If you’ve been keeping up with the latest Linux distributions, you must have noticed that 32-bit support has been dropped from most of the popular Linux distributions. Arch Linux, Ubuntu, Fedora, everyone has dropped the support for this older architecture.
But, what if you have vintage hardware with you that still needs to be revived or you want to make use of it for something? Fret not, there are still a few options left to choose from for your 32-bit system.
In this article, I’ve tried to compile some of the best Linux distributions that will keep on supporting 32-bit platform for next few years.
Top Linux distributions that still offer 32-bit support
This list is a bit different from our earlier list of Linux distributions for old laptops. Even 64-bit computers can be considered old if they were released before 2010. This is why some suggestions listed there included distros that only support 64-bit now.
The information presented here are correct as per my knowledge and findings but if you find otherwise, please let me know in the comment section.
Before you go on, I suppose you know how to check if you have a 32 bit or 64 bit computer.
Debian is a fantastic choice for 32-bit systems because they still support it with their latest stable release. At the time of writing this, the latest stable release Debian 10 “buster” offers a 32-bit version and is supported until 2024.
If you’re new to Debian, it is worth mentioning that you get solid documentation for everything on their official wiki. So, it shouldn’t be an issue to get started.
You can browse through the available installers to get it installed. However, before you proceed, I would recommend referring to the list of things to remember before installing Debian in addition to its installation manual.
If you just want to quickly boot up a device for some temporary work, Slax is an impressive option.
It is based on Debian but it aims to be a portable and fast option that is meant to be run through USB devices or DVDs. You can download the 32-bit ISO file from their website for free or purchase a rewritable DVD/encrypted pendrive with Slax pre-installed.
Of course, this isn’t meant to replace a traditional desktop operating system. But, yes, you do get the 32-bit support with Debian as its base.
Yet another impressive Debian-based distribution. AntiX is popularly known as a systemd-free distribution which focuses on performance while being a lightweight installation.
It is perfectly suitable for just about any old 32-bit system. To give you an idea, it just needs 256 MB RAM and 2.7 GB storage space at the very least. Not just easy to install, but the user experience is focused for both newbies and experienced users as well.
You should get the latest version based on Debian’s latest stable branch available.
openSUSE is an independent Linux distribution that supports 32-bit systems as well. Even though the latest regular version (Leap) does not offer 32-bit images, the rolling release edition (Tumbleweed) does provide 32-bit image.
It will be an entirely different experience if you’re new. However, I suggest you to go through the reasons why you should be using openSUSE.
It is mostly focused for developers and system administrators but you can utilize it as an average desktop user as well. It is worth noting that openSUSE is not meant to run on vintage hardware — so you have to make sure that you have at least 2 GB RAM, 40+ GB storage space, and a dual core processor.
Emmabuntus is an interesting distribution that aims to extend the life of the hardware to reduce waste of raw materials with 32-bit support. As a group they’re also involved in providing computers and digital technologies to schools.
It offers two different editions, one based on Ubuntu and the other based on Debian. If you want a longer 32-bit support, you may want to go with the Debian edition. It may not be the best option, but with a number of pre-configured software to make the Linux learning experience easy and 32-bit support, it is a decent option if you want to support their cause in the process.
NixOS is yet another independent Linux distribution that supports 32-bit systems. It focuses on providing a reliable system where packages are isolated from each other.
This may not be directly geared towards average users but it is a KDE-powered usable distribution with a unique approach to package management. You can learn more about its features from its official website.
7. Gentoo Linux
If you’re an experienced Linux user and looking for a 32-bit Linux distributions, Gentoo Linux should be a great choice.
You can easily configure, compile, and install a kernel through package manager with Gentoo Linux if you want. Not just limited to its configurability, which it is popularly known for, you will also be able to run it without any issues on older hardware.
Even if you’re not an experienced user and want to give it a try, simply read through the installation instructions and you will be in for an adventure.
It may not be a very popular Linux distribution for an average user but if you want a systemd-free distribution and 32-bit support, Devuan should be a good option.
9. Void Linux
Void Linux is an interesting distribution independently developed by volunteers. It aims to be a general purpose OS while offering a stable rolling release cycle. It features runit as the init system instead of systemd and gives you the option of several desktop environments.
It has an extremely impressive minimum requirement specification with just 96 MB of RAM paired up with Pentium 4 (or equivalent) chip. Try it out!
Q4OS is another Debian-based distribution that focuses on providing a minimal and fast desktop user experience. It also happens to be one of the best lightweight Linux distributions in our list. It features the Trinity desktop for its 32-bit edition and you can find KDE Plasma support on 64-bit version.
Similar to Void Linux, Q4OS also runs on a bare minimum of at least 128 MB RAM and a 300 MHz CPU with a 3 GB storage space requirement. It should be more than enough for any vintage hardware. So, I’d say, you should definitely try it out!
To know more about it, you can also check out our review of Q4OS.
11: MX Linux
If you’ve got a slightly decent configuration (not completely vintage but old), MX Linux would be my personal recommendation for 32-bit systems. It also happens to be one of the best Linux distributions for every type of user.
In general, MX Linux is a fantastic lightweight and customizable distribution based on Debian. You get the option to choose from KDE, XFCE or Fluxbox (which is their own desktop environment for older hardware). You can explore more about it on their official website and give it a try.
Honorable Mention: Funtoo
Funtoo is a Gentoo-based community-developed Linux distribution. It focuses on giving you the best performance with Gentoo Linux along with some extra packages to make the experience complete for users. It is also interesting to note that the development is actually led by Gentoo Linux’s creator Daniel Robbins.
Of course, if you’re new to Linux, you may not have the best experience here. But, it does support 32-bit systems and works well across many older Intel/AMD chipsets. Explore more about it on its official website to see if you want to try it out.
I focused the list on Debian-based and some Independent distributions. However, if you don’t mind long term support and just want to get your hands on a 32-bit supported image, you can try any Ubuntu 18.04 based distributions (or any official flavour) as well.
At the time of writing this, they just have a few more months of software support left. Hence, I avoided mentioning it as the primary options. But, if you like Ubuntu 18.04 based distros or any of its flavours, you do have options like LXLE, Linux Lite, Zorin Lite 15, and other official flavours.
Even though most modern desktop operating systems based on Ubuntu have dropped support for 32-bit support. You still have plenty of choices to go with.
What would you prefer to have on your 32-bit system? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.