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Out of beta and ready for data: 64-bit Raspberry Pi OS is here
Now you just need a compatible device...
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has officially released the 64-bit version of the Linux-based OS Formerly Known As Raspbian.
A year and nine months after the beta was announced, the 64-bit version of the Raspberry Pi OS is ready for download.
If you're still rocking an older Pi, be aware that the first few models had 32-bit-only CPUs. The new 64-bit OS won't run on a Pi 1, Pi 2, or Pi Zero.
Nearly two years is long enough to iron out quite a few wrinkles, but not all. The release notes describe a gotcha: you'll need to install a 32-bit version of Chromium to watch Netflix or Disney+. Since a lot of Pis are attached to TV sets for use as media players and streamers, that will be important to quite a few owners.
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Using a 64-bit OS has some benefits, we're told: you can run app executables built for 64-bit Arm targets; and you get some performance boost from Arm's A64 instruction set. User-mode software can also use wider pointers, and potentially access a greater virtual space than the 3GB available in a 32-bit environment (a max of 4GB minus 1GB for the kernel). That said, most models of Pi have well under 4GB of physical RAM available, so this memory space issue is not as acute as one might fear.
As an aside, if you bought an 8GB Pi a while ago, 32-bit Linux can use Arm's LPAE function to access over 4GB of physical memory.
If you use the camera module, you should stay with the legacy version anyway as the newer Debian Bullseye flavour of the OS doesn't support it.
Other 64-bit OSes are available: for instance, a 64-bit version of Ubuntu for the Pi has been out for a while. ®