Memory Upgrade: Is It Time To Add More RAM?

Up To 16 GB Of RAM On A 32-Bit System!

Step 1: Integration of the RAM above the 4 GB limit

Let's turn to implementation. There are a couple of different programs we can use. One of them is the paid version of RAM Disk Plus 10.1. It's very easy to use and reliable. A decent freeware alternative is Gavotte RAM Disk 1.04.

Step 2: Use the "unmanaged" memory as RAM disk

With one of these programs, you can use the memory that otherwise wouldn’t be addressable by a 32-bit operating system. Remember to enable the memory remapping function in your BIOS or nothing will happen.

Now we need to format the new drive. When creating the RAM disk, you can even use your "missing" RAM (the memory between the 3.25 GB used by Windows and the 4 GB actually installed), but only if the hardware is compatible. If this causes stability problems, you can try to leave 100 MB or so unused. With current hardware, though, you should be able to use the entire memory area. Don't forget to reboot Windows when you're done.

Step 3: Setting up the swap file

Now fill up the total available space on the RAM disk with the swap file, or at least 4 GB. For this test, we installed 12 GB RAM, so we use a 8 GB swap file. We select the RAM disk as a swap file directory and reboot Windows one more time. From now on, Windows will use all RAM above 4 GB as swap file and the hard drive gets to take a vacation.

Note: Be careful with sleep mode. It could pose a problem with this approach, so you might have to decide between performance and convenience.

Step 4: Transfer the temporary files to the RAM disk

Since we have 12 GB of RAM installed, we choose to use just 4 GB for the swap file and to use the remaining 4 GB for temporary files. This way, the temp files are written to the fast RAM disk instead of to the slow hard drive, and you also delete the unnecessary files automatically by turning off the PC. Web surfing can be accelerated in this way, simply by relocating the browser cache directories to the RAM disk.

However, we feel that most users can handle the 4 GB restriction. In normal daily life, this amount is sufficient for most tasks, short of bleeding-edge digital video editing, handling giant file archives, or the like. Enthusiasts will probably want to play around and see what amount is enough for their needs.

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  • mi1ez
    Could you not translate the German?
  • Redsnake77
    Good article! Haven't heard mention of ram-disks in a few years.
  • mi1ez
    Really informative article. When I finally make my next upgrade I'll definitely be looking at big-time RAM. I refuse to buy any more DDR2 though!
  • Stupido
    Very interesting article indeed...
  • wild9
    Redsnake77Good article! Haven't heard mention of ram-disks in a few years.

    I remember seeing such a thing on the Commodore Amiga, including the ability to retain RAM Disk contents after a reboot. Seemed like a pretty cool resource. Another example of how forward-thinking that machine really was.
  • pentabuksus
    I have a HD5850 with 2 GB memory and a system with 4 GB DDR3

    Does the increase from the standard 1 GB to 2 GB actually decreases my need of system RAM, or increases my need?

    anyone know?
  • Anonymous
    On windows7 there is a registry setting to increase the amount of RAM used for caching. Seemed to help when I turned it on - though can remember what it is at the moment!
  • fepple
    swap space != virtual memory
  • discboy321
    How about a Test System of a quad Amd ? I do not know anyone that even had a six core yet ?
  • Silmarunya
    pentabuksusI have a HD5850 with 2 GB memory and a system with 4 GB DDR3Does the increase from the standard 1 GB to 2 GB actually decreases my need of system RAM, or increases my need?anyone know?

    Not usually, no. Your graphics card uses its own dedicated memory and will never use the (far slower) RAM.

    Besides, there's little reason to get a 2GB card (unless you'd game at high detail with more than 2 monitors, but a 5850 won't manage that anyway). Even 16x AA can rarely max out 1GB of graphics memory.
  • daglesj
    I have always read that its not the size of the swapfile thats critical to windows working but the fact you have one, even if its only 10MB in size.

    Certain services etc. in windows will look for a swapfile (as a legacy function as much as anything) and if one isnt there it flags it and stops whether it intended to use it or not.

    I bet if you ran the no swapfile tests with just a 10MB swapfile they would run fine.
  • wild9
    I'd really like to see the 32-bit benchmarks for Soundforge, an audio-editing application. Handling