Seeking 32-bit distro advice

I’ve been taking advantage of some downtime and revisiting a couple of older computers that I have laying around. At the moment, I’m looking at my wife’s old Acer Aspire One D250 netbook. This is your basic Atom N270-based system with a 1024x600 screen, 2GB RAM, and an 802.11G Atheros WiFi card. I’ve ordered a used 64GB SSD for it and now I’m exploring options for a 32-bit Linux Distro.

As I recall, Ubuntu stopped providing a 32-bit LTS with 18.04, though this release is still being supported. Since I only have 2GB of RAM to work with, it would seem that a lightweight distro is in order. Along that line, there is, of course, Lubuntu and Xubuntu 18.04. An interesting alternative would seem to be Zorin OS Lite which is also, IIRC, based on Ubuntu 16.04 and XFCE4.

In terms of ongoing 32-bit support, my impression is that the obvious choice is Debian or a Debian-based distro like MX Linux or Sparky Linux. Then there is the Arch-based solution- Arch Linux 32.

I have to admit that Arch Linux 32 sounds potentially interesting. Anybody here have any experience with it? Any other thoughts on 32-bit options in general?


Had the same choice to make quite few times.
Those Atom netbooks are quite slow, even some lightweight distros will not run properly.

What I tried:

Zorin Core installed and worked fine, but had to tweak extensively the OS and the browser setting to make it usable.

Q4OS quite a nice surprise, ran smoothly and had everything smartly laid out. Based on stable Debian, it was the obvious choice.

I ended up with MX. It was the only one I found that actually worked.


With very old hardware, I’ve had success with the 32-bit “Legacy” edition of Bodhi Linux, which you can download here:


The do seem to be a bit of a pain, especially the odd screen resolution.

Zorin Core seems to be 64-bit only these days. The Lite version does support 32-bit, however. It looks like both Zorin OS Lite and the Legacy version of Bodhi Linux both are based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. Bodhi says that they are working on a Debian based version of Legacy, but it doesn’t seem to be available yet.

That jogged a memory, however… I had forgotten about Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE) 4 (“Debbie”) which is based on Debian Buster (stable) and comes in a 32-bit edition. Default desktop seems to be Cinnamon. Any thoughts on how that performs on low-end systems?

That brings us back around to MX Linux which is based on Debian Stable and ships with Xfce/Fluxbox and Sparky Linux Stable which has both Xfce and Lxqt flavor isos.

Lest I be remiss in mentioning that there is also the 32-bit version of Slackware. I don’t think I want to go down that road, however.

Decisions… decisions…

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I found this list of 32 bit options recently. Several have already been mentioned. Sadly, the list keeps shrinking…

Yes. It works, though several packages (e.g. Firefox, GCC) get stuck in staging and testing because of build issues. It looks like they could do with some help.

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I actually have that same netbook and went through the same headaches last year. I went with Debian Buster with a Cinnamon desktop (because that’s my preferred desktop). It worked okay for the most part, but anything that took any power to run (like videos) really ran poorly. To read an ebook or occasionally read email if you’re, for example, at the doctor’s office or wherever, it’s fine. But not much else.

I did try the Archlinux32. It installed and ran quite well. The problem was that most of the applications in both the repos and AUR are 64bit and won’t install. Shame, really.

I’d forgotten about LMDE. Maybe I’ll have to try to bring the poor thing up again.

If there are 64-bit applications in the arch32 repos then there are some serious issues. :wink:

Any AUR package’s list of architectures can be ignored with makepkg -A or by editing the PKGBUILD - many will work without any other changes (some will not, but that’s why 32-bit support is being dropped).


I did a little reading and noticed that it was mostly a two-man operation. If I thought I would have the time, it might be interesting to volunteer. Is there a “So you want to be an Arch Linux volunteer…” video someplace that explains what’s involved?

Yeah, that was the error I got when trying to install firefox and a couple of other things that I don’t recall at the moment. Maybe it was a one-time glitch. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try again.

I didn’t know that about editing the PKGBUILD. That actually gives me more incentive to try again. Thanks for that.


How about good old fashion Debian? Debian 10 Buster EOL isn’t until 2024, so you’ve still got nearly 3 years of support.


There is also antiX. But it is systemd-free, if that is not a dealbreaker.



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Peppermint is pretty cool - It has a nice forum from the last time I used it

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It’s 32 bit? Huh, I thought it wasn’t. Peppermint is definitely an interesting distro

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Both are officially supported - pretty cool!

We presently offer two different images: one for 32 bit systems (i386), and one for 64 bit systems (amd64).

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I own a 2006 32-bit machine which is chugging along on SparkyLinux. Solid distro for older hardware.

As a runner-up I would throw Linux Mint 19.x into the ring, it’s an LTS release with support until 2023. Arch 32 didn’t work out of the box and it wasn’t worth my time.

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Reading the great responses to my request for advice and the resources they point to, it seems like the options come down to the following:

  • Ubuntu 18.04 (Bionic Beaver) or a distro derived from it (Mint, Peppermint, Zorin OS Lite, Bodhi, etc.)
  • Debian Stable or a distro derived from it (MX, Sparky, LMDE, etc.)
  • An “outlier” distro (Void Linux, Arch Linux 32, Slackware, Gentoo)
  • Something else (Haiku, a BSD)

I’m filling up a Ventoy stick with a few of these to play around with. Thanks again for all the advice.

It occurred to me that I could also go the LFS route but, on a netbook, I’d probably finish installing somewhere around the heat death of the universe.


I’m ALL in on antiX. I’ve been using it on both 32 bit systems since it was introduced, plus newer 64-bit systems since then. I have good success with Debian and openSUSE too, but antiX has multiple kernels (one or two can handle systems in the 10-20 year age range). MX Linux often works too, but if that fails, antiX is one of the best lean distributions out there. In the past 1-2 years the number of users from Brazil has grown; there are a LOT of super old computers in that region and antiX works GREAT for many of our friends from South America.