Program Files (x86) is - in my opinion - one of the more stupid names that
Microsoft has invented! :>( And they've invented some doozies! (Outlook
and Outlook Express. Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail and Windows Live
Hotmail. Just for a few recent examples.)
The explanation is quite simple - but not adequately explained, so far as I
In a 32-bit Windows, all the applications go into Program Files. Case
closed; end of discussion.
In a 64-bit Windows, only 64-bit applications go into Program Files. This
way, Win x64 can match the .exe and .dll and other application files with
the appropriate 64-bit drivers and other support files.
A 64-bit Windows is quite capable of running 32-bit applications, too. But
if we put those 32-bit applications into Program Files, Win x64 is going to
be very confused as to which drivers and other support facilities to use.
So Microsoft created a NEW folder specifically for
32-bit-applications-on-64-bit-Windows. Because 32-bit apps traditionally
run on the "x86" family of CPUs from Intel (8086, 80286, Pentium aka 80586,
etc.), Microsoft decided to call this special new folder "Program Files
So, all your 32-bit applications should automatically install themselves (in
any 64-bit Windows) into Program Files (x86). All 64-bit applications
should automatically go into Program Files.
Now for my rant: Why couldn't MS have simply created a new folder and
called it Program Files (x64)? They could have installed 64-bit apps there
and nobody would have been surprised. When I first saw Program Files (x86)
in WinXP x64 beta about 5 years ago, I didn't know what it was and didn't
see any explanation. Since it was a new folder and only in Win x64, I
assumed that 64-bit apps should go there. It was several months before I
learned the truth (in a newsgroup, not from Microsoft) and by then, my app
files were hopelessly scrambled. :>( (I had been dual-booting for a few
years, and this simply compounded the problem for me.)
End of rant. I hope this helps.
R. C. White, CPA
San Marcos, TX
Microsoft Windows MVP
Windows Live Mail 2009 (14.0.8089.0726) in Win7 Ultimate x64
"danjbutler" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote in message
> When I go through to add files to my programs I am confronted with the
> option of two seperate program folders. One just reads Program Folders
> and the other reads Program Folders (x86). How do I know which program
> file to use when adding files? I see that some programs will reproduce
> themselves in my Program files(x86) folder on their own. Is this some
> sort of default folder for programs that either don't work with 64bit
> and/or programs that will work with both ?