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In Fedora 31, 32-bit i686 is 86ed

The release of Fedora 31 drops the 32-bit i686 kernel, and as a result bootable images. While there may be users out there who still have hardware which will not work with the 64-bit x86_64 kernel, there are very few. However, this article gives you the whole story behind the change, and what 32-bit material you’ll still find in Fedora 31.

What is happening?

The i686 architecture essentially entered community support with the Fedora 27 release. Unfortunately, there are not enough members of the community willing to do the work to maintain the architecture. Don’t worry, though — Fedora is not dropping all 32-bit packages. Many i686 packages are still being built to ensure things like multilib, wine, and Steam will continue to work.

While the repositories are no longer being composed and mirrored out, there is a koji i686 repository which works with mock for building 32-bit packages, and in a pinch to install 32-bit versions which are not part of the x86_64 multilib repository. Of course, maintainers expect this will see limited use. Users who simply need to run a 32-bit application should be able to do so with multilib on a 64-bit system.

What to do if you’re running 32-bit

If you still run 32-bit i686 installations, you’ll continue to receive supported Fedora updates through the Fedora 30 lifecycle. This is until roughly May or June of 2020. At that point, you can either reinstall as 64-bit x86_64 if your hardware supports it, or replace your hardware with 64-bit capable hardware if possible.

There is a user in the community who has done a successful “upgrade” from 32-bit Fedora to 64-bit x86 Fedora. While this is not an intended or supported upgrade path, it should work. The Project hopes to have some documentation for users who have 64-bit capable hardware to explain the process before the Fedora 30 end of life.

If you have a 64-bit capable CPU running 32-bit Fedora due to low memory, try one of the alternate desktop spins. LXDE and others tend to do fairly well in memory constrained environments. For users running simple servers on old 32-bit hardware that was just lying around, consider one of the newer ARM boards. The power savings alone can more than pay for the new hardware in many instances. And if none of these are on option, CentOS 7 offers a 32-bit image with longer term support for the platform.

Security and you

While some users may be tempted to keep running an older Fedora release past end of life, this is highly discouraged. People constantly research software for security issues. Often times, they find these issues which have been around for years.

Once Fedora maintainers know about such issues, they typically patch for them, and make updates available to supported releases — but not to end of life releases. And of course, once these vulnerabilities are public, there will be people trying to exploit them. If you run an older release past end of life, your security exposure increases over time as a result, putting your system at ever-growing risk.

Photo by Alexandre Debiève on Unsplash.