32‑bit Only Hardware ‑ Still Usable in 2019?

I understand your reluctance to throw that nice little netbook away.

Actually I used to own a very similar model until recently, an Acer Aspire One ZG5, with one of those infamously underpowered intel Atom processors (and GPU). I bought it used (dirt cheap) in 2015 (it was new in 2010) and installed ArchLinux with an i3 desktop on it.

This worked sufficiently well: Using applications and browsing websites was possible, and media playback was possible via mpv (+ youtube-dl).

Then in 2017 something happened (around the time arch stopped supporting 32 bit) and performance dropped, esp. media playback. I suspect some changes in any or all of:

  • Xorg server
  • Xorg intel driver
  • i915 intel graphics driver

But I was never able to roll that back to its former state.

In the end I sold it on. But I felt sad, it was a nice, tiny x86 laptop with a real hard drive and a full keyboard. Smaller than many "ultrabooks" - although much thicker and heavier.

I still own and use a second 32 bit machine though - a larger, 11 year old all-intel laptop, it serves well as both a local storage server and a web server. 4 years now. 2 years ago I put a 1TB hard drive in. People keep telling me that surely it must be a 64 bit machine, I'm just running a 32 bit OS on it. Believe me, it isn't, I checked /proc/cpuinfo.
It runs on Debian stable (first jessie, now stretch).

This is double proof that 32 bit wasn't dead already 10 years ago (strangely that's what many people try to tell me on the 'net).

And it's one answer to the question of what one can still do with 32 bit hardware nowadays.

Don't get me wrong, I won't cry disappointment or shout protest or even try to blow it up into a politicum should Debian ever drop support for x86 32 bit. I will just go out and buy another piece of hardware that's been hyped "obsolete" by shortsighted fools - for next to nothing, thankyouverymuch!

How to Find out if the Hardware Supports 64-bit

It does if the flags in /proc/cpuinfo contain the word lm (long mode):

grep -w lm /proc/cpuinfo

So if they don't, your hardware is 32-bit or less.