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What happens when a program is placed in the "program files (x86)" directory?

Posted on 2008-10-01
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I was wondering what happens when a program is installed in the "program files (x86)" directory versus the "program files" directory in Windows XP64. I know that one is for x86 programs that are installed and the other is for x64 programs that are installed.. But, does Windows look at each directory differently? or are each programs installed there flagged to run 32-bit or 64-bit?
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Question by:jvilla1983
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arnold earned 125 total points
ID: 22615711
The OS does not distinguish based on a parent folder.
The program Files and program files (x86) are mere suggestions by the OS/installer on where to store an application.
The designation is often to simply a software audit to determine which application are 64 bit and which are 32 bit.

There is no functional significance on the windows side to start an application 64 bit or not in any folder.

Windows stores much of the data in the registry i.e. wow6432node will include 32 bit applications, etc.
A 64bit OS will often translate/transform a 32bit application access attempt into the registry to direct the application to the wow6432node hierarchy.
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by:rpggamergirl
rpggamergirl earned 125 total points
ID: 22619906

>>> are each programs installed there flagged to run 32-bit or 64-bit?
<<< 
The 64-bit is running in its native environment while the 32-bit which is the "program files (x86)" directory' is running within an emulator(WOW64 emulator).
Windows makes 64-bit and 32-bit programs runs separately because 32-bit and 64-bit don't mix, 64-bit files and 32-bit files are separate.
A 32-bit app can not run natively in a 64-bit environment, they just run side by side without mixing or sharing any files.

When you install a 32-bit program in a 64-bit environment, the WOW64 emulator makes the program thinks that it's running inside a 32-bit environment. So when the program's own installation wizard installs files in the system32 folder, it has no idea that its actually writing/installing files in the Windows\SysWOW64 folder.
And from thereon, whenever a 32-bit program needs to read/write files to or from the system32 folder all requests are redirected to Windows\SysWOW64 folder.
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