[chadfree] Troubleshooting a Memory Problem During a System Upgrade

  • From: "Mike" <mikebike@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Computer_Help_and_Discussion@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, chadfree@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 13 Oct 2005 13:56:53 -0700

Troubleshooting a Memory Problem During a System Upgrade
From; Windows IT Pro http://www.windowsitpro.com/

Commentary: Understanding Available Memory ==== 
   by David Chernicoff, david@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

My recent column about memory concerns with a desktop system upgrade 
(see the URL below) generated a lot of reader response, most in the 
"please follow up on this issue" vein. But a surprising number of 
readers asked questions that made it clear they don't understand how a 
computer and OS utilize memory.

From the OS's perspective, the amount of memory available to the OS is 
the amount that the hardware reports is available, regardless of how 
much memory is physically installed an enumerated. That was the issue 
that generated my original concern: a 4GB system that reported only 
3200MB of available memory to the OS.

I found the answer to my original question in the support documentation 
for the motherboard: "On a system with 4GB of system memory installed, 
it is not possible to use all of the installed memory due to system 
address space being allocated for other system critical functions." I 
knew that system resources took memory space but was surprised by the 
750MB being reserved for PCI Express features. A few readers told me 
that their server-class systems had motherboard settings that let them 
move the PCI memory space above the 4GB line; that feature isn't 
available in the family of desktop motherboards I'm using.

Readers also pointed out that if I use 64-bit Windows, I can map the 
system resource memory to another location so that the physical memory 
will be available for applications. I plan to install 64-bit Windows as 
an alternate OS on this computer, but none of the applications I use on 
a daily basis are available yet in native 64-bit versions.

But what I want to address this week is a clear misunderstanding about 
how system memory works. I received several email messages that asked 
question such as, "Does this mean that I can't use PCI Express on a 
system that has only 512MB of RAM?" or "Will I only have 256MB of 
useable memory in a 1GB system?"

Neither of those situations is a problem. The system resources aren't 
taking away large chunks of installed memory; the system resources 
reserve memory space at the top of the 4GB memory range addressable by 
a 32-bit processor. If this system board has less than 4GB of physical 
memory installed, the memory use is pretty much invisible to the user. 
Only when a user has 4GB of physical memory installed does the problem 
become obvious.

The computer that I used to generate this column reports 896MB of 
memory reserved for system resources (down from 1126MB after a BIOS 
update) and 3200MB of memory available to the OS. This means I paid for 
a fourth 1GB bank of RAM that's effectively unusable; the system would 
have the same performance and virtually the same OS memory if I had 
installed only three banks of 1GB memory. This problem doesn't affect 
systems with 3GB of memory or less. It will be a concern only to those 
of us who find a need for the maximum amount of memory the system 
claims to support. The reality of the situation is that with a 32-bit 
OS, motherboards that support PCI Express and can't map memory above 
4GB, won't have the full 4GB addressable range of memory available to 

Troubleshooting a Memory Problem During a System Upgrade

Mike ~ one of the Moderators
It is a good day if I learned something new.
Editor MikesWhatsNews http://www.mwn.ca/ 

Was this forwarded to you?  Want to subscribe?  Send an email 
to chadfree-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx?Subject=subscribe.

For a complete list of email commands for our list send an email 
to ecartis@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with a subject line of "info chadfree" without the 

If you wish to unsubscribe from our list send an email to;

To contact the list moderators send an email to 

Other related posts:

  • » [chadfree] Troubleshooting a Memory Problem During a System Upgrade