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Why does Ubuntu Download recommend 32-bit install?

On the Ubuntu download page, you have a choice between 32 and 64 bit, and the 32 bit one is "recommended". Why is that? I have a 64 bit processor on my Thinkpad W520, but I just installed the 32-bit Ubuntu (Natty). I'm afraid that if I don't go along with the "recommended" 32-bit version, I'll have hardware driver problems. Am I just being paranoid?


It appears that the recommendation is to install the safest and most compatible version. There are some programs and even some hardware that work best - or even only - with the 32-bit version, although these are few and becoming fewer.

When I installed Ubuntu for the first time a few months ago, I followed the recommendation, too, and so got the 32-bit version. After awhile I got to wondering if I could have installed the 64-bit version, so I downloaded and installed it. I found the 64-bit version to be just a bit faster and everything ran on it, so I've stayed with it.

However, I also found that one piece of hardware, the Linksys AE1000 access point, did not have a 64-bit driver and the 32-bit driver would not work with it. For me it was no problem, as I had an ethernet connection on my desktop and didn't need the wireless access point (I had installed it with the 32-bit version just to see if I could get it to work). But if I had been using a laptop that needed that particular hardware, I would've had to go back to the 32-bit Ubuntu. So I would suggest trying the 64-bit Ubuntu, but don't delete the 32-bit version until you're sure the 64-bit works.

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    By the way, regarding the problem I was having with the Linksys AE1000, it has been solved. A thread in UbuntuForums dealt with the problem, and one of the participants posted the solution on a different website (i2productions.com/lir/?p=228). It works great! – Kelley Dec 2 '11 at 5:10
  • This article (phoronix.com/…) released today appears to confirm hat 64-bit is almost always faster than 32-bit. If you can run 64-bit, in most cases you should. – Kelley Feb 28 '12 at 20:52

That has nothing to do with paranoia. You can use the 32bit version on a 64bit computer, but you cannot use the 64bit version on a 32bit computer. That makes 32bit a "safer" choice and unless you have more than 4GB RAM, the 32bit version will be fine. In the past, the 32bit version would also provide better Flash and some other things, but I don't think that's currently an issue.

It is very unlikely that you will have any driver issues with the 64bit version, although it is theoretically possible if you are dependent on weird, proprietary drivers.

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