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I had installed Debian 6 Squeeze on my laptop a couple of weeks ago. Coming from Ubuntu, I did this by downloading the hybrid i386 image and booting it off a USB drive.

Now on GRUB, I'm presented with two kernels—a i486 one and a i686 one. Since the i686 one was at the top and as I didn't know anything about kernel architectures, I didn't care much and have been using it so far.

But in the last few days I've been have nothing but trouble. The system crashes without warning, and sometimes shows a kernel panic.

As a last attempt I tried using the i486 kernel and things have been going smoothly. My laptop's processor is a first generation Intel Core i3. What may have caused the problem? And why didn't I get two different kernels when I used to run Ubuntu?

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As for why this didn't happen with Ubuntu: their big selling point is (or at least has been represented to me as) not making new users make decisions. So, only the most compatible kernel will be visible unless you jump through some hoops to change things. –  dmckee Feb 19 '12 at 23:52
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The i686 version is for all current Intel-compatible processor; the i486 version is for special/old hardware that is only compatible to the Intel 80486.

For your Intel Core i3, you can also use the 64-bit version (amd64) or the 32-bit "-bigmem" version, which provide both more security features.

If you have problems with the Squeeze i686 kernel you can try to switch to a newer kernel from Debian Backports.

See for example this FAQ for more information about the 64-bit version.

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