Running 32bit applications on a 64bit system

Gilles Gravier gilles at
Mon Nov 26 19:10:49 UTC 2007

Today, 64 vs 32 bits in one of the few really frustrating remaining 
problems with Linux.

If you have 64 bit linux, a lot of 32 bit apps won't run... if not 
all... and vice versa.

The only OS that handles that well is Solaris. It installs with 64 AND 
32 bit libraries regardless of which mode you run it in (you can decide 
at boot time)... and your applications can be written for 64 or 32 bit 
mode, they will run. You can run a very old Netscape navigator in 32 bit 
mode on a fancy AMD64 Solaris machine and it will run just fine... 
provided your Netscape was compiled for x86 (not SPARC). :)

With Linux, unless you really NEED 64 bit addressing (for example 
because you are manipulating huge data structures, or files, or because 
you are driving simultaneously 4 graphics cards with each over a 1GB of 
video RAM) then you should avoid 32 bit mode. In many cases, it will 
slow down your system. In most cases you will have application 
compatibility issues unless you know the apps you will be using are 
available in 64 bit mode.

My suggestion, (re)install in 32 bit mode. (Unless, as I say above, you 
really need the addressing capabilities of a 64 bit OS).


Anthony Papillion wrote:
> Hello Everyone,
> I've run Linux on the server for several years but this is my first
> foray into the desktop and I have to say I am impressed. I installed
> Ubuntu on my Acer laptop the other night after a frustrating
> experience with Windows Vista and I can honestly say I will never look
> back. Pretty much everything "just worked" and I'm slowly working on
> the few things that didn't work (webcam, Flash).
> One of the problems I ran into (really the only problem) was with
> installing and running 32bit applications on my system. I'm running
> the latest 64bit version of Ubuntu fully patched. There are two
> programs, in particular, I need that will not run on the 64bit
> installation and I'm wondering if there's a way around it. I'm trying
> to run Skype and I'm trying to install the Adobe Flash player.
> Does anyone have any newbie tips on getting these to work or will I
> need to start over and install the 32bit version of Ubuntu?
> Thanks,
> Anthony P.

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