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Will 32 Bit Windows 7 Benefit/recognize 4 Gb Ram Upgrade?

#1 User is offline   doslover 

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 07:34 PM

I have a 2 year old acer Aspire 5100 laptop that came pre-loaded with Vista Home Premium, and that I recently upgraded to 32 bit Windows 7 Home Premium. The computer has 2Gb of ram and can be upgraded to 4Gb of ram by replacing the two 1Gb modules with two 2Gb soDIMM dual channel modules. My computer had run slowly under Vista, even with 2Gb, however I postponed increasing the ram, since I was having a lot of problems with Vista and didn't want to throw good money after bad. Now that I have installed Windows 7 and it is running cleanly, I'm thinking of increasing the ram to 4Gb, and was wondering if I'll see any real benefit. Windows 7 seems to run much quicker than Vista did, so maybe I'll only get marginally better performance? Also, I've heard conflicting statements as to how much memory 32 bit windows can really handle; some say 4Gb but others say it's more like 3Gb. So what do you think, worth it or not?
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#2 User is offline   lutra 

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 09:22 PM

View Postdoslover, on 31 October 2009 - 07:34 PM, said:

I have a 2 year old acer Aspire 5100 laptop that came pre-loaded with Vista Home Premium, and that I recently upgraded to 32 bit Windows 7 Home Premium. The computer has 2Gb of ram and can be upgraded to 4Gb of ram by replacing the two 1Gb modules with two 2Gb soDIMM dual channel modules. My computer had run slowly under Vista, even with 2Gb, however I postponed increasing the ram, since I was having a lot of problems with Vista and didn't want to throw good money after bad. Now that I have installed Windows 7 and it is running cleanly, I'm thinking of increasing the ram to 4Gb, and was wondering if I'll see any real benefit. Windows 7 seems to run much quicker than Vista did, so maybe I'll only get marginally better performance? Also, I've heard conflicting statements as to how much memory 32 bit windows can really handle; some say 4Gb but others say it's more like 3Gb. So what do you think, worth it or not?


The 32-bit version of Windows 7 can only recognize 3328MB (3.25GB) of RAM. So if you have two 2GB sticks of RAM in your machine, it will only utilize 3328MB. That's not bad honestly, and most 2x2GB RAM only costs 60-80 dollars so it is an inexpensive upgrade to make.

Should you spend the money though? It depends on what you do. I suggest you use the system monitor gadget in Windows 7 to view your RAM usage for a few days. See how much percent that you typically use, and what your peek percents are. If you find you use less than half of your RAM, then don't upgrade. If you typically use 75% of your RAM or more, then definitely upgrade. If you use between 50 and 75%, then only upgrade if you have the money and feel like doing it.
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#3 User is offline   rgreen4 

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 11:08 PM

View Postdoslover, on 31 October 2009 - 07:34 PM, said:

I have a 2 year old acer Aspire 5100 laptop that came pre-loaded with Vista Home Premium, and that I recently upgraded to 32 bit Windows 7 Home Premium. The computer has 2Gb of ram and can be upgraded to 4Gb of ram by replacing the two 1Gb modules with two 2Gb soDIMM dual channel modules. My computer had run slowly under Vista, even with 2Gb, however I postponed increasing the ram, since I was having a lot of problems with Vista and didn't want to throw good money after bad. Now that I have installed Windows 7 and it is running cleanly, I'm thinking of increasing the ram to 4Gb, and was wondering if I'll see any real benefit. Windows 7 seems to run much quicker than Vista did, so maybe I'll only get marginally better performance? Also, I've heard conflicting statements as to how much memory 32 bit windows can really handle; some say 4Gb but others say it's more like 3Gb. So what do you think, worth it or not?


