As time passes many older 32-bit computers are being phased out. But there are some still out there and the most important question is of course if they can run Blender.
The latest release of Blender does not run on a 32-bit computer. The latest release that had official support for 32-bit was version 2.80 released on July 30, 2019.
With the release of 2.81 Blender stopped supporting official builds for 32-bit platforms. Version 2.79 and older can all be running on a 32-bit computer.
In this article we will learn where we can get a 32-bit compatible version of Blender. Wich build we should use and what limitations we will encounter.
To get a 32-bit compatible version of Blender we need to look into the download archives. You can find them here.
External content: Blender download previous versions
Go to the "Blender2.80" folder for the latest release that supported 32-bit.
For the Windows platform, get the files "blender-2.80-windows32.msi" for the installer or the "blender-2.80-windows32.zip" for an extractable zip file.
For zip files I recommend that you get 7zip.
External content: 7-Zip.org
On Linux you can likely download it from your package manager but if not, you can download the "blender-2.80-linux-glibc224i686.tar.bz2" from the link above. Extract it to a subfolder inside your /opt folder.
For a 32-bit computer the choice stands mostly between version 2.79 and 2.80. There are several reasons why you would want one over the other for your older computer.
The first reason is that the user interface is quite different. Between Blender 2.79 and 2.80 there was a major overhaul of the interface and many default shortcuts where changed.
Related content: Blender shortcut keys: How to find, manage, change, and reset
If you are new to Blender and plan to upgrade your computer in the future to a 64-bit system, you will probably want to use Blender version 2.80.
This is because the interface is much more like later versions of Blender and once you upgrade your computer and switch to the latest version, you will have a much easier time to adapt if you have already gained some experience in 2.80 rather than in 2.79.
With that said, there are a few reasons to choose 2.79 as well.
The first reason is compatibility. There may be an add-on that has not been updated to work with Blender version 2.80. In those cases, we are stuck on an earlier version if we want the functionality the add-on provides.
We may also have a requirement to use the Blender internal render engine or game engine that was discontinued and replaced with Eevee with 2.80.
Another reason could be stability. 2.79 is a robust piece of software that builds on a whole line of improvements from previous versions. With 2.80 on the other hand much was changed, and many bugs were introduced.
2.79 is therefore likely more stable for your system than 2.80. Many of the stability issues in 2.80 has later been fixed but unfortunately a 32-bit system can't run those versions.
Another consideration is hardware compatibility. It could be that you can't run version 2.80 on your computer. The hardware requirements are increased from 2.79. The most notable is the requirement for OpenGL 3.3. If your graphics card does not support OpenGL3.3 Blender won't be able to start.
For Blender 2.79 support for OpenGL 2.1 is sufficient.
The most notable limitation you will run into is the RAM limit. A 32-bit computer is limited to 4GB of system memory. In most animation and rendering projects today this is an insufficient amount.
You will have to learn how to optimize your 3D projects around this limitation by using lower resolution textures, decrease the amount of geometry and particles to name a few RAM heavy elements of 3D art.
The more powerful hardware you have the better your experience with Blender will be.
Another limitation was regards using 2.80 with 32-bit. 32-bit computers are getting old and as we touched on earlier, older computers may have an older graphics card that does not support OpenGL version 3.3 and therefore won't run 2.80 32-bit.
In that case you are stuck on 2.79 or earlier versions.
In this article we discussed the limitations and things we must consider when running Blender on a 32-bit computer.
We are limited by the maximum amount of RAM we can use and by the versions of Blender we can run.
I still want to encourage you to try out Blender and learn 3D art. Even if it is a huge topic with many frustrations at times it is also very rewarding.