, an extended wind-down period would have been more helpful?
If you need further assistance with regard to this situation, please feel free to contact me.