As per title, I wish to know if I can, after a successful 32bit setup and consequent software installations, update to a 64bit version.

I know how to partition (actually one of the solutions is to set /, /etc, /home, /var/www, and /opt as separate partitions) and I know that a clean install is way better than a dirty one, yet I would like to know if/how it's possible to do that.


10 Answers 10


You will find a clean install a lot less hassle than any other unusual, obscure, unsupported method.

Your suggest of partitioning the config files, home directories, etc is probably the best idea, and it is possible to install the same packages on a clean install as on another install.

On the other hand, what you requested is possible, there is a little guide for Debian based systems but remember "this really is for professional-level sysadmins" and "this procedure is, in every possible respect, a bad idea. If it eats your firstborn, please don't come crying to me"... (so good luck)

  • 3
    +1 to you. Not for the faint-of-heart... I was going to recommend backing up all config and data files that you care about (maybe even your apt logs), and doing a find-and-replace on your apt sources.list to point to the 64-bit versions. Then I read the tutorial mentioned and was quickly disabused of that notion...
    – gWaldo
    Commented Oct 1, 2010 at 17:52
  • 2
    What if I have no firstborn, does this mean the procedure is safer for me than others? ..... i kid, the question is: If you just got 32 bit working right, why do you want to go through hell just to save yourself backup/restore of data time + reinstallation time, in the end this method is not faster. Faster = backup, reinstall. Also less problems in the long run. Commented Oct 1, 2010 at 18:48
  • Thanks a lot: eventually I backed up all my data, partitioned my disk and reinstalled. Now some hassle to restore DBs, webserver and some service is required, though.
    – dag729
    Commented Oct 3, 2010 at 8:54
  • @dag729: Trust me, its a hassle to backup/restore, but less than the alternative. You only do 32 -> 64 in dire cases. Even the sysadmins here at work won't do that, they backup, wipe, install, much cleaner/safer. Commented Oct 13, 2010 at 20:13
  • I successfully used the linked guide to crossgrade from 32-bit to 64-bit (on ubuntu 14.04). I am a professional sysadmin with 20 years of Debian/Ubuntu experience. And yes, it was not for the faint of heart. It took about a full day of effort, which I estimated to be substantially less than the effort it would have taken me to put back in place all the configuration, customizations, databases, etc. that I had installed on the workstation. I should emphasize that this was my development workstation. I would consider it reckless to attempt this on a production server.
    – jdhildeb
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 3:13

I shall cast raise dead, because this thread is one of the top results for "upgrade ubuntu to 64 bits", and the chosen answer, while admittedly the smart choice, is not the full story.

It is, in fact, possible to upgrade Ubuntu from 32 to 64 bits. You can do it.

I just finished doing such an upgrade.

That said, the words "can" and "should" look nothing alike, and that is also true of an upgrade and a fresh installation. Can you do it? Yes. Should you do it? Eeeeeh...

Upgrading from 32 to 64 bits without explodifying my system took me the better part of a week. Including manually fixing 600+ broken packages in aptitude, because the automatic resolver started looping, apparently due to PERL:i386 (required by installed packages) being incompatible with PERL:amd64 (required by the packages you are trying to install).

This was after I manually installed a bunch of packages, including the correct version of PERL, to fix an apt screwup: you see, apt-get -f install (which is required to get a mostly-working 64-bits system) will uninstall PERL32 in order to install PERL64... Then merrily proceed to try removing 1234 other packages before getting 'round to actually reinstalling PERL. Needless to say, this is not a good idea, when a sizable portion of the apt system (an lots of other things, really) depends on a working PERL.

The reinstallation was performed entirely from console (aptitude FTW, of course), because the console pretty much only requires a working bash (and working curses for aptitude, but if you try to do this, curses will be plentiful, you can bet on it), whereas X requires... Way too much stuff to trust it to keep working while you perform open heart surgery on your system.

All that said, the following Debian article explains how to cross-grade your system:


This is not the same article described in the original accepted answer, because in the mean time things have changed, mostly for the better.

The basics are:

 dpkg --add-architecture amd64

 apt-get update

 apt-get install linux-image-amd64:amd64


 apt-get clean

 apt-get --download-only install dpkg:amd64 tar:amd64 apt:amd64

 dpkg --install /var/cache/apt/archives/*_amd64.deb

At which point you will be able to do this:

dpkg --print-architecture 

Resulting in the following line:


Yay. Ubuntu thinks it's a proper 64-bits system. How cute. You know better, of course.

