Do I want 32 bit or 64 bit?
This is a question I have fielded many times, it is one most new Linux users ask before they even download their first Linux ISO. There is a short answer and a long answer to this question. The short answer:
You want 32bit.
Ok - now for the long answer. There are several things to consider when deciding if you want to use 32 bit or 64 bit on your system.
Does your processor support the 64 bit architecture? Most all modern processors do, but this is something you should double check if you are unsure about your particular chip.
While it is true that most all open source applications have both 32 bit and 64 bit installers, more than a few closed source applications do not. Adobe Flash is one of the most commonly used of these and another that I personally have had issues with is SMART Tech Software I use for school. Sure there are work arounds for some of these, but they are far from perfect.
The main reason for choosing a 64 bit operating system on a desktop system is so you are able to utilize more than 4gb of RAM. Well, thanks to PAE your favorite Linux distribution can recognize up to 64gb of RAM with a 32 bit installation - which should be more than enough for most desktop users.
Unless you are compiling software or encoding audio/video often there really is very little speed difference between the two operating architectures. Meaning that most people who just use the computer for everyday tasks such as webrowsing will not notice a difference between the two.
For the average desktop user the applications issue, especially with flash - something most of us use everyday, is the driving factor to use a 32 bit version of your Linux distro of choice. If you are using your system as more of a work station (compiling and decoding) then maybe the 64 bit version is a better selection for your needs.
Are there any other things you consider when making the choice between downloading a 32 bit or 64 bit version of a distro?