"mtune=... does NOT affect the instruction sets used, or machines the executable is run on.
For that (eg, enabling SSE), you'll need march=....
If you do march=core2 for example (on a new GCC), it will use all the instruction sets available to Core 2 CPUs. march=x also sets mtune=x. The executable won't run on older CPUs.
If you ONLY use mtune=core2, it will generate code that runs the best on a Core 2, but will still only use instructions available to all x86 CPUs (eg, no SSE), hence it will still run on old CPUs, just a little slower.
As a real world example, I think a few years ago some Linux distribution decides to use -march=pentium3 -mtune=pentium4, or something like that. That means, the code is guaranteed to run on a P3, but optimized for a P4, since they predict most people will be running for a P4.
If you don't use any flag, GCC will assume -march=i386 (lowest x86).
If you want GCC to use all instruction sets on your CPU, and optimize for your CPU (because, for example, the code will only be run on your machine), you can do -march=native (which also sets mtune=native). Only available in newer GCC (it was introduced in 4.3 or 4.4 I THINK).
-m32 and -m64 are only for generating 32-bit code on a 64-bit machine, or generating 64-bit code on a 32-bit machine, respectively. GCC defaults to 32-bit on 32-bit, and 64-bit on 64-bit."