64-bit Raspberry Pi OS Out Of Beta
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Friday, 04 February 2022

Raspberry Pi has been trialing a beta of the 64-bit version of Pi OS for over a year. Now it's ready to make the transition to a fully supported OS option on 64-bit Pi hardware, including the Pi 3, Pi 4 and Pi Zero 2 W.

The Raspberry Pi hardware has included a 64-bit processor since the Pi 3 launched in early 2016, but the Raspberry Pi OS (which used to be known as Raspbian) remained 32-bit. While it was been possible to run full 64-bit third party operating systems on the Pi 3 and Pi 4, and on the latest Pi Zero 2, the company continued to rely on the 32-bit platform giving the reason as "to maximise compatibility between devices and to avoid customer confusion".

Now, however Raspberry Pi is convinced that there are good reasons to prefer a 64-bit operating system over a 32-bit one, citing compatibility as a key concern. This time it is the fact that many closed-source applications are only available for arm64 port, and open-source ones aren’t fully optimized for the armhf port.

In his post introducing the new operating system, Gordon Hollingworth continues:

A more theoretical concern is that 32-bit pointers only allow you to address 4GB of memory. On Raspberry Pi 4, we use the ARM Large Physical Address Extension (LPAE) to access up to 8GB of memory, subject to the constraint that any process is limited to accessing 3GB (we reserve the top 1GB of the virtual address space for the kernel). Very few processes require more memory than this: happily Chromium, which is probably the most memory-intensive application in Raspberry Pi OS, spawns a process per tab. But some use cases will benefit from being able to allocate the entire memory of an 8GB Raspberry Pi 4 from a single process.

You can install Raspberry Pi OS to a microSD card using Raspberry Pi Imager. To do this download and install Raspberry Pi Imager to a computer with an SD card reader. Put the SD card you'll use with your Raspberry Pi into the reader and run Raspberry Pi Imager.

The problem is that we generally think that a 64-bit operating system should be faster and we are reassured that it is when it comes to benchmarks. How it performs in the real world is another matter. Sometimes 64-bit is slower than 32-bit and it can use more memory at the same time as making more memory accessible. Even so. it does seem reasonable that a 64-bit processor should run 64-bit software.

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More Information

Raspberry Pi OS (64-bit)

Raspberry Pi OS download page

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Last Updated ( Friday, 04 February 2022 )