Installing Elementary OS “Loki” on 32bit architecture

I have an old Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2 with an Intel Atom processor that has mostly been lying around, since I mostly use my desktop for my day-to-day stuff and I have a halfway decent laptop to take with me. So I decided I wanted to give it to a friend who could really use it, but unfortunately, it has always had some serious performance issues, no matter which desktop environment I tried. It came pre-installed with Windows XP, which I dumped almost immediately, but even that wasn’t working so well. I tried pretty much every Linux DE installable from the Ubuntu repositories, including Mate and LXDE. The only one that made it sort of usable was Openbox, and that’s stretching the definition of usable a bit. So I didn’t feel to great about giving it to a non-techie friend.

Recently, though, I came across Elementary OS and tried it in a virtual machine. I was pleasantly surprised, both by its performance and the simplicity of its user interface. I did a little Googling and found this article on how to install the Pantheon desktop on top of an existing Ubuntu 17.10 installation (which is what I had running on the netbook, Ubuntu Mate 17.10.) The PPAs listed in that article have 32bit versions, so I tried those. It worked great, and the performance was the best I’ve ever had on that netbook. So I decided that I wanted to dump the Ubuntu installation and start with Elementary OS from scratch, only to discover that there are no 32bit images. I did some more research, but all the forum discussions I found told me it couldn’t be done. I refused to settle for that, and I did figure it out. I thought I’d share the process.

The current stable version, Loki, is based on Ubuntu 16.04. So I went to the Ubuntu website and downloaded the net installer for for the 32bit architecture. It’s called “mini.iso”. The netbook doesn’t have a CD drive, so I put the image on an SD card with Etcher.

For the network installation to work, I had to connect this particular computer with a cable, since the built-in Broadcom wifi chip is not supported out of the box. Then I performed a pretty much standard installation, with one exception — I only installed the absolute basic system:

At this screen, make sure only “standard system utilities” is selected.

Here’s how to go from there:

After the installation is complete, boot into your new system. You will be presented with a console log-in. Log in with your user name and password, then execute the following:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/stable
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:elementary-os/os-patches
sudo apt update
sudo apt install elementary-desktop

You can also add the official Elementary OS repository:

sudo apt-key add key.asc
sudo apt update

In order to get the official Elementary app store, called “Appcenter”, just perform

sudo apt install appcenter

After a reboot, you can log into the Pantheon desktop. The first order of business, depending on your hardware configuration, might be to install the proprietary drivers.

sudo apt install software-properties-gtk

You may have to restart, but after that you just click on the Applications menu and start typing “drivers”. Select “Additional Drivers” from the results. From there you can select whatever proprietary drivers might be necessary for your system to function, including the Broadcom wireless driver.

After I went through all of this, my Netbook is, pretty much for the first time since I bought it about eight years ago, actually usable.

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