Can you get virtual machines to run on 32-bit CPUs? As far as I know, there isn't a single 32-bit CPU in existence, with the exception of the later generation of Pentium 4's, that support virtual machines. By virtual machines, I mean that the guest OS is not running in a paravirutalization setup, and that there is separation between the host and guest OS via hardware.

Just wondering.

EDIT: wrote this original post very very very late at night...thanks for pointing out that "hypervisor" isn't something in hardware; re-edited for clarity.

  • To paraphrase your question, Are there any 32bit only cpus that support Intels VT (or similar) extensions. Is this correct ? Jun 14, 2009 at 6:48
  • I've just done some digging and I can't find an Intel 32-bit-only chip that supports VT - happy to be proven wrong though.
    – Chopper3
    Jun 14, 2009 at 12:40
  • To both, yes, this is about hardware virtualization, not paravirtualization (where chunks of the guest OS are interecepted and either rewritten or run in a fashion that does not have true separation) Jun 14, 2009 at 12:45
  • As you have software bugs, it could happen to have microcode or even hardware bugs. What I want to say is that you will never have a "true" separation on an Intel architecture. Mar 6, 2011 at 2:03

8 Answers 8


The Core Duo T2500 (Yonah) 32-bit CPU in my Thinkpad T60p notebook has Intel VT.


Heavens yes. VMWare was doing this for years before AMD and Intel rolled out their virtualization enhancements at the CPU level. It just wasn't quite as efficient. It was 64-bit that really allowed virtualization to take off, as it removed the RAM ceiling.

I was running virtualized NetWare as early as 2001 in VMWare. Performance sucked hard since NetWare NOOPs instead of HALTs during idle, which was why the VM-Tools were a required thing as it intercepted the idle-loop NOOPs and translated them into HALTs. That way the single threaded CPUs we were running back then could actually allow the host OS to do stuff.

  • 1
    Nice answer, upvote for using the phrase, "Heavens, yes!" :) Jun 14, 2009 at 14:12
  • Not entirely answering my question (which is about hardware virtualization) but +1 for pointing out that paravirtualization is tried-and-true, and has been around for a long time. Jun 14, 2009 at 19:59

Well VMWare have been about for around 10 years, go I'm going to go with Yes. I remember running stuff on VMWare workstation and being amazed that you could actually make virtualisation work on a PC - I'd only seen it on mainframes up until that point and thought it wouldn't ever trickle down to the point where anyone on an average home computer could do it!


I've had VirtualBox running FreeBSD 7.2 or Windows 98 as guests on Ubuntu 9.04 as a host on an old PIII.

  • 1
    +1 for flogging a PIII hard enough to do what it wasn't designed for. I have a Tyan T230 I'm refitting with dual Tualatin cores for a "toy server". Good times. Jun 14, 2009 at 19:24
  • This is a Gigabyte GA-6BXD dual slot-1 server from 1998 that I resurrected and swapped a couple of PIII-650's from eBay for the PII-450's that were in it. It runs Gnome, Open Office and the new dev version of Chrome for Linux really well. But it really shines at showing what a pig Firefox 3 is. Jun 14, 2009 at 19:51

yes but not fullVM it will be paraVM


Answering the revised question, do any 32-bit CPUs support a hardware hypervisor.

No, and so far there are no x86_64 CPUs that support it either. The Intel VT-x and AMD-V extensions are not hypervisors, they just make the job of a software hypervisor much simpler. The closest we've come to a hardware hypervisor on the x86 platform is embedded ESX, which does it almost at the BIOS level. But that's still firmware, not hardware.


There are about three ways to run virtual machines (sorted from best performance to least):

  1. Paravirtualised (Go Xen!)
  2. Hardware Assisted Virtualization (Intel-VT & AMD-V)
  3. Binary Translation

As far as I know, you don't need Intel-VT or AMD-V with Binary Translation. VMware ESX and Microsoft Hyper-V both support Binary Translation, but Xen doesn't.

If you want more information about how these things work, check out Wikipedia.


Absolutely Yes.

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