The Raspberry Pi Foundation (RPF) has announced that its Raspberry Pi OS, which is designed for its mini DIY computers, is now available in 64-bit. Until now, the operating system was only available in 32-bit for compatibility with older hardware and simplicity reasons but now users have more choice. The main benefit of 64-bit is that systems with more than 4GB of RAM can fully utilise their hardware.
Out of all of the Raspberry Pi computers, the Raspberry Pi 1, Pi 2, and Zero support 32-bit operating systems while the Zero 2, Pi 3, and Pi 4 are all capable of running 64-bit operating systems. While it is simpler for the RPF to offer just one 32-bit image, it noticed that some closed-source software was only made for arm64 hardware (those listed as 64-bit earlier). It also said arm64 hardware should run better with a 64-bit OS.
Commenting on the limitations of RAM under 32-bit operating systems, the RPF said:
“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.”
One issue that users of Raspberry Pi OS 64-bit may run into is that the 64-bit version of Chromium, which is installed by default, doesn’t include the WidevineCDM library so it’s not possible to watch DRM-encrypted content on sites like Netflix. To watch this content you need to install the 32-bit version of Chromium using the following command sudo apt install chromium-browser:armhf libwidevinecdm0 if you want to return to the 64-bit version use this command sudo apt install chromium-browser:arm64 libwidevinecdm0-.
If you’re ready to grab Raspberry Pi OS 64-bit, just head over to the Raspberry Pi downloads page.