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How to choose chess engine for Windows ?

x86-64, pop, popcnt, win-32bit, Intel, x86-32, arm64, amd64, modern, vnni, old, bmi2, m1, apple silicon, sse4, pgo, pext, ... ?, .... ?!, .....??

What is this all about ? Why all these symbols ? What are the markings needed for ?

I just want to use the right chess engine for my computer, and it should work !

And you're right, that's how it should be. But it usually isn't.

How-To is intended for inexperienced users.

The chess engine should run without any fuss on your computer.

You use Windows, download the engine for that operating system, install it in your favorite GUI, and it should work. And you shouldn't care if your Windows is 32 or 64 bit, or if your processor is Intel, AMD or another eg. from the ARM family. The engine should work.

But... this is usually not the case!

When you use friendly chess software that automatically selects the right chess engine for your computer, then it is as it should be. Technology should help, make it easier, make it convenient to use the capabilities of the software and the chess engine.

When you wish to use, for example, the offer of a well-known commercial engine manufacturer or the benefits of open source, download a free chess engine and use it, you should often know which version to choose. Otherwise, you will be left with the trial-and-error method or searching for answers on the Internet.

From the perspective of the last few decades, although chess engines are at an increasingly high level, their manufacturers and developers still force ordinary users into undesirable choices.

You buy or download a free chess engine, it should run on your computer without any compilation. That's how it should be...

Why is this important ?

Because if you choose wrongly, at worst the chess engine will not work, and at best the chess engine will work and play at a lower level and with less power than it could.

This How to is intended to give you the knowledge that will enable you to choose the most suitable chess engine for your Windows.

We will use the official version of the Stockfish chess engine to show all the nuances of the selection.

Always download chess engines from safe places on the web with a good and established reputation.

Before I start this How to for good, I will write that if you have obtained a chess engine from a safe source, you are an inexperienced user, and you want to have a working chess engine quickly and easily, then:

  • first choose the version with avx2 in the name, because it's giving significant extra speed and power for most 64-bit computers made since 2013 (AMD or Intel CPU's).

  • or... just run one by one and see if it works :)

Contrary to what you might think, this is a relatively safe way to check the acquired chess engine(s), but not the least effective one, since even if any of them will allow you to run and work, it will not be optimally selected for your computer. Nevertheless, it is a way.

It is worth knowing that the chess engine:

  • Designed for a specific operating system, such as Windows, by default will not work under any other, such as Linux or Mac.

  • Designed for a specific architecture usually will not work on another architecture, e.g. Linux x86-64 will not work on Linux arm64 and vice versa. There are some exceptions here, e.g., the ability to run Windows 32-bit engines on Windows 64-bit, the ability to run Mac engines compiled for older Intel processors in a Mac environment with an Apple Silicon processor, and so on.

Let's move on to the substance.


The choice starts with a simple thing - choosing a chess engine for Windows.

From the dedicated page you can download Stockfish 15. 1 or directly - below.

If you are using Windows, choose the engine for Windows.

If you are using Windows, do not get the engine for Mac.

If you are using Windows, do not get the engine for Linux.



Now you should choose the version suitable for your Windows.

Download 7Z • 22.44MB
Download 7Z • 23.08MB

  • If the version of Windows on your computer is 32 bit, then choose Stockfish-15.1_Windows_x32.7z

  • If Windows on your computer is a 64 bit version, then choose Stockfish-15.1_Windows_x64.7z

If you don't know how to check which Windows you are using, go to Microsoft's website.

What happens if you choose wrong ?

  • If you choose the x64 version having Windows 32 bit, Stockfish will not start.

  • If you choose the x32 version having Windows 64 bit, Stockfish will run but will be much weaker than the 64 bit version.


If you are using Windows 32 bit, then when you open the Stockfish-15.1_Windows_x32.7z archive, you will see the following: