Windows 10 begins the slow trek to dropping 32-bit CPU support

Microsoft's Windows has always been criticized for its bloat but part of that is because it also has to support decades' worth of computers. Unlike Apple, who has complete control over both software and hardware, it doesn't have the luxury of drawing the line to drop what many might consider legacy hardware. Instead, it will have to take a long and perhaps even painful journey to drop support for old 32-bit processors.

Microsoft's updated Minimum Hardware Requirements states that Windows 10 version 2004, which was just released, will no longer come with 32-bit builds for OEM distribution. Now before you panic or rant about Microsoft suddenly pulling the plug without prior notice, it isn't the case. The key phrase here is "for OEM distribution", which means that manufacturers will only receive and be able to distribute 64-bit Windows 10 builds starting with the latest version of Windows.

Existing Windows 10 systems already running a 32-bit version will get supported, of course. And users can still get or buy 32-bit Windows 10 from other distribution channels, as long as those are not OEMs. Long story short, any new PC coming out starting this year will come with 64-bit Windows 10 and nothing else.

Pretty much every new computer produced in the last few years have all used 64-bit processors, including low-end Intel Celeron chips or the ARM processors in commercial phones. That shift has already mostly happened in hardware but software like Windows still can't make a full jump and carry what some developers would probably call excess baggage.

It's not going to happen overnight, of course, and even Apple had a long period of transition while waiting for app developers on both macOS and iOS to add 64-bit support on their end or risk not working on the latest versions of Apple's operating systems. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't have the luxury of being able to take such a heavy-handed approach and it might take more than a few years for Windows to be truly 32-bit-free.