Linus Torvalds Considers Dropping i486 Support

Oct 26, 2022

In a message to the Linux kernel mailing list, creator Linus Torvalds indicates that it's time to jettison support for i486 machines in with Linux kernel.

For anyone who still depends on aging hardware for Linux use, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Linus Torvalds has announced that he is considering dropping support for aging i486 hardware in the kernel.

On this issue, Torvalds says, "We got rid of i386 support back in 2012. Maybe it's time to get rid of i486 support in 2022?"

The good news is, i486 hardware is pretty irrelevant at this point and anyone still depending on such hardware is on borrowed time anyway. In fact, i486 hardware is pretty much considered a relic of days gone by. However, that doesn't mean it's completely vanished from sight.

Torvalds received a bit of pushback from the statement, as such hardware is still being shipped. And given that i486 is still the listed minimum requirement for most Linux distributions and is well accepted by lightweight Linux distributions such as Tiny Core Linux, the idea might get enough flack that it could be set aside for another year.

However, if Torvalds has his way, the writing is definitely on the wall and i486 support in the Linux kernel will eventually be dropped.

This all might well come down to cmpxchg8b, which is directly tied to the Pentium F00F bug. The issue might simply become a matter of security. And given how much work goes into the Linux kernel (and how complicated it has become), it wouldn't surprise me in the least if i486 hardware is dropped for this reason alone.

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