Although compatibility has always been one of the cornerstones of Linux, lately it is very difficult to find such compatibility. Without going any further, there are many distros, such as, for example, Ubuntu and Linux Mint (among many others), which have decided to turn their backs on x86 architectures, so they do not offer 32-bit ISO images that allow us to install these operating systems on these architectures. Fortunately, however, not all distros are like this.
Why choose 32 bits?
We may think, why do we need an ISO of a 32-bit Linux ? The answer is simple: for compatibility reasons. If we have an old computer and we want to give it a second life, if its processor is not 64-bit, we will not be able to directly load the boot menu of the operating system.
And the same goes for 32-bit programs . Without going any further, Steam, and its games, work in 32 bits, and although Ubuntu and the other distros still have the libraries included, these will not be there forever (there have already been attempts to eliminate them), which can cause us in the long run more problems than benefits.
32-bit operating systems generally consume less space on the hard disk, in addition to using fewer resources, especially RAM. And although 32-bit systems are limited to a maximum of 4 GB of RAM, the Linux Kernel can ignore this limit if we use a Kernel PAE.
Luckily, there are still many Linux distros that bet on compatibility and continue to offer users ISO images to use them on 32-bit systems without problems.
32-bit Linux distros
Luckily, although Ubuntu no longer supports 32-bit, Debian does. And, as we know, Debian is the base on which Ubuntu is built. It is true that Debian is a somewhat more complicated distro to use than other distros, but if we spend time installing and configuring it, in exchange we will have a very fast, secure and excellent support operating system, as well as an excellent community.
Debian is probably the best option we can choose to bring 32-bit support to our PC. We can download this version of Linux from here .
Mageia is a stable and secure desktop operating system distributed as free software. It has an excellent KDE desktop by default, although it offers variants based on Gnome and Xfce. It is based on Madriva, making it an excellent choice for those who want to get away from Ubuntu and everything around it, like Debian.
We can download this system from its main website .
Leap is an edition of OpenSUSE designed to meet the needs of ordinary developers, administrators and users alike. This distro is released annually and provides users with excellent support focused on both improving the quality of the distro and offering the best compatibility with all types of hardware, even the oldest.
We can download this Linux distro for 32 bits from the following link .
Although we will not be able to have the latest PC (since the latest version only has ISO for 64 bits), Bodhi Linux has a “Legacy” edition that will allow us to use this operating system on 32-bit computers without problems. It has a Kernel 4.9 and is optimized to work on very old hardware, being able to bring any computer from more than 15 years old back to life without problems.
This distro is based on Ubuntu, and mixes many functions and characteristics of this distro, along with characteristics of other similar ones, to become a unique operating system. We can download the ISO Legacy, compatible with 32-bit systems, from here .
This is another distro that still works in 32 bits. Although the truth is that its interface can leave a lot to be desired. Slackware prioritizes performance and compatibility over other elements, such as appearance. Therefore, if we compare its aesthetics with that of Windows 10, or any other modern Linux distro, it will draw a lot of attention, for the worse.
If we do not care about the appearance, and we want to have good compatibility with old hardware and programs from years ago, this is an excellent option that we can download from this link .
And if we want a new flavor of OpenSUSE, then we can try Tumbleweed. This is a pure rolling release distro aimed at advanced users who want to give a second life to their old computer and use it, above all, for development, programming and code compilation.
This distro can be downloaded for free from this link .
This distro is based on Debian, but its development is focused on offering users a distro as light as possible capable of working on practically any computer, no matter how old it is. Sparky offers us a complete operating system, with a MinimalUI interface with Openbox that we will be able to customize with more than 20 different desktops. It has a stable version and a semi-rollingrelease version, which allows advanced users to always be up to date.
We can download SparkyLinux light from this website .
Gentoo is another operating system that we can install on a 32-bit machine in order to enjoy the benefits of this architecture. This Linux is not a simple distro, nor is it modern. To use it, we must have extensive knowledge within the Linux ecosystem, knowledge that we will have to demonstrate from the installation process.
If we want to venture with this distro, we can download it for 32 bits from its website .
Arch Linux 32
And speaking of complicated distros, if we want a powerful as well as compatible and customizable operating system, Arch Linux is positioned as one more option to give a second life to our old computer. Specifically with Arch Linux 32 .
Although the official version of Arch Linux stopped supporting this architecture a long time ago, Arch Linux 32 is a project, maintained by the community, that continues to offer support for this architecture. This distro offers us a flexible and very light system, ideal for old computers, following the Keep It Simple philosophy.
We can download this distro from this website .