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I am a little confused about the Debian installer. I chose the i386 release of Debian 6, downloaded the ISO and installed in a Core2-Quad with 4Gb of RAM. That lead me to a System with a 64Bit Kernel and a 32Bit environment (is that the correct word for it?). Why would the installer chose to install a 64Bit Kernel, even if i386 installation media was explicitly selected? Though it is easy to change the kernel manually after the installation is complete, I really would like to know if there is a good technical reason for selecting a 64Bit Kernel in this case.

Thanks in Advance.

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Are you sure you didn't choose a 64-bit kernel during installation (is there even such an option)? Curiously, which Debian release is this? –  Tshepang May 28 '11 at 18:29
    
I am not sure if you can choose the Kernel if you use expert installation. If you use the standard installation procedure you don't have much choice. We are talking about release 6 'squeeze'. –  techshack May 29 '11 at 13:34
    
Yeah, you can choose which kernel to use under Expert installation. However, I remember options for 486 and 686 kernels, not 64bit. You can verify if you want? If not, maybe you have a custom image for the installer? –  Tshepang May 29 '11 at 15:23
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2 Answers

The Kernels for AMD K8+ are 64 Bit for a long time in Debian. There might be some minor advantages in performance: Some speed comes from the kernel being better optimized for the processors feature set, but having the registers twice as big both in count and in size should help too.

I have one Debian system upgraded from K7 to K8 and installed the K8 optimized - and thus 64 Bit - Kernel, with the userland still on i386. No problems or issues so far, and it is running for quite some time now.

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One major problem with mixing 32Bit an 64Bit is that VirtualBox will not run on such a system. –  techshack May 28 '11 at 7:44
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

The actually available kernels depend on the installation medium (architecture as well as disc type (minimal installer, dvd,...). The Installer selects a Kernel that fits the architecture. Expert install gives more control over the selection. (Having a 64bit architecture and >4GB makes you want the kernel to be 64bit.)

If one really needs the Kernel to be 32bit, it is easy to install whatever fits after the installer has completed. Just look for the available kernels:

#apt-cache search linux-image

And install what is needed, like:

#apt-get install linux-image-2.6.32-5-686-bigmem.
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