Now you can run:

apt-get update

This will download the list of all 64-bits packages, which you will need to finish crossgrading your system.

At this point, your system acts very much like nothing happened, except that your ability to install anything is well and truly broken.

You see, you now have multiple i386 packages that don't have an actual multiarch equivalent, so you will be stuck with various technically "unavailable" dependencies. You already have them installed, so your system will run, but at this stage... I wouldn't trust apt any farther than I can throw it.

The article recognizes the need for a fix, and suggests you do so thusly:

 apt-get -f install

This will cause apt to try and fix the ungodly mess you just made. And believe me, you just made an ungodly mess.

One minor hiccup of this procedure is that it will cause portions of the apt system (and other critical subsystems) to be uninstalled partway through, causing errors during the remainder of the process (you don't say), and leaving you up the creek.

Luckily, not without a paddle. You can install the now-missing packages via:

dpkg -i/var/cache/apt/archives/(package)*amd64.deb

Note that, at least for me, the network stopped working at one... Well, several... Points. This was due to apt removing a number of packages that are necessary to keep your network working (such as your dhcp client).

Then, apt cheerfully informed me that it needed to download some additional packages. Without a working network.

If this sounds like you are officially boned... Well, that's because you are.

Unless you have a wired nework (your WiFi packages have already been uninstalled, and WiFI is rather more complicated to get to work anyway), know its configuration information, and are able to use ifconfig, route, etc.

Just keep trying apt-get -f install until you get no more errors.

After apt is satisfied with the state of your system you can run aptitude and manually fix the 600 broken packages you will find. Apparently apt and aptitude have different ideas of what a working system looks like. Don't ask me why.

Also, as I mentioned, the aptitude resolver enters an infinite loop if you try to let it do its thing automatically. Can't blame it, really, it was designed to start on a working system and help the user add or remove some packages, not fix this kind of abomination.

This is the part that took me several days to fix, a little bit at a time, using a different system to occasionally go online and make sure I wasn't accidentally reformatting the family dog.

If all this hasn't discouraged you yet, note that this was my second attempt at a live upgrade.

The first one ended with an mkfs.

Hint, hint, big fscking hint. Or rather, big mkfsing hint.

But again, it actually worked in the end.

The system is running, it mostly uses 64-bits packages (there are a couple of exceptions that I will have to fix eventually), and can run applications requiring a 64-bits installation.

It is possible.

If it's your only option, for whatever reason, you can do it by following the procedure described above - if you have the required domain knowledge.

If you don't know the difference between sync and rsync, if you aren't comfortable with insmod, if you don't know how to use ifconfig, if you don't routinely prefer aptitude to the graphical installer whose name escapes me at the moment... Just make a backup of your data and install from scratch.

It's way less painful, it will save you a lot of time, and it will leave you with a fresh installation, without any unexpected leftovers ready to bite you in the rear 11 months from now.

If you already made a backup of the stuff you don't want to lose, and have no other choice - or just like learning by banging your head against things (particularly the wall)... Well, you can try.

It might even work.

  • I love this question, ~7 years later and it keeps getting better. I find myself well in to 2018 now and also wanting to convert my system from 32 bit to 64 bit. Debian has an excellent wiki article here, basically a HOWTO on converting architectures on a live system. One issue I've been having is that, despite adding both architectures and running an apt-get update, some packages simply do not show up for one architecture.
    – gcode
    Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 2:43

This might be a much more reasonable thing to do once the multiarch spec is implemented. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MultiarchSpec -- currently postponed to 11.04, but keep in mind it's been postponed for about 6 releases now. That said, actual progress was made in 10.10, so maybe it'll happen this time.

Until then, don't bother. Backup your data, repartition if you want, and reinstall.

  • 1
    Can't wait for the MultiArch to be implemented!
    – dag729
    Commented Oct 3, 2010 at 8:52
  • I believe 11.10 does use multiarch now. Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 8:12
  • Suppose I'm a time traveller that is here ~5 years after your answer, is it "more reasonable" now? Or, still re-install? Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 21:21
  • 1
    It's now at least possible to forcibly manually install packages from other arches in a way that doesn't break apt. But no, you should just reinstall. Commented May 2, 2015 at 2:26

No you can not upgrade from 32 bit to 64 bit. It has to be a clean (fresh) install

Before you do make sure that your system is capable of a 64bit operating system, and check the minimum requirement for Ubuntu 64. You can do so Here

The terms 32-bit and 64-bit refer to the way a computer's CPU, handles information. The 64-bit version handles large amounts of RAM much better than a 32-bit system. If you are running a 32-bit version of Ubuntu, you can only perform an upgrade to another 32-bit version of Ubuntu. Similarly, if you are running a 64-bit version of Ubuntu, you can only perform an upgrade to another 64-bit version of Ubuntu.

If you want to move from 32-bit Ubuntu to a 64-bit Ubuntu, you'll need to back up your files, do a clean install of 64-bit Ubuntu.


You can now do this fairly easily with recent installers (at least with 13.10 which I just used). Boot into the 64-bit image DVD (or USB drive or whatever) and choose the first option to reinstall, keeping your personal files. This works even if you don't have a separate /home partition.

This will reinstall most of the system including apps, but it takes a list of your installed packages beforehand to reinstall them from repo, so as long as a package has a 64-bit version available to it at the time, you should end up with most of your apps when you reboot. In my experience a few didn't get installed - mainly those that had been installed through 3rd party repos such as Google Chrome - but it doesn't take long to install these manually afterwards.

  • Can you share a source with instructions on how to do this / caveats? Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 4:39
  • I checked this with 14.04 LTS and unfortunately, it can't be done anymore. For the gory details, see my answer below.
    – filofel
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 18:47

It is possible to upgrade ubuntu 32bit to 64bit, it will have lots and lots of unwanted files, and you have to clean it manually. Truth is "HEADACHE".


What ever you do, first back-up your important data. Then go for research with os.

First try live-cd of 64bit. If it works go for fresh install, recommended.

Also there are some software, which are still 32bit. So to install 32bit software on a 64bit os, we need some backward processing.. these will also a bad thing.

Think for some time : whats your requirement, what you are going to do, next plan/work with 64bit os.

  • 1
    What do you mean by "to install 32bit software on a 64bit os, we need some backward processing"? x86_64 is supposed to be like a superset of x86_32, so, things just work, don't they? Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 21:24

Your OS is still 32bit as you upgraded from a 32bit - see the answer in the comment for further information.

by the way is it possible for the coexistence of 32 bit Win and 64 bit Ubuntu?

Absolutely - it's called a dualboot - you would have the option at login to use either one.

Download and burn the 64 bit iso and boot with it, it will prompt you with various options - you would want to choose the Install alongside option.



I just tried the solution suggested above by Nick (Oct 19'13): Using the Ubuntu 64-bit Live CD to do a 64-bit reinstall.
I used the Ubuntu 14.04.4 Live CD. But if the first option is indeed called a "reinstall", it more precisely appears as:

Erase Ubuntu 14.04.4 LTS and reinstall  
Warning: This will delete all your Ubuntu 14.04 programs, documents,
photos, music, and all other files.  

The two other options offered by the installer on the Live CD are:

  • Install alongside (dual boot option)
  • Erase disk and install Ubuntu

To be real sure, I tried with a test disk, and indeed, the first thing the "reinstall" option does is to reformat the existing ext4 partition. No luck.
So I'm afraid the "upgrade in-place to 64-bit" solution Nick suggested doesn't exist anymore in 14.04.
And BTW, Canonical, I hardly see the point for the installer having both the so-called "reinstall" option and the "Erase disk and install" one. Both seem to do about the same thing.

Too bad, since such an upgrade-to-64-bit-in-place option could have been real nice!


There is an automated tool capable of doing this:


See --help; use --to-64bit switch


You need to do a fresh install with the 64bit version of Ubuntu. It is possible to have 32bit windows and 64bit Ubuntu, as long as they are not sharing the same disk or partition, for obvious reasons. Refer to the documentation for howto on dual-booting.


It is important that the CPU on the machine you're installing onto supports 64bit instruction set (which most modern CPUs should by now)

  • 2
    Did you even bother to read the question?
    – dag729
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 20:59

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