You obviously have the Windows 7 upgrade package, is there any reason you did not upgrade to the 64bit version? It will recognize and utilize more than 4GB even if the machine won't, and you won't have the notch taken out of the memory by the video memory. Four GB of system memory will mean that 4GB is usable.
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#4 User is offline   smax013 

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 11:13 PM

View Postdoslover, on 31 October 2009 - 07:34 PM, said:

I have a 2 year old acer Aspire 5100 laptop that came pre-loaded with Vista Home Premium, and that I recently upgraded to 32 bit Windows 7 Home Premium. The computer has 2Gb of ram and can be upgraded to 4Gb of ram by replacing the two 1Gb modules with two 2Gb soDIMM dual channel modules. My computer had run slowly under Vista, even with 2Gb, however I postponed increasing the ram, since I was having a lot of problems with Vista and didn't want to throw good money after bad. Now that I have installed Windows 7 and it is running cleanly, I'm thinking of increasing the ram to 4Gb, and was wondering if I'll see any real benefit. Windows 7 seems to run much quicker than Vista did, so maybe I'll only get marginally better performance? Also, I've heard conflicting statements as to how much memory 32 bit windows can really handle; some say 4Gb but others say it's more like 3Gb. So what do you think, worth it or not?


Yes and no.

All 32 bit versions of Windows can address a total of 4 GB of memory. This includes memory used for video cards. Thus, you will never get "full" access to all 4 GB as usable system memory in Windows. Typically, you will get somewhere between about 2.75 GB and 3.5 GB of usable system memory when you install 4 GB of RAM depending on your graphics card and some other more minor factors.

My desktop with 4 GB of RAM has 3.5 GB of usable system memory in both Windows XP and Vista (both 32 bit at this time for me). This is due to my graphics card having 512 MB of VRAM.
Good riddance PCWorld.
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#5 User is offline   doslover 

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 08:13 AM

View Postsmax013, on 31 October 2009 - 11:13 PM, said:


Yes and no.

All 32 bit versions of Windows can address a total of 4 GB of memory. This includes memory used for video cards. Thus, you will never get "full" access to all 4 GB as usable system memory in Windows. Typically, you will get somewhere between about 2.75 GB and 3.5 GB of usable system memory when you install 4 GB of RAM depending on your graphics card and some other more minor factors.

My desktop with 4 GB of RAM has 3.5 GB of usable system memory in both Windows XP and Vista (both 32 bit at this time for me). This is due to my graphics card having 512 MB of VRAM.


OK, so if my laptop has 2Gb installed ram and reports that 1.75Gb are usable, is the remaining 250Mb being used for video? My video is embedded and does not have any dedicated ram of its own. And if I increase the ram to 4Gb, how much is likely to be available? Will it be only 2.75Gb because I don't have any VRAM? Offhand, it seems like there is no real benefit to increasing the ram, since the maximum ram that I am currently using is about 55% as reported by the System Monitor gadget.

This post has been edited by doslover: 01 November 2009 - 08:14 AM

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#6 User is offline   doslover 

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 09:24 AM

View Postrgreen4, on 31 October 2009 - 11:08 PM, said:

You obviously have the Windows 7 upgrade package, is there any reason you did not upgrade to the 64bit version? It will recognize and utilize more than 4GB even if the machine won't, and you won't have the notch taken out of the memory by the video memory. Four GB of system memory will mean that 4GB is usable.


Yes, I do have both the 32 and 64 bit versions, and chose the 32 bit version for several reasons. First, I had the 32 bit version of Vista and wanted to do an in-place upgrade without doing a clean install. It was my understanding, perhaps incorrectly, that this is not possible when changing from 32 to 64 bit versions. Second, it seems like a number of people have had problems with some apps not running properly under the 64 bit OS, and I wanted to keep all my apps. Finally, it seems unlikely that I will need to increase my ram from the current 2Gb to 4Gb, since Windows 7 is running much faster and cleaner than Vista on 2Gb, and ram usage rarely exceeds 55%. The only issue I have with my current computer setup is that it is probably running (clocking)at only 80% of its potential, because when I bought it there was only 1Gb of 667 MHz ram installed, and the store (Circuit City) installed another 1Gb of only 533 MHz ram. The manufacturer specs call for either 533 or 667 MHz DDR2, so the computer starts properly, but I suspect clocks down to the slower ram rate.
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#7 User is offline   rgreen4 

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 02:54 PM

View Postdoslover, on 01 November 2009 - 09:24 AM, said:


