What can you do with the 64-bit version of the Raspberry Pi operating system?

The 64-bit version of Raspberry Pi OS is now available, but what benefits does it bring and what can you run on it?


Raspberry Pi desktop with 64-bit graphics

The 64-bit version of the official Raspberry Pi OS (formerly known as Raspbian) can now be installed using the standard Raspberry Pi Imager tool. But why should you choose to use it over the standard 32-bit operating system?

Here, we’ll look at the minor pros and cons, as well as some of the use cases for 64-bit Raspberry Pi OS.

How to install Raspberry Pi OS 64 bit

To get started, you’ll need a Raspberry Pi model with a 64-bit processor:

  • Raspberry Pi 4B
  • Raspberry Pi 400
  • Raspberry Pi 3B
  • Raspberry Pi 3B+
  • Raspberry Pi 3A+
  • Raspberry Pi Zero 2W
  • Raspberry Pi CM3
  • Raspberry Pi CM3+
  • Raspberry Pi CM4

Additionally, you will need a microSD card with at least 8 GB of storage capacity on which to install the operating system.

Then you can download and use the official Raspberry Pi Imager on another computer and select the 64-bit version of Raspberry Pi OS (Standard or Lite) from the menu to write it to your inserted microSD card. For more installation details, see our guide on installing Raspberry Pi OS 64-bit.


Using Raspberry Pi Imager to install 64-bit Raspberry Pi OS

Using the Raspberry Pi 64-bit operating system

With the 64-bit operating system written to your microSD card, insert it into your Raspberry Pi and boot it up. Your Raspberry Pi will now use the 64-bit Raspberry Pi operating system and will be able to run 64-bit Linux applications with the ARM64 (aka AArch64) architecture. Since Raspberry Pi OS is based on Debian, this means you should be able to install and run any standard Debian ARM64 package on the 64-bit version of the OS.

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Use cases include running applications for which there is currently no 32-bit version or which are not fully optimized for 32-bit. For example, you need to use 64-bit Raspberry Pi OS to run the Folding@home project client software. You can also install BOINC software to participate in many distributed computing projects. Other 64-bit-only apps include Elastic search and Pre-search.


Folding@home web interface

Performance improvement

Owners of the high-end Raspberry Pi 4 model with 8GB of RAM can now allocate all memory to a single process – it was previously limited to 3GB per process on 32-bit. Removing this limitation may therefore benefit certain use cases, such as servers, requiring a large amount of RAM.

On all compatible Raspberry Pi models, you can expect to see performance improvements from using the ARM64 instruction set with the 64-bit SoC, as shown in benchmark tests by Phoronix. Whether these translate to improved real-world usability is a moot point, but some users have reported a noticeable speed boost.

The inconvenients

A few applications, such as Mathematica, are currently not available in the 64-bit version of Raspberry Pi OS.

Another slight drawback is that the default 64-bit version of the Chromium web browser does not have a version of the WidevineCDM library used for DRM. This means it cannot be used to play media from popular streaming sites such as Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Spotify and Pandora.


However, this issue can be solved easily by replacing 64-bit Chromium with the 32-bit version. Simply open a Terminal window and enter this command:

sudo apt install chromium-browser:armhf libwidevinecdm0

What to do with the 64-bit version of the Raspberry Pi operating system

Now that you know how to install and use Raspberry Pi OS 64-bit, why not give it a try? You should be able to install any standard Debian application with the ARM64 architecture, giving you access to a wider range of software. You may also notice improved performance in some use cases.

Alternatively, you can choose to install another 64-bit operating system on your Raspberry Pi, such as 64-bit versions of Ubuntu, Manjaro, or Alpine Linux.


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Steven L. Nielsen