What Is SysWOW64 Folder And What Is Its Purpose

The SysWOW64 directory stores libraries for 32-bit apps and programs on a 64-bit OS. Learn more about this directory and whether or not it can be removed.

SysWow64

If you are using a 64-bit version of the Windows operating system, you may have come across the “SysWoW64” directory while browsing through the system drive (usually C drive). While researching this folder, we came across several posts where people perceived it to contain malware and attempted to remove it.

Some websites even attempt to sell their anti-virus software by labeling the SysWOW64 folder as a trojan horse.

However, let us reassure you that the SysWOW64 folder is a legitimate Windows folder, and removing it from your computer will have repercussions.

In this post, we are going to dive into the death of the SysWOW64 folder and learn what it is and what it contains, and why is it important for your Windows operating system.

32-bit VS. 64-bit

Before we try and understand what the SysWOW64 folder is, we must first understand the difference between the 32-bit and 64-bit architectures.

Previously, the Windows operating system only supported 32-bit technology, and the hardware available was also of the same bit architecture. However, since the launch of Windows 7, the popularity of 64-bit operating systems and hardware began to rise, since they were now almost the same cost as 32-bit.

The 64-bit architecture has significant performance gains over 32-bit. It supported more RAM, while 32-bit systems are capped at 4 GBs of RAM. Moreover, 64-bit hardware was more modern and faster.

Having said that, the software for both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems also had to be of the same architectures. Hence, developers earlier created 32-bit software, which then later transcended to 64-bit when the corresponding OS was released of the same architecture.

Even today, some 32-bit apps are used that can run on 64-bit operating systems. This is what the SysWOW64 folder is for. Let us explain this further.

What Is SysWOW64 in Windows

SysWOW64 directory in File Explorer
SysWOW64 directory in File Explorer

The SysWOW64 folder can be found at the following location:

C:\Windows

To understand what the SysWOW64 folder is and what it does, we must first refer to the different bit architectures.

If you were using a regular 32-bit operating system, then all the 32-bit applications and programs would store their files in “C:\Program Files,” and system-wide .DLL files would be stored in “C:\Windows\System32.”

However, since a 64-bit operating system is backward-compatible, it can run 32-bit software as well. However, this is done by separating the 32-bit and the 64-bit application’s DLL files. This is where the SysWOW64 directory plays a major role.

On a 64-bit operating system, 64-bit programs store their files in “C:\Program Files,” and the system-wide DLL files in “C:\Windows\System32.” However, any 32-bit apps and programs on a 64-bit OS will store their files in “C:\Program Files (x86)” and the DLL files in “C:\Windows\SysWOW64.”

WOW64 stands for Windows 32-bit On Windows 64-bit. It is the x86 emulator that allows 32-bit Windows applications to run on 64-bit Windows.

Sysem32 VS. SysWOW64 Folders

As we mentioned earlier, the System32 folder at “C:\Windows\System32” on a 64-bit OS stores the libraries for the 64-it apps and programs. However, the SysWOW64 folder stores the libraries for the 32-bit apps and programs.

When a 32-bit app will call for its associated libraries, it will be redirected to “C:\Windows\SysWOW64” instead of “C:\Windows\System32.”

The “32” in the name of “System32” can throw you off and seem like it stores data for 32-bit apps, but that is not the case, which is why some users can get configured. In fact, it stores DLL files for 64-bit apps. So why is it like that?

Why is System32 64-bit?

Even though it has “32” in the name of the directory, then why does it store data for 64-bit apps?

Earlier on, Microsoft did not rename the “System32” folder to “System64” since app developers had already used the “C:\Windows\System32” directory as a standard and hardcoded it into their 64-bit applications. If Microsoft changed the name of the directory then, then it would need all of the developers to make amendments to their application codes.

Hence, Microsoft left System32 as the default architecture library, while creating a new one for 32-bit libraries named “SysWOW64.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is it safe to delete SysWOW64?

No, it is not safe. SysWOW64 is a legitimate Windows (64-bit) directory that stores libraries for 32-bit apps and programs. Therefore, deleting it would adversely affect the apps as well as the operating system.

Does SysWOW64 contain viruses?

SysWOW64 is a legitimate Windows directory and does not contain any viruses or malware. However, an external threat can inject itself into a library inside the SysWOW64 folder, in which case we suggest that you scan the folder with good antivirus software, but do not remove the folder or the infected library.

What is SysWOW64 used for?

The SysWOW64 folder contains libraries for 32-bit applications and programs on a 64-bit operating system.

How is SysWOW64 different from System32?

On a 64-bit operating system, the System32 folder stores the libraries for 64-bit programs, and the SysWOW64 folder stores the libraries for 32-bit apps and programs.

Why is there no SysWOW64 folder in 32-bit Windows?

The SysWOW64 directory was designed to store 32-bit libraries on a 64-bit operating system since the System32 folder would be utilized for 64-bit libraries. Therefore, on a 32-bit OS, a separate folder for different bit libraries is not needed, because it cannot run 64-bit (or any other bit architecture) libraries.

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Subhan Zafar is an established IT professional with interests in Windows and Server infrastructure testing and research, and is currently working with Itechtics as a research consultant. He has studied Electrical Engineering and is also certified by Huawei (HCNA & HCNP Routing and Switching).

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