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FreeBSD Announces End of Support for 32-bit Platforms in Future Releases

FreeBSD will soon stop supporting the 32-bit platforms.

The FreeBSD project has officially announced its decision to deprecate support for 32-bit platforms in the upcoming major releases. This means that FreeBSD 15.0 will not include the armv6, i386, and powerpc platforms, and FreeBSD 16.0 will exclude armv7.

Despite this change, it’s crucial to note that support for executing 32-bit binaries on 64-bit kernels will be maintained through at least the lifetime of the stable 16 branch, enabling smooth transitions to 64-bit versions.

FreeBSD 14
FreeBSD 14

Background and Rationale

Since its inception, FreeBSD has been dedicated to delivering a stable and high-performance BSD-based operating system tailored for modern and widely-available systems. Initially focusing on the i386 architecture, FreeBSD has continuously adapted its support for various architectures based on market changes and developer resources.

The decision to phase out support for specific architectures is influenced by factors such as the future viability and availability of systems using that architecture, as well as the availability of developer resources. Some changes and features require explicit support on each architecture, and those that are less well-maintained can become a hindrance to the implementation of new features.

Market Trends and Developer Resources

Looking ahead, general-purpose 32-bit platforms are experiencing a decline in the marketplace, with varying speeds of obsolescence. The FreeBSD team emphasizes that their resources are finite, and dedicating efforts to less-used architectures can delay the implementation of new features on platforms with stronger support.

Of the existing 32-bit platforms (i386, armv[67], powerpc), only armv7 remains prevalent in recent system designs. The team believes that FreeBSD’s future development will be more efficiently served by focusing developer resources on 64-bit systems. As part of this strategy, the project will not add new 32-bit platforms, and existing support may be extended only if there is substantial demand and a commitment to increased developer resources.

User Impact and Future Considerations

For users currently relying on FreeBSD for 32-bit platforms, the announcement underscores the importance of planning for a transition to 64-bit systems. The continued support for running 32-bit binaries on 64-bit kernels ensures compatibility during this shift.

From a user standpoint, the decision signifies FreeBSD’s dedication to providing a cutting-edge operating system optimized for modern architectures. By concentrating efforts on 64-bit systems, FreeBSD aims to deliver improved performance, security, and compatibility with the latest hardware and software advancements.

For more details on this transition, refer to the release notes (under heading “Future FreeBSD releases”: https://www.freebsd.org/releases/14.0R/relnotes/

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