When should i386 support for Ubuntu end?

Are you running i386 (32-bit) Ubuntu?   We need your help to decide how much longer to build i386 images of Ubuntu Desktop, Server, and all the flavors.

There is a real cost to support i386 and the benefits have fallen as more software goes 64-bit only.

Please fill out the survey here ONLY if you currently run i386 on one of your machines.  64-bit users will NOT be affected by this, even if you run 32-bit applications.

32 bit usage – survey results

Running 32 bit Ubuntu when the hardware technically can do 64 bit
32 bit running on 64 bit capable hardware

  • hardware issues varied from EUFI 32 bit only, to printer and driver issues
  • application included wine (try building wine on 64 bit…)  and virtualization
    • some 64 bit users use 32 bit images for virtualization to use less RAM
    • Not in survey but I know of others who use 32 bit specifically to work with Android.

Arch vs Desktop Environment vs Release

Desktop environments vs arch vs release

Please do not use this to really compare desktop environments!  If multiple answers I took the least resource intensive one! (Next time I do this.. I should just require users to pick a primary one)

 Impacts over Releases


  • Switch from Ubuntu – also includes plans to stay on old unsupported version until hardware dies
  • Moderate is somewhat a catch all
  • If I do this again, I should just have a 1-5 sliding scale, in addition to a text field.
  • Users are concerned about having to throw out old machines, not having an upgrade path to go from 32-> 64 bits, and the cost to upgrade.
  • Select Comments (many more in the raw data of course!)
    • As an aspiring software developer, phasing out 32 bit support would be great for me as it means one less build to maintain.
    • I plan on reinstalling Ubuntu on this laptop as a 64bit install at some point anyway.
    • Unless the schedule changes, no impact. We’re planning to do the switch late 2015 / early 2016.
    • I will have to stay on 16.04 forever on that machine. The needed drivers are not going to be available in an open-source form.
    • My parents + my children have no PC
    • we have old PC’s in the hospital and i don’t think this hardware would be upgraded.
    • If the majority of freely given computers we receive are still 32-bit by then, we’d have to respin another distro. But, like PowerPC; all good things must come to an end.
    • Just need to figure out how to make the switch. If it means re-installing, bah.
    • It is terrible, because my eeePC only has 1GB in it.
    • One more reason to decommission the hardware.

I think the original plan can still work, but like any good survey we know have more questions to ask!

  • Lubuntu/Xubuntu support for 14.04 LTS is 3 years not 5.   It’s going to be a LOT higher impact if they don’t have support in 2019/2020 (which would be the case if 16.04 is 3 years too).   This could obviously be mitigated by moving 32 bit to ports and having it be opt in.  Lubuntu/Xubuntu 18.04 with 3 years would get us to 2021.
  • What can we do to make virt use less RAM?  (Lots of Virtualbox)
  • What can we do to make bare metal use less RAM?
  • Building Wine on 64 bit? (The two easiest methods are defunct if we remove 32 bit images I think… http://wiki.winehq.org/WineOn64bit)
  • Can we do an actual upgrade path?  Or at least start officially testing 32->64 “upgrade” re-installs?

Just to complete the application compatibility story (not from survey), Games are starting to be 64-bit only:

Raw Data can be found here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1iA062pCR1ayAMEKveUToEhq–9awyDXTEaL4fhsj8TU/edit?pli=1#gid=0

Still running 32 bit Ubuntu?

I’m considering a proposal to have 16.04 LTS be the last release of Ubuntu with 32 bit images to run on 32 bit only machines (on x86 aka Intel/AMD only – this has no bearing on ARM). You would still be able to run 32 bit applications on 64 bit Ubuntu.

Please answer my survey on how this would affect you or your organization.

Please only answer if you are running 32-bit (x86) Ubuntu! Thanks!

If you can’t see the form below click here.

Survey Results

Results from my survey on 64 bit vs 32 bit usage on Unity.    The raw survey results are also available.  Feel free to do your own analysis.

Format:  # of machines – information about them..

Out of the 32 bit only machines:

4 – that are likely 32 bit only, but didn’t provide enough information to confirm
1 – doesn’t work so well, old savage card, 700 MB of RAM, Ubuntu 12.04 (so 2d only)

*Remaining 14 32 bit only machines:
5 – with 1 GB of ram
9 – with 1.5 GB of ram or more

Ubuntu Version:
6 – 13.04
1 – 12.10
7 – 12.04

7 – Intel Atom

From comments, 3 of these 32 bit only users find Unity slow, but usable. (All three are Atom N270/N280)

64 bit capable but:

2 – that should be 64 capable (and the users know this), but it doesn’t work..  If this is you, please file a bug!
2 – have 64 bit capable machines (and 2GB of ram) and don’t actually know it.
5 – have 64 bit capable machines, but run 32 bit Ubuntu (1 with 1 GB of RAM who mentions that the dash is slow)

Other scenarios:

1 – machine stuck at 12.04 because 12.10 requires PAE (is this true?)
1 – Parallels VM that has better performance on 32 bit from user
2 – that actually use other desktop environments cause they find Unity unusable (“Unity is unuseable because i only have 1 GIG Ram”)

Not particularly relevant:

1 – let’s not discuss this again…
1  – armv7 🙂
9 – users who have 64 bit machines that work fine and responded anyway..
1 – running Unity on servers…


For some reason whenever I do a survey I expect that the results will clearly paint the way to go forward.   They almost never do, but they can be used to start discussions.  I’m particularly concerned about the 2 users with 64 bit capable machines which they can’t get to run 64 bit.

Some people have 64 bit machines with low RAM and would also be better served with a lighter option.  Others have quite beefy 32 bit machines with 4GB of RAM and a nice video card that can rock Unity.   Also some motherboard manufacturers disabled 64 bit support even though the processor supported it…  awesome.

To default to 32 or 64 bit when downloading Ubuntu?

Given the data, I think we can make a better exception case for 32 bit now..  Right now,  it says:
“If you have a PC with the Windows 8 logo or UEFI firmware, choose the 64-bit download. Read more ” 
I think it’s easier for most people to see and understand:
“If you have a 5+ year old PC,  a 3+ year old netbook, or 1 GB of ram choose the 32 bit version.” *


* Theoretically we could even provide instructions for our users to figure this out.  Add a “Not sure?” in that case.

Running Ubuntu/Unity on a machine that is not 64 bit capable?

I have a theory and I would like your help to disprove it (like all good science, aim to disprove it first).

The basic theory is that there are very few computers in one of these groups that is also not in the other:

  • 64 Bit Capable hardware
  • Machines that can run Ubuntu/Unity

Or in other words:  If you can run Ubuntu with Unity you almost definitely have 64 bit capable hardware. And, if you have 64 bit hardware you can run Ubuntu with Unity.

Help prove me wrong!  Answer the following questions (only submit if you answer yes to either):

If you can’t see the form below, click here.