Manjaro Linux Discontinues 32-bit Support

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Brief: Manjaro has joined the long list of Linux distributions dropping support for older hardware.

You might already know that I love Manjaro Linux. And as an ardent Manjaro Linux fan, I have a bad news for you.

Recently, Philip, the lead developer of Manjaro Linux, announced that the project would be dropping support for the 32-bit architecture. He said that the reason for the move was “due to the decreasing popularity of i686 among the developers and the community”.

While Manjaro 17.0.3 is the last release to have a 32-bit ISO, current 32-bit installs will receive a short window of continued support. During September and October, 32-bit package will continue to be updated. However, starting in November, packages will be limited to 64-bit. After that period, 32-bit installs of Manjaro will essentially be unsupported.

Note: if you are currently using an application that depends on a 32-bit package, it will continue to be supported through the mulilib repo.

Alternatives

If you currently have an older device that can’t run 64-bit, don’t worry, you have several alternatives to choose. Debian 9 dropped support for 32-bit, but if you install Debian 8 you’ll get 32-bit support until 2020. Canonical has been hinting that Ubuntu 18.10 will be the last release to support 32-bit, but if you install the 16.04 LTS release, you’ll have support until 2021.

Another possible alternative is Void Linux. This rolling release distribution is built completely from scratch with its own package manager.

If you want to stay in the Arch family, check out. ArchLinux32. There isn’t much information available on this distro, but it appears to be a community effort to keep Arch available for older systems.

If you are looking for a small distro that can run on anything, I suggest trying out the Puppy Linux family of distros. There is also Damn Small Linux. In fact, the lightweight Linux distributions should support 32-bit systems for several years.

Final Thoughts

This announcement isn’t really that big of a shock. After all, Arch Linux, the distro that Manjaro is based on, dropped support for 32-bit in February. Other distros like Debian, Ubuntu, Tails, Bodhi, Fedora, and others have either talked about doing the same or have already done it.

Change is inevitable. At one time, all computers were 8-bit and were replaced by 16-bit. And the cycle continues to this day and far past it. Thankfully, I only have a couple computers that I manage that need 32-bit support. Not much of a worry here.

What do you think? Are we looking at the end of 32-bit Linux?

Comments

  1. Fedora has not dropped the 32-bit support but i386 is now in the secondary architecture category. This means that possible problems with those architectures won’t delay the Fedora releases.

  2. Debian has not dropped support for 32 bit systems and has no definite plans to do so. It dropped support for i586 based processors with version 9 and only supports i686 based processors. That means that it only supports Intel Pentium Pro (end of 1995) or AMD K6 (1997) processors or newer. I have several 32 bit systems running Debian 9. I don’t have any from the nineties, though.

    • I just wanted to make a correction. Due to the lack of support for certain instructions, only AMD K7 (October 1999) or newer are supported in Debian 9. Apparently they don’t need the full SSE implementation, but they need things that weren’t available on AMD chips until the K7 (no K7 chips are included in the list of dropped architectures, but all K6 variants are).

  3. About 32-bit support, I don’t reach the same conclusion from the linked Debian announcement. I quote:
    “In case you missed that change, gcc for i386 has recently been changed to target 686-class processors and is generating code that will crash on other processors.” As 686-class processors can use 32-bit code, it seems to me we cannot assume Debian will be 64-bit only.

    But I think the announcement is not very accurate, too. I have at least one PC which is a 686 one (from AMD) and probably won’t work with Debian 9, because it will probably use a 686 instruction which is not available in that PC (specifically, the SSE2 opcode). Only a conjecture, therefore, but I think Debian 9 won’t support _all_ 686 processors.

    As I understand, this issue has to do with cost. Source-based distributions push the costs (and complexity) of compiling onto their users, while those which offer compiled code offer a ready-to-use image for download. It’s expensive and complex to offer both 32-bit and 64-bit images. As 64-bit is demanded for very specific uses — video and number crunching comes to mind — the chose to stop providing the 32-bit versions.

    I just checked and 2GB RAM notebooks comprise 20% of new notebooks offered with Linux here where I live (verified with a page similar to Google Shopping). For such machines, 32-bit offers better performance for general use, which means Manjaro will not be a better option for them.

    I’m talking about *new* notebooks, but when one considers the vast amount of PCs which used to run XP or even Windows 7, I think that means Manjaro is intended to be ran only on a limited range of computers. As the article mentions, other distributions are making the same decision, which I find quite difficult to understand but can only suppose to be related to cost.

    Until recently, a powerful reason to run 64-bit (even on a 2GB RAM PC) would be needing to run Google Chrome which introduces that “artificial” requirement. Now that Firefox 32-bit can show DRM services like Netflix, that requirement lost much of its force.

    Finally, for practical reasons, since I have a number of PCs running Linux (most of them old), I’d like to settle for one or two distributions which I can deploy over the whole house and even for friends in need. In that case, a simple criterion I use is whether the distribution supports my older machines. That way Manjaro probably won’t be an option for me, but I find it very kind of them to announce the issue in advance, so thanks for bringing the news on a timely manner.

  4. That is bad news. I do realize that change is inevitable but it’s unfortunate that so many are dumping support for older 32 bit machines. I have resurrected many old machines with Linux and some of them still have a few good years in them. Even though change is coming, there is still a lot of older hardware around that is still useful and it shouldn’t be tossed into the recycle bin just yet.

    I’ve been a fan of Manjaro for a couple of years now. I began using it because it worked well with the old hardware I have around and later added it to my newer machines. I’ll probably pull the plug on it and move on. No sense in running it on just the desktop. The rolling release upgrades always cause me some trouble anyway.

    Peppermint Linux is a decent alternative and I hope they continue the support for 32 bit. It works well on my old Acer Netbook and I have been running it on my desktop just to see how well it does. I rarely have any trouble with it and it just works.

  5. I’ve been using Void (x86/glibc, testing musl was not in my scope) on my old netbook for half a year and my impression overall is in line with my expectations. Now and then I find something not working as expected or as I am expecting, but xbps-src lets me fix things quite easily. To me they seem to be a bit understaffed though, but I like the experience so far. Advanced knowledge of GNU/Linux systems is recommended.

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