Yes, I do have both the 32 and 64 bit versions, and chose the 32 bit version for several reasons. First, I had the 32 bit version of Vista and wanted to do an in-place upgrade without doing a clean install. It was my understanding, perhaps incorrectly, that this is not possible when changing from 32 to 64 bit versions. Second, it seems like a number of people have had problems with some apps not running properly under the 64 bit OS, and I wanted to keep all my apps. Finally, it seems unlikely that I will need to increase my ram from the current 2Gb to 4Gb, since Windows 7 is running much faster and cleaner than Vista on 2Gb, and ram usage rarely exceeds 55%. The only issue I have with my current computer setup is that it is probably running (clocking)at only 80% of its potential, because when I bought it there was only 1Gb of 667 MHz ram installed, and the store (Circuit City) installed another 1Gb of only 533 MHz ram. The manufacturer specs call for either 533 or 667 MHz DDR2, so the computer starts properly, but I suspect clocks down to the slower ram rate.


You are correct on both counts. I suspected that you stuck with the 32bit because of an inplace upgrade. I love the 64bit because it is even faster with a 64bit processor which you most likely have. However, if you are pleased with it for now, that is fine. If you every face a re-install, you can do a re-install with either disc, you do not need to reinstall Vista. If you occasion ever come up, post and we can walk you through it, or you can read the document "From XP to Vista" as the process is the same.

When mixing ram, the best outcome is that it slows to the slowest module, and the worst outcome is the machine will not boot. I have seen plenty of both. You can upgrade the ram at any time, I would pull the DDR2-667 module and match those specs as it is the faster and the factory shipped ram. Your experience is one reason I do not recommend the "service" departments of big box stores. From your post the integrated video card is apparently consuming 256MB of shared memory which is not an excessive amount. If you went to 4GB you would probably find 3.75GB is usable for general use.
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#8 User is offline   smax013 

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 06:04 PM

View Postdoslover, on 01 November 2009 - 08:13 AM, said:

View Postsmax013, on 31 October 2009 - 11:13 PM, said:


Yes and no.

All 32 bit versions of Windows can address a total of 4 GB of memory. This includes memory used for video cards. Thus, you will never get "full" access to all 4 GB as usable system memory in Windows. Typically, you will get somewhere between about 2.75 GB and 3.5 GB of usable system memory when you install 4 GB of RAM depending on your graphics card and some other more minor factors.

My desktop with 4 GB of RAM has 3.5 GB of usable system memory in both Windows XP and Vista (both 32 bit at this time for me). This is due to my graphics card having 512 MB of VRAM.


OK, so if my laptop has 2Gb installed ram and reports that 1.75Gb are usable, is the remaining 250Mb being used for video? My video is embedded and does not have any dedicated ram of its own. And if I increase the ram to 4Gb, how much is likely to be available? Will it be only 2.75Gb because I don't have any VRAM? Offhand, it seems like there is no real benefit to increasing the ram, since the maximum ram that I am currently using is about 55% as reported by the System Monitor gadget.


If you have integrated graphics that uses "shared memory" then you have something a little different.

In the case of a dedicated graphics card, the VRAM for that card will count against the 4 GB overall total. So, in my case, I have 4 GB of RAM installed and a video card with 512 MB of VRAM. Since Windows 32 bit can only address 4 GB total, it must address the 512 MB on the graphics card. That means that it can only address 3.5 GB of my RAM (3.5 + 0.5 = 4 GB of overall addressable memory). In this case, I am technically "wasting" .5 GB of RAM.

For "shared" VRAM, you are basically actually using some of your RAM as VRAM. Thus, if your integrated graphics is capable of using 512 MB of RAM as "shared video memory", then that will leave you with 3.5 GB of RAM that can be used as RAM. Thus, you might have 3.5 GB of "addressable" system memory plus your 0.5 GB of addressed video memory...but you do not "waste" any memory as that 0.5 GB of RAM is being used as the addressable video memory. Now, this also means you take a similar hit when you have less memory. If you have 2 GB of RAM, then you will have 1.5 GB that is usable as addressable system memory as 0.5 GB is being used as addressable video memory.
Good riddance PCWorld.
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#9 User is offline   Flashorn 

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 08:10 AM

Hey doslover !!

Your ram is actually using the Lower clock speed. I would change that as soon as you are able too as rgreen mentioned.
Since the Video card is Onboard then, you (the notebook) is sharing that 2 Gigs of ram. You are left with whatever ram
the video doesn't need.

I have a notebook with a dedicated video card with 256MB of ram. My total memory installed is three (3) Gigs of
ram@667MHz DDR2. One stick of 2 Gigs and One of 1 Gig.
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I just took a screen shot of my Task Manager and with 63 processes running in Windows 7 32bit , it only utilizes 27% of 3.25 Gigs.
counting the VRAM.
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My point is, you would benefit from the higher clock and with another stick of 2 Gigs, you will be helping your notebook
boot faster along with speeding up all other processes. Just make sure the sticks match on all points.

On 7 , my boot time, from the time I hit the ON button , till I use Firefox , is under 1 minute. On Vista , it was 1 minute 20 seconds.

FLASHORN.

This post has been edited by Flashorn: 03 November 2009 - 08:11 AM

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#10 User is offline   doslover 

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Posted 04 November 2009 - 10:30 AM

OK guys. So y'all talked me into upgrading my ram to 4 Gb, which I just did by replacing the 2 mis-matched 1Gb sticks with 2 new matched 667 MHz (PC2-5300S) soDIMMS. When I look at my system data, Windows now reports installed memory (ram) as 4Gb (2.25Gb usable). When I look at my video card data in Windows, I see that it has 256 Mb of dedicated video memory and is using 895 Mb of shared memory for a total of 1151 Mb or ~ 1.1Gb graphics memory. Shouldn't that leave me with 2.9Gb of usable memory instead of 2.25Gb? Prior to the upgrade, Windows reported 2Gb installed and 1.75Gb usable, so if this true I only got a 0.5Gb increase in usable ram out of a 2Gb physical increase. When I look a the system monitor gadget, I'm using about 41% of memory, whereas before I was using about 52%, which is consistent with only a 0.5Gb increase as reported by Windows. Is Windows maybe using the other mising memory for some other purpose like drive caching? I mean, the computer runs fine, however, it kind of disturbs me that I spent the money for such a puny improvement.
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#11 User is offline   doslover 

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Posted 04 November 2009 - 12:37 PM

Oh, one more detail, and this is the killer. The Windows performance index for the ram has only increased from 5.0 to 5.1, or just 2%, whereas based on the change from 533 MHz to 667 MHz ram, I would have expected more like 25%. Maybe the computer clocks the ram separately on each channel or maybe it just has a certain clock speed it sets regardless of the installed ram speed. It's kind of curious that the manufacturer (acer) specs for this computer simply states that the appropriate ram is DDR2 533/667 MHz, so maybe they just assume the lower speed ram will be used. And, yes, I did check the markings on the ram before I installed it, and it does say PC2-5300S, which is the same as 667 MHz (533 MHz = PC-4200). So, while I've not done any damage, I spent $$ for no real practical reason.
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#12 User is offline   SnyperTodd 

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Posted 04 November 2009 - 01:50 PM

View Postdoslover, on 04 November 2009 - 12:37 PM, said:

Oh, one more detail, and this is the killer. The Windows performance index for the ram has only increased from 5.0 to 5.1, or just 2%, whereas based on the change from 533 MHz to 667 MHz ram, I would have expected more like 25%. Maybe the computer clocks the ram separately on each channel or maybe it just has a certain clock speed it sets regardless of the installed ram speed. It's kind of curious that the manufacturer (acer) specs for this computer simply states that the appropriate ram is DDR2 533/667 MHz, so maybe they just assume the lower speed ram will be used. And, yes, I did check the markings on the ram before I installed it, and it does say PC2-5300S, which is the same as 667 MHz (533 MHz = PC-4200). So, while I've not done any damage, I spent $ for no real practical reason.


Give it a couple days and see how it "feels." The Windows Performance Index is a synthetic benchmark, and not necessarily indicative of real world performance. The rating of 533 and 667MHz RAM is probably realistically very close because the ratings only go up to 7.9 in Win7. I'm running 4GB of DDR3 at 1400MHz with very tight timings and only score 7.1, so I don't think you're out of line with a 5.1 at 667MHz. Also, the Windows Performance Index measures the throughput of the RAM and not the capacity, so upgrading from 2GB to 4GB will normally not gain you anything for the capacity increase. Also, I don't know if you play many games with this system, but in DX9 and lower applications, the video card's frambuffer is copied in whole to the RAM, so with 4GB you're going to have more available for the system and the game itself while a DirectX application is running. One more thing I would do is see if you can reduce or eliminate the video card's shared memory. Normally, there's an option in the BIOS to do that. It should be fine with just the 256MB of dedicated memory. I wouldn't get too upset about the apparent lack of performance boost just yet...

This post has been edited by SnyperTodd: 04 November 2009 - 01:51 PM

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#13 User is offline   doslover 

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Posted 04 November 2009 - 05:42 PM

View PostSnyperTodd, on 04 November 2009 - 01:50 PM, said:

...One more thing I would do is see if you can reduce or eliminate the video card's shared memory. Normally, there's an option in the BIOS to do that. It should be fine with just the 256MB of dedicated memory....


I went into the BIOS CMOS Setup, and all I saw were options for setting dedicated video memory, which by default is 250Mb for total installed RAM >= 1Gb, so that has not changed from when I had only 2Gb installed. So, the shared memory must be determined by Windows after it starts up. I didn't see any advanced settings for the video in Windows which allows me to change this. Also, that doesn't explain why Windows reports that of the installed 4Gb, only 2.25Gb are available, since the total ram consumed by video (dedicated + shared) is only about 1.1 Gb. Very strange.
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#14 User is offline   smax013 

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Posted 04 November 2009 - 07:46 PM

View Postdoslover, on 04 November 2009 - 05:42 PM, said:

View PostSnyperTodd, on 04 November 2009 - 01:50 PM, said:

...One more thing I would do is see if you can reduce or eliminate the video card's shared memory. Normally, there's an option in the BIOS to do that. It should be fine with just the 256MB of dedicated memory....


I went into the BIOS CMOS Setup, and all I saw were options for setting dedicated video memory, which by default is 250Mb for total installed RAM >= 1Gb, so that has not changed from when I had only 2Gb installed. So, the shared memory must be determined by Windows after it starts up. I didn't see any advanced settings for the video in Windows which allows me to change this. Also, that doesn't explain why Windows reports that of the installed 4Gb, only 2.25Gb are available, since the total ram consumed by video (dedicated + shared) is only about 1.1 Gb. Very strange.



There might be more than system memory and video memory that needs to be addressed. If so, then this gets "taken off the top" from the 4 GB. And you would NOT notice this when you only had 2 GB of RAM installed as the system still had 2 GB of addressable memory to use that was not trying to be used by RAM for system memory. With only 2 GB of RAM, the only thing taking anything away from that would be shared video memory...i.e. RAM that is "physically" being used for video memory.
Good riddance PCWorld.
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#15 User is offline   lugz3522 

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 07:54 PM

I also have an Acer aspire 5100 with 4 gigs...3.75 is recognized on windows 7 64 bit. After reading this topic I have to ask..have you upgrades your BIOS recently with the update they released a few months ago? It increased my useable Ram by a good margin.
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#16 User is offline   doslover 

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 08:14 PM

View Postlugz3522, on 08 November 2009 - 07:54 PM, said:

I also have an Acer aspire 5100 with 4 gigs...3.75 is recognized on windows 7 64 bit. After reading this topic I have to ask..have you upgrades your BIOS recently with the update they released a few months ago? It increased my useable Ram by a good margin.


No, I have not upgraded my BIOS. I have version V3.05B, what version/date do you have? I went to the acer website and found a V3.13 2.4Mb dated 2009/03/31 for the Aspire 5100. Is that what you found? The BIOS does report that 4Gb is installed and 3.75Gb is available as extended memory with 256Mb (0.25Gb) used for video ram. The problem seems to be that Windows is allocating 895Mb for shared video memory and leaving a hole of about 641Mb unusable, so only 2.25Gb is reported usable. I am using 32 bit Windows 7, and maybe 64 bit Win 7 does things differently. I don't want to screw up the machine by flashing the wrong BIOS.

This post has been edited by doslover: 08 November 2009 - 08:59 PM

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