Difference between 32-bit vs 64-bit JVM in Java?

Hello Java Programmers, if you want to learn Java virtual Machine in-depth and wondering what is the difference between a 32-bit and 64-bit JVM and which one should you use and why? then you have come to the right place. Earlier, I have shared the best JVM books and online JVM courses and in this article, I am going to talk about 32-bit vs 64-bit JVM and their pros and cons. This is also a common Java interview question for beginners and intermediate Java programmers. I have tried to answer this question to the point that's why this article is a short but informative one. You will find out what they are, how they are different, how much heap size, and the pros and cons of each of them. 

As I said, it's also one of the most asked questions to me on Facebook and LinkedIn, what is the difference between a 32-bit and 64-bit JVM? While most of the servers now running on 64-bit JVM and it's rare to find server-side applications still running on 32-bit JVM nowadays but it is still something useful to learn and know.

This knowledge will help you to choose the right Java Virtual Machine for your project without compromising performance and memory.

On the same note, a good knowledge of Java virtual machines is essential for any Java developer and you should spend some time this year to learn about JVM internals. If you need a resource, I suggest you join this Java Memory Management course on Udemy, It's a good reference and you can also buy it very low, I bought it for just $10.

Difference between 32-bit JVM vs 64-bit JVM in Java

Without wasting any more of your time, here is some of the key difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Java Virtual Machine

1) 64-bit JVM, you can specify more memory for heap size than 32-bit JVM, like in 32-bit JVM, the theoretical limit for maximum memory in 32-bit is 4G, but 64-bit is much higher.

2) 64-bit JVM is particularly useful for Java applications with large heaps, like applications that use more than 100G for max memory.

3) The same Java application will take memory while running in 64-bit JVM then 32-bit because of the increased size of OOP (Ordinary Object pointer), from 32 to 64 bits. Though you can get away with this by using -XXCompressedOOP JVM option, which tells JVM to use 32-bit pointers.

4) Both 32-bit and 64-bit JVM have a separate installer.

5) One more thing that changed in the 64 bit JVM architecture is object header size; it is now 12 bytes in comparison to 8 bytes headers in 32 bit JVM. Another thing that changed is the size of internal references that means it can go a maximum of up to 8 bytes wherein 32 bit JVM up-to 4 bytes.

So, from these two points, you can conclude that an application running on 64 bit JVM will consume more space in comparison when the same application runs on the 32-bit version.

If you need some resources to learn about JVM, there is a three-course series on Pluralsight on JVM which is very good, particularly the Understanding the Java Virtual Machine: Memory Management part, if you are interested and if you have Pluralsight membership, you can check out that course as well.

Difference between 32-bit vs 64-bit JVM in Java?

When to use 64-bit JVM?

If you are running on a 64-bit architecture with a 64-bit Operating system, like Windows 10, it makes a lot of sense to use 64-bit JVM to run Java applications like Minecraft, Eclipse, or NetBeans.

It will reduce garbage collection frequently and allow you to allocate more memory to your Java process, thus preventing java.lang.OutOfMemoryError: Java heap space.

7) The garbage collector will take more time to do the cleanup, so full garbage collection will have a longer pause time.

8) Client JVM is only available for 32-bit JVM and not for 64-bit

9) Some features are not available for 64 bit Java on the Windows platform. Ex., Sun PKCS#11 provider is not supported on 64-bit Windows platforms due to the lack of suitable PKCS#11 libraries

10) There’s also Azul’s C4 pause less collector, which can cope with huge heaps.

That's all about the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit JVM in Java. As you have seen, the key difference comes in how much memory you can allocate, while 32-bit JVM can just have 4G which is very less for modern, memory-intensive Java application, 64-bit JVM virtually gives you unlimited memory.

This also affects garbage collection pauses because if the heap is bigger than obviously, GC will take more time to clean it up but the idea is to avoid GC and have enough memory to sustain until the restart happens.  I have mentioned a couple of good courses in the article, in case you want to learn more, and here is also a book if you like to read.

Other Java Programming Articles you may like

Thanks for reading this article so far. If you like this article and difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Java virtual Machine then please share it with your friends and colleagues. If you have any questions or feedback then please drop a note.

P. S. -  If you need more courses on Java Performance, I also suggest you check out  Java Multithreading, Concurrency, and Performance Optimization by Michael Pogrebinsky on Udemy, I just loved this course and I highly recommend anyone who wants to learn a high-performance Java application. 

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