Running a 32-Bit Distro Without PAE
I use 32-bit on my 64-bit computers. Moving to 64-bit has been on my to-do list for a while, but I am content with the 32-bit performance. Therefore, while 32-bit VirtualBox supports 64-bit guests on a 64-bit host regardless of the operating system, I prefer to run 32-bit guests. Even if I had a 64-bit operating system this would be the case. With a 32-bit guest I do not have to allocate as much RAM. The 32-bit virtual systems seem to run better than the 64-bit systems.
Many of the 32-bit distros I have tested the past few years require a PAE enabled CPU. While enabling PAE in VirtualBox is a single check box, seems this requirement for PAE comes associated with minimum RAM requirements too.
Some of the server virtual machines (VMs) I have been tinkering with of late do not need gobs of RAM or PAE.
Running such 32-bit distros on older physical hardware is impossible with this requirement.
I do not understand the design decision of forcing users to use a PAE enabled CPU on a 32-bit distro. PAE is needed only to support more than 3 GB of RAM. Most 32-bit users likely will have main boards that physically do not support more than 1 or 2 GB of RAM.
Possibly there is a connection with compiling kernels for i686 rather than i486. I do not know.