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Where’s My 2GB?

While I was testing some things the other day my desktop was running slow. I mean so slow that typing into Live Writer took 15-20 seconds for the screen to catch up with what I’d typed, and my testing in a VM (W2K3, Virtual PC) was really, really slow.5-7-2009 2-09-48 PM

I’m not sure why since I had the VM running on a local disk with the rest of my XP installation, but I decided to check my settings for the computer. I right clicked “My Computer” and selected Properties. It showed me 2GB, which isn’t  bad except I had put in 4GB of RAM awhile back.

At least I was fairly confident that I had. I know I’d wanted to upgrade this machine from 2GB to 4GB since I use it a lot. So I flipped through my expense folder, saw a receipt from Crucial.com and started wondering what could be wrong.

My first stop was to actually see if I had RAM in the machine. I could have shut down, opened the case and looked, but that’s a pain. So I went to the Crucial site to check and see if they could rescan my system. I downloaded the scanner and saw this:

5-7-2009 2-17-06 PM

Now I was really confused. They thought I had 4GB, why didn’t Windows? I surfed around a little, but this wasn’t a huge priority. There were some sites that said 32 bit XP might only show 3 or 3.5GB, which doesn’t make sense. 32-bit Windows server doesn’t have issues with 4GB, and it should show up, but it’s an old OS, maybe there’s something here.

The next day I opened the machine, and sure enough there was 4 sticks in there. The only thing I could think is that they didn’t want to work together. One is DDR2 5200 and the other is 5300. I had a new 1TB HDD to install, so I did that, reseated the memory and booted. Windows came up, the HDD was there, and on a whim I checked the properties. I now had 3GB.


So I shut down, closed up the case, and rebooted. And found 2GB.


I chatted with a rep at Crucial, and she was nice, letting me know that memory should work together, and suggesting I just try the new memory. Mental head slap, so after we were done, I did that. It didn’t help and while it worked, I still didn’t have 3GB.

I put things back together and sat down to think of what to do. The machine was still slow, not a good situation. I need to do more VM work, I have SQL stuff to mess with and a slow machine isn’t in anyone’s interest. So I had a couple of choices:

  1. I could rebuild this machine as a 64-bit OS
  2. I could buy a new machine

I’ll admit the second choice sounds extreme, but I’ve been wanting a Windows Home Server to back things up. I was considering the HP Media Smart server, which is 64-bit, and will help keep all the data at the Ranch safe. However, that’s a $500 investment. My old desktop doesn’t have SATA, an old motherboard (6 years old), and doesn’t want to load WHS right now. And I honestly don’t want to have something that’s a hassle. I just want it to work.

So I’m debating about what to do right now. I haven’t had a new machine in at least 2, maybe 3 years so I’m tempted to upgrade now and go 64-bit all the way.

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Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by Andrew Hatfield on 13 May 2009

32 bit Windows desktop OSes won't make all 4GB of RAM available.  The same is true of Vista 32bit.

Server editions will make all the installed RAM available.  XP and Vista manage RAM differently to 2003 and 2008.  When in 32bit mode, these OSes use the high end to manage devices and the memory.

64 bit doesn't have this issue as memory is handled differently.

Is it a rort? yes

Can you do something about it? Go server or 64 bit

Posted by Steve Jones on 13 May 2009

I think I am headed that way.

Posted by Anonymous on 13 January 2010

Or at least I’m getting ready to take the plunge into using Hyper-V. In my machine dilemma , I decided

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