Should I install a 64-bit browser?

Just because you have a 64-bit version of Windows doesn’t necessarily mean you have a 64-bit browser.  Moreover, just because you have a 64-bit browser doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see a dramatic performance boost either but that’s still not a cogent reason to avoid it.

In 2011, Sabastian Anthony of ExtremeTech published a comprehensive article on the 64-bit version of Firefox 8.  He executed a Peacekeeper benchmark test pitting the 64-bit version of Firefox 8 against it’s 32-bit peer and noticed a 10% performance lift.

Based on Anthony’s tests, the 64-bit Fox ran laps around it’s slower 32-bit cousin and beat it across all categories except one: Data, which represents JavaScript arrays.

Firefox 8 32-bit verses Firefox 8 64-bit

Despite the JavaScript deficiency, the 64-bit version of Firefox is still pretty fast.  In fact, the latest stable release of 64-bit Firefox, called WaterFox, was specifically designed for speed.  According to the test results from the Waterfox Project, WaterFox is superior to other Firefox projects, such as Palemoon, and continues to gain adopters.

But I’m not being fair to you if I didn’t tell you the disadvantages of 64-bit browsers.  Yes, speed is in the limelight and is a huge reason to go 64-bit but there are a few things you should be aware of as you consider WaterFox.


Browser plugin developers are either loathe to develop 64-bit plug-ins or the plug-ins that exist are beset with so many bugs that they’re either virtually unusable or beleaguered with vulnerabilities.  This isn’t the case for all 64-bit plugins but it certainly apply to most of the major ones.

You can download the 64-bit version of Flash but it’s only available on Windows 7 and newer; Vista and XP fans will have to upgrade; however, despite these limitations 64-bit browsing is the future.  So if you have a 64-bit computer you definitely should explore WaterFox.

The Bottom Line

Computers are inexorably moving toward 64-bit processing and using 64-bit browsers such as Waterfox can improve browser performance.  These browsers usually have improved multitasking and handle resource stresses better.

Almost every PC shipped today has a 64-bit processor yet there’s still a paucity of 64-bit browsers on the market.  Yes, Internet Explorer 9 comes in 64-bit, but I don’t recommend it since it’s still light-years behind Waterfox.

Have you seen substantive speed improvements with your 64-bit browser?  Let me know in the comments.


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Posted in Google Chrome, How To, Internet Explorer 10, Internet Explorer 9, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Safari, Web Browsers, Windows 7 Tagged with: