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I've got a 32-bit Ubuntu installation running on 64-bit hardware. Now that multi-arch has been implemented, I would like to switch to 64-bit without having to reinstall the OS.

This is one of the user stories addressed by the spec:

Shawn installed his system using the 32-bit version of Ubuntu, but his hardware is 64-bit and he wants to switch over. He manually installs the amd64 versions of dpkg and apt, replacing the i386 versions and changing which architecture is used as the default; then he installs the amd64 ubuntu-minimal package; then he installs the amd64 ubuntu-desktop package. Over time the remaining i386 packages are replaced automatically on upgrade.

However, when trying to follow the instructions in there, I cannot find any 64-bit version of dpkg or apt.

Did this user story got implemented in a different way in the final spec, or do I need to do something differently?

In short, how can I switch my 32-bit installation to 64-bit?

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I realise the question has already been asked on askubuntu.com/questions/5018/…, but that was before multi-arch was implemented, so the answer should be different. –  David Planella Nov 22 '11 at 19:35
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7 Answers

up vote 26 down vote accepted

Such an approach is very complicated, and is unlikely to ever result in all your packages being the amd64 version instead of the i386 version. Only packages that actually receive upgrades will likely be changed in architecture, and probably only if no other packages not being upgraded rely on their being of the i386 architecture. Since some packages will not receive any updates throughout the entire support cycle of your Ubuntu release, you will likely never have a fully amd64 system using such a technique. Furthermore, there is certainly no official support for such an approach.

You would be well-advised to instead replace your existing Ubuntu system with a new, 64-bit installation.

However, if you do wish to attempt this technique, you will have to manually download the .deb files for dpkg and apt. You can find them at the dpkg in Ubuntu and apt in Ubuntu pages on Launchpad--expand the latest version under "The Oneiric Ocelot" that is marked as release, security, and/or updates (but you probably don't want a version marked only proposed and/or backports, if there ever is one). Then download the .deb files marked amd64. Specifically, the files you'll want are: this one for dpkg (and the others listed, too, if you have those packages installed) and this and this and this and this and this for apt.

Before you do anything with these files, you should make sure to back up all important documents in your installed Ubuntu system and any other important files (e.g., music, ebooks, videos), because it is rather likely that attempting this technique will backfire badly and leave your Ubuntu system completely unusable.

You can install all these packages by putting them in a folder that contains nothing else (suppose the folder is called debs and is inside your Downloads directory), and then running this command:

sudo dpkg -Ri ~/Downloads/debs

Of course, once you've installed them, they won't actually run, because their executables are 64-bit and your 32-bit Ubuntu system is running a 32-bit kernel (which will only run 32-bit executables). In fact, they might not even finish installing, as they might have post-install scripts that invoke their unrunnable 64-bit executables.

There are various ways of attempting to install a 64-bit kernel onto a 32-bit system, but they are all extremely complicated, so instead I recommend that you boot from a 64-bit Oneiric live CD (which itself runs a 64-bit kernel), chroot into the installed Ubuntu system, and use the recently installed 64-bit apt and dpkg to install a 64-bit kernel.

Here are specific instructions for doing that...but please do not take this to mean that I'm saying it will work. I have not attempted this. (I have chrooted into installed Ubuntu systems from live CD's and performed package management and other operations, but I have not attempted the cross-architecture operations suggested here.)

  1. In your installed Ubuntu system, open a Terminal window (Ctrl+Alt+T) and run mount | grep ' on / ' (by pasting it into the Terminal and pressing enter). You should see something like /dev/sda2 on / type ext4 (rw,errors=remount-ro,commit=0). The part you're interested is the device name before on (in this example, it's /dev/sda2). Remember that, or write it down.

  2. Step 1 gave you the device name of the / partition. If you have a separate /boot partition, then you'll need to know the device name for that as well. So in that case, run mount | grep ' on /boot '. You'll see something like /dev/sda1 on /boot type ext2 (rw). Remember or write this down as well.

  3. Boot from an Oneiric amd64 (i.e., 64-bit) live CD and select "Try Ubuntu" rather than "Install Ubuntu".

  4. Go into a web browser and make sure that Internet connectivity is fully functional. If it isn't, set it up.

  5. Open a Terminal window and run sudo mount /dev/sda2 /mnt (replace /dev/sda2 with the device name you got in step 1, if different).

  6. If your installed system has a separate /boot partition, run sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/boot (replace /dev/sda1 with the device name you got in step 2, if different).

  7. Now, run these commands to chroot into your installed system:

    sudo mount --bind /dev /mnt/dev  
    sudo chroot /mnt  
    mount -t proc none /proc  
    mount -t sysfs none /sys  
    mount -t devpts none /dev/pts  
    
  8. Run ping -c 4 launchpad.net to see if Internet connectivity works fully from within the chroot. You're hoping for something like this:

    PING launchpad.net (91.189.89.223) 56(84) bytes of data.
    64 bytes from launchpad-net.banana.canonical.com (91.189.89.223): icmp_req=1 ttl=41 time=141 ms
    64 bytes from launchpad-net.banana.canonical.com (91.189.89.223): icmp_req=2 ttl=41 time=143 ms
    64 bytes from launchpad-net.banana.canonical.com (91.189.89.223): icmp_req=3 ttl=41 time=142 ms
    64 bytes from launchpad-net.banana.canonical.com (91.189.89.223): icmp_req=4 ttl=41 time=140 ms
    
    --- launchpad.net ping statistics ---
    4 packets transmitted, 4 received, 0% packet loss, time 3003ms
    
  9. If, instead, you were unable to transmit or receive packets, then you'll have to set up Internet connectivity in the chroot. To do that, run these commands (to leave the chroot, copy the relevant configuration files from the live CD system into the chroot, and re-enter the chroot):

    sudo cp /mnt/etc/resolv.conf /mnt/etc/resolv.conf.old  
    sudo cp /mnt/etc/hosts /mnt/etc/hosts.old  
    sudo cp /etc/resolv.conf /mnt/etc/resolv.conf  
    sudo cp /etc/hosts /mnt/etc/hosts
    

    While generally you should stop this process if there is an error, don't worry if the first and/or second of those four commands fail, provided that the specific way in which it fails is by telling you that /mnt/etc/resolv.conf (or /mnt/etc/hosts) does not exist.

    The chroot back in and try again:

    sudo chroot /mnt  
    ping -c 4 launchpad.net  
    
  10. Run these commands to make your chrooted environment fully ready to use:

    export HOME=/root  
    export LC_ALL=C  
    
  11. If you haven't installed the .deb files for the 64-bit versions of dpkg and apt, so do now. If you did install them but there were configuration errors, run dpkg --configure -a to fix them. (Hopefully that will work...it might be better to wait to attempt to install them until you're in the live CD environment, in case installing the 64-bit dpkg while booted into the installed system leaves dpkg in an unusable state.)

  12. With the 64-bit versions of dpkg and apt installed, assuming that they will automatically install 64-bit packages, you can now remove all your 32-bit kernels and install a 64-bit kernel. To remove your 32-bit kernels, run dpkg -l | grep linux-. This lists installed packages that start with linux-. You're more specifically interested in packages that start like linux-generic, linux-image, linux-server, and/or linux-headers. Remove these files with apt-get purge ... where ... is replaced with a space-separated list of the packages you're removing.

  13. Now reinstall the packages you removed. (Actually, for packages that contain version numbers in the package name, like for example linux-image-3.0.0-13-generic, you only need to install the latest versioned package names.) Do this by running apt-get install ... where ... is replaced with a space-separated list of the packages you're installing.

  14. Update the boot loader configuration, unmount some devices, and leave the chroot:

    update-grub  
    umount /proc || umount -lf /proc  
    umount /sys  
    umount /dev/pts  
    exit  
    sudo umount mnt/dev  
    
  15. If you ran sudo cp /mnt/etc/resolv.conf /mnt/etc/resolv.conf.old and it did not fail, then now run sudo cp /mnt/etc/resolv.conf.old /mnt/etc/resolv.conf.

  16. If you ran sudo cp /mnt/etc/hosts /mnt/etc/hosts.old and it did not fail, then now run sudo cp /mnt/etc/hosts.old /mnt/etc/hosts.

  17. If your installed system has a separate /boot partition, unmount that: sudo umount /mnt/boot

  18. Unmount your installed system's / partition: sudo umount /mnt

  19. Leave the Terminal window (run exit), then reboot (or shut down) the live CD system and boot into the installed system.

  20. See if the system is usable and running a 64-bit kernel (uname -m should say the architecture is x86_64).

There might well be additional packages you need to install, such as ia32_libs and/or the 64-bit version of libc6, for this to work. For some of them, you might be informed you need them when attempting to install the 64-bit version of dpkg and/or apt. For others, you might not be informed.

(The above instructions for chrooting and operating in the chrooted environment are based in significant part on this related but different procedure and also on some Launchpad Answers posts of mine, especially #6 here and #6 here. And special thanks to Caesium for pointing out that the 64-bit dpkg and apt executables won't run on a system running a 32-bit kernel.)

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Will those binaries run under a 32bit kernel, Eliah? –  Caesium Nov 22 '11 at 19:55
    
@Caesium Good call. Of course not. I'd edit my post to indicate how to get the 64-bit kernel running...except that I have no idea how to install a 64-bit kernel package on a 32-bit Ubuntu system (running on 64-bit hardware, of course) when apt and dpkg are still 32-bit and will (presumably) refuse to install a 64-bit kernel package. (Building the kernel from source, and using cross-compilation, would work, but this is very complicated and I don't want to recommend it. I'm sure there's a better, easier way. If you know it, please feel free to edit my or your post or comment about it.) –  Eliah Kagan Nov 22 '11 at 19:59
    
@Caesium Actually, I think I do know how to get the 64-bit kernel installed. I'll edit my post shortly to reflect this. Once I do, if you feel like my proposed technique would work, please feel free to copy and/or paraphrase it into your answer...or, alternatively, so long as both the info in your answer that's not in mine and the info in my answer that's not in yours are preserved, you could combine our answers into a single answer. (It could be your answer--that's fine with me. You did post a bit before I did. Then I'd delete my answer.) –  Eliah Kagan Nov 22 '11 at 20:02
    
@Caesium Edits completed; I look forward to your comments. –  Eliah Kagan Nov 22 '11 at 20:58
    
Wow, nice work :) At this point you've put far more effort in than me so I wouldn't dream of copying into my answer, yours should remain for the credit. It does drift away from the original aim of using the multiarch technology but I'll be interested to hear whether it works nonetheless :) Guess we'll have to wait for the original poster :) –  Caesium Nov 22 '11 at 21:03
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Yeah, the foreign-architecture line is most definitely vital for installing ANY cross-arch packages. But after that, do as several other users mentioned:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-image:amd64
sudo apt-get install linux-modules:amd64
sudo init 6 #reboot into new kernel
sudo apt-get install apt:amd64
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop:amd64

That should just about do it...

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Although the question is similar to Is it possible to "upgrade" from a 32bit to a 64bit installation? (If you have not read it before I encourage you to try it. The answer provided there is good.) I also recommend reading the following links:

For better performance should I install 32-bit or 64-bit?

How can I switch a 32-bit installation to a 64-bit one?

What is the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit and which should I choose?

Is it possible: Yes

Is it easy: NO!

If your issue is with memory, then you should know that Ubuntu 32 Bit can read more than 4GB of RAM (Up to 64 GB). So using the latest Ubuntu 32 Bit version with a computer that has 32 Bit or 64 Bit architecture and putting in more RAM will not be a problem. It will simply read the extra RAM and work.

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Perhaps, as I face the same problem, this will work, it is what I was planning to do:

Obtain a 64-bit version of the OS, install into a partition, when complete copy the documents and other stuff from the 32-bit install, when everything is safely copied you can format the rest of the drive and use it.

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As given above, I did:

echo foreign-architecture amd64 | sudo tee /etc/dpkg/dpkg.cfg.d/multiarch
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-image:amd64
sudo apt-get install gcc-multilib
sudo update-grub

It worked. I am able to run my 32-bit userland with 64-bit kernel, in Ubuntu 12.04.

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This answer rocks. I can confirm it still works with saucy. The one difference is that the procedure of adding an architecture has changed: use sudo dpkg --add-architecture amd64 instead. It will yell at you if you do it the other way. I needed to do this so I could chroot into a 64 bit installation from a (previously) 32 bit one and it worked exactly as expected with no hitches. –  Wug Jan 10 at 10:22
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Crossgrading (upgrading to a different architecture) isn't supported yet.

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Good question. I have had a hunt around and other than the user story you quote, I can't find any details on how to do this. All the documentation indicates it's only for running 32-bit applications on an already 64-bit OS.

However, if you're willing to experiment, you could try the following (derived from my link at [1])

 echo foreign-architecture amd64 | sudo tee /etc/dpkg/dpkg.cfg.d/multiarch
 sudo apt-get install linux-image:amd64

I think you will have to start off with an amd64 kernel, as the 32-bit one won't be able to run any 64-bit binaries. However the 64-bit one should run 32-bit binaries (if ia32-libs is installed?).

If you get the 64bit kernel installed and booted, you can go from there to install apt:amd64, then follow the user-story as previously quoted, ubuntu-minimal, ubuntu-desktop, etc.

After apt:amd64 is installed, I think you can remove the foreign-architecture line since you have essentially switched over at that point.

Disclaimer: I have no 32bit system to test so this is all guesswork. Good luck!

[1] https://wiki.ubuntu.com/OneiricOcelot/TechnicalOverview/Beta1#Improved_handling_of_32-bit_compatibility_on_amd64_systems

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