[Comparison] What’s the Difference Between Windows 8 on x86/64 Platforms and Windows 8 on ARM


We yesterday, saw the official announcement by Microsoft on ARM devices running Windows 8. According to the news, ARM devices would get all the same things that x86/64 version carry, but, it is not clear, which desktop apps would run in Windows 8 on ARM and which won’t. Office 2015 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) was confirmed to run on Windows 8 ARM devices, in-fact it would come as a built-in app.

ARM devices previously power mobile devices running mobile OS e.g. Android etc. but, Windows OS on ARM devices was never designed due to its complicated architecture and low power sources. Now, Microsoft is working on ARM version of Windows 8 with its partners like Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments etc.

Although, the two versions; ARM and x86/64, seems same but there are many differences between them which are mentioned below in tabular form and explained later.

Feature Windows 8 x86/64 Windows 8 on ARM
Device Branding Such devices would be branded as x86/64 ones These would also be branded as ARM
Old Windows 7 Things Everything that runs on Windows 7 would run on these platforms
Only selective things would be runnable
Virtualization            Yes, If hardware supports it Not supported
Turn on/off options Yes, on all devices No, devices would keep running on Connected Standby power mode
App Development Yes, many tools are available Yes, but with selective tools only which are not yet available
Availability All the sources from where Windows 7 is available e.g. online, DVD/CD and PC’s etc Would be available only in ARM devices. No, DVD’s or online availability
Driver availability From respective company’s site, DVD/CD’s  and through Windows Update Only through Windows Update
Maintenance e.g. Updates and Other Fixes Through Windows Disks and Windows Update Only Through Windows Update
Uniqueness Any source would run on a wide variety of devices Each source in unique to unique device
  • As you can see, Windows 8 devices would be branded as x86/64 or ARM when running the respective version to avoid confusions for buyers.
  • Windows 8 on ARM would support only certain desktop apps e.g. Explorer, Internet Explorer desktop version and Office 15 etc. But, other programs which I think are necessary for me e.g. Adobe Photoshop for photo editing and messengers (Yahoo and Facebook) may or may not run on Windows 8 ARM. We may see more details when it becomes available later.
  • Virtualization won’t be supported on ARM devices running Windows 8 as it is supported in x86/64 versions. If you plan to use virtual machines on Windows 8 ARM devices then you would be disappointed as Micosoft won’t add a support for such actions. The reason behind this is; virtualization takes a lot of CPU usage and hence power which is unacceptable for ARM devices.
  • There would be no turn on/off options on ARM devices running Windows 8. Your devices would go to low power mode just like most mobile devices do so by turning off the display and unncessary actions.
  • Developers would be disappointed a lot as apps on ARM devices would need re-building or developers would be able to change the app to give it a Metro impression using runtime coding. No, existing apps would run on ARM devices.
  • Windows 8 for x86/64 PC’s would be available for sale on every possible source e.g. DVD/CD, Online etc. On the other hand, ARM version of Windows 8 would be unique to every device hence can’t be found in market’s or DVD/CD’s and would come pre-installed in every device.
  • Windows 8 for x86/64 PC’s supports driver by the PC manufacturer but, ARM devices would get all the drivers through Windows Update only.

These were only the few difference between x86/64 versions of Windows 8 and ARM ones. More would be revealed with time when we see ARM devices in action.

In the end I would prefer Windows 8 for x86/64 platforms as it would run all the third party software which I like, specially games which I love to play and on the other hand Windows 8 on ARM would support only few desktop apps and with that problem I may not prefer ARM devices. But, if you are searching for mobile devices; light in weight and carrying latest technology and OS, then ARM would be great.

ARM version of Windows 8 would become available around the next release of Windows 8 which is in late February when Windows 8 Consumer Preview would be released.



Ahmad Wahid

Being a University student of computer, has developed keen interest in technology and like to test out the new gadgets. His interests include Social Networking as well.