Linux Kernels

Every now and again I see a post about which kernel seemed to work best and I wonder why more forums don’t include a guide like this.

Of course we’re talking about Linux, and many people will have strong opinions about their preferences.

Essentially the basics are:

  • 32 bit kernels commonly including i-386,486, etc up to i-686-pae
  • 64 bit kernels i.e. x86_64

The 32 bit kernel even with the pae extention is not truly 64 bit but does it matter? In most cases if you are running with less than 4Gb of ram it really doesn’t. It can be a strong preference to use a 64 bit kernel in a system that can handle it with less than 4Gb of Ram but you are kind of defeating the advantage of the pae kernels.

64 bit operating systems have been around for awhile and Linux is not an exception. While there are plenty of software patches that make multiarch support reasonably easy, the question becomes about resource use, speed, program stability, and other possible drawbacks.

32 bit operating systems are in no way less capable on 64 bit machines, in fact depending on your setup they run code almost twice as fast in some instances.

Pae or Physical Address Extention simply means that the machine can move more than 4Gb of memory at a time so on a 64 bit machine a 32 bit operating system with pae can naturally run native code much more quickly.

It only really becomes prudent to use 64 bit operating system when you are using resource heavy programs by themselves and need every bit of available computing power rather than speed.

Often when you download a Linux iso and make an installation you have no idea which kernel to choose. But you can find out by checking the forums in some cases. In Linux Mint the software update tool shows the recommended kernel for your system, and usually it is the same kernel whether it is 32 or 64 bit so essentially switching kernels might become secondary to deciding whether to use 32 or 64 bit systems.


I have both, and until recently hadn’t tested them against each other however the 32 bit does seem faster in Linux Mint on two of my computers, while the 64 was definitely faster on one of them. All of these were 64 bit machines, and to test what was really happening I used Skype, with a movie going in the browser, and 9 programs open. With 2GB ram being the avg I saw plenty of cpu spikes but never hit the ram threshold to slow down the video or mess up the skype. (It did hang when I did this on LM-16 Petra)

Of course kernels are constantly evolving to include more support and safer coding practices that help eliminate vulnerabilities. A kernel with nvidia support headers will use very different configurations to accomplish some tasks than a mesa driven kernel header set.

Contributing factors to consider:

  • Chipset, whether intel, nvidia, or amd etc can have a huge impact on which programs might become problematic on your system.
  • Drivers, related to above there are drivers that can impact performance in really big ways especially graphics performance.
  • Hard Drive performance, (Obviously ssd makes much of the speed a non issue but still worth knowing)
  • Configured kernel & headers… The entire purpose of the article concludes in your discovering if your system even supports pae and/or 64 bit

If reading the flags to find out if your machine supports lm or long mode was your deciding factor in choosing a 64 bit os don’t be surprised if it actually still performs much better with an i-686-pae kernel.

Oh and Windows and Mac users are in the same situation during installations with one major exception, in Linux we get our drivers automatically and can simply add different ones if we want to.  So if you are upgrading to the next Windows or Mac system you might want to check this article when selecting an OS to install.

And also remeber to go download the drivers you’ll need, unless you are running Linux in which case you’re usually covered.

Spread the love

717 thoughts on “Linux Kernels”

  1. Hey there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading through your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects? Appreciate it!

  2. We stumbled over here from a different page and thought I should check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking into your web page yet again.

  3. Greetings from Florida! I’m bored to death at work so I decided to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break. I really like the info you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, superb blog!

  4. Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any helpful hints for first-time blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  5. It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this fantastic blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group. Chat soon!

  6. I’m not sure why but this weblog is loading extremely slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end? I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

  7. Does your site have a contact page? I’m having a tough time locating it but, I’d like to send you an e-mail. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

  8. Hey there! I’ve been reading your web site for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the great job!

  9. Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thanks

  10. I’m curious to find out what blog system you have been utilizing? I’m having some minor security issues with my latest site and I would like to find something more risk-free. Do you have any suggestions?

  11. Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thank you

  12. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this site. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very hard to get that “perfect balance” between superb usability and visual appeal. I must say you’ve done a amazing job with this. Additionally, the blog loads very quick for me on Firefox. Outstanding Blog!

  13. Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Cheers

  14. Heya this is kind of of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  15. This design is spectacular! You certainly know how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Fantastic job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

  16. Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and everything. But think of if you added some great photos or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with images and videos, this site could undeniably be one of the best in its field. Wonderful blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *