Most modern computers are capable of running a 64-bit operating system. But just because a computer supports it doesn’t mean that’s what’s running. Here’s how to tell whether you’re running a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Linux.

For the most part, we recommend running a 64-bit version of Linux. You’ll get better performance and security. The only times you might need to use a 32-bit version instead is if you’re still running a 32-bit processor, or in the very unlikely event you proprietary hardware drivers only available in 32-bit form (though, that’s typically more a Windows problem). If you’re ever installing software and are asked to choose between a 32-bit and 64-bit version, here are two ways you can find out what flavor of Linux you’re running.

Option One: Use the lscpu Command at the Terminal

To test whether your Linux computer has a 32-bit or 64-bit CPU and to see what version of Linux is installed, open your terminal, type the following command at the prompt, and then hit Enter:


The “Architecture” entry tells you what type of CPU you have (where “x86_32” signifies 32-bit and “x86_64” signifies 64-bit). The “CPU op-mode(s)” entry tells you what version of Linux you’re running. If you’re running a 64-bit version, you’ll see both 32-bit and 64-bit modes listed (since a 64-bit processor can run both). If you only see the 32-bit mode listed, you’re running a 32-bit version of Linux.

RELATED: Why Don't We Have 128-Bit Computers Yet?

Option Two: Use the Graphical Interface

If you would rather use a graphical tool to find out whether your system is 32-bit or 64-bit, click the “System” menu (the gear button) in the upper-right corner of the screen, and then select the “System Settings” options from the dropdown menu.

In the “System Settings” window, double-click the “Details” icon in the “System” section.

In the “Details” window, on “Overview” tab, look for the “OS type” entry. You’ll see either “64-bit” or “32-bit” listed, along with other basic information about your Ubuntu system.

Note that, unlike with the terminal command, the “Details” window only shows you what OS type you’re running—not the architecture of your system. This means if you’re running a 32-bit version of Linux, you still won’t know if your computer could support the 64-bit version. For that, you’ll have to use the lscpu command we described in the previous section.

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Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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