Tag Archives: computer-memory

How Much Computer Memory Does Windows Need?


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I guess I need more memory, since I keep forgetting my own name! Sadly, I can’t just buy and install some in my brain. The question that Lynn sent in to PCPitStop is centered around the amount of memory her computer has. She purchased a computer with 128MB of memory, which is running Vista. The store clerks keep telling her she needs more RAM, but she is wondering if they are just trying to get her to spend more money.

I’m not sure how she even bought a computer with only 128MB of RAM installed. I honestly don’t think that’s totally correct, but I have been known to be wrong before. She mentions that the computer isn’t heavily used – it’s mainly a web browsing/email machine. Even so, I’m fairly sure that Vista won’t even run on that amount of memory.

No matter – whatever amount you have is fine, as long as the machine is running ok. If it’s working to your satisfaction – don’t change a thing. If you feel it is draggy, slow to respond or do things… then by all means, look into upping the amount of memory you have.

Vista will run optimally with 2GB of memory. Keep in mind that memory isn’t where you store files and folders… that’s the hard drive. The memory is where things happen, such as opening a program. When you click a program, the pc takes it and throws it into the memory. Poof! It then opens.

If you’re happy with the way everything runs, then leave it alone. Don’t tempt fate. I never recommend that! At some point in the future when things feel sluggish, you may want to check out Windows 7. It runs a heck of a lot faster than Vista. For the money… it’s a better operating system.

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32-Bit Windows and 4GB of RAM

Getting 32-bit Windows to recognize anything beyond 2GB of installed RAM is a seemingly futile effort. Even if your hardware supports the possibility, the software may hold you back – and performance gains are questionable:

The reduction in available system memory depends on the devices that are installed in the computer. However, to avoid potential driver compatibility issues, the 32-bit versions of Windows Vista limit the total available memory to 3.12 GB. If a computer has many installed devices, the available memory may be reduced to 3 GB or less. However, the maximum memory available in 32-bit versions of Windows Vista is typically 3.12 GB.

So, people use a PAE switch to get past the imposed 2GB barrier. Here’s a description of the 4 GB RAM Tuning feature and the Physical Address Extension switch:

When the /3GB switch is used with Windows XP Professional, with Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition, with Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition, the /3GB switch works identically across versions. This functionality lets device-driver developers test their drivers in this configuration without having to install one of the Windows Server 2003 products just listed. The user-mode memory space is now limited to 3 GB.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast:

The /3GB switch can cause some applications to have problems that are related to address dependencies or to a reduction in kernel space.

Bottom line: if you have 4GB of RAM in your system (or more), and you want to take full advantage of it, start using a 64-bit OS.