What is WOW64?

By | March 23, 2011

John G. asks, “What is WOW64″
When I checked my browser user agent strings on your page at http://thundercloud.net/start/user-agent.htm . I found something called WOW64? What is WOW64. Is it spyware? Hope you can help me. John G.

Our Answer
WOW64 stands for Windows On Windows. It’s a 32 bit emulator that runs on Windows 64bit operating systems so that 32-bit Windows applications run on 64-bit Windows.

According to Microsoft: “…The system isolates 32-bit applications from 64-bit applications, which includes preventing file and registry collisions. Console, GUI, and service applications are supported. The system provides interoperability across the 32/64 boundary for scenarios such as cut and paste and COM. However, 32-bit processes cannot load 64-bit DLLs, and 64-bit processes cannot load 32-bit DLLs. Which is why you cannot run some 32bit programs on 64-bit Windows. Normally these would be 32-bit programs that need to load 32-bit DLL files – like some security programs and other programs that are specifically made for 32-bit systems….”

Don’t you just love all the techspeak? Anyway, all that stuff means is basically this: Windows 64bit systems can run most, but not all, 32bit applications. Most sites offering downloads will tell you if their program is compatible with 64-bit Windows. If it doesn’t tell you, you can write to the developer and ask. Or just be brave like us and try it. If it works it works – if it doesn’t it doesn’t. Don’t laugh, sometimes it’s easier just to try something than it is to wait around for someone to write back. On the flip-side: If you see a program made specifically for 64-bit Windows, it won’t run on 32-bit Windows systems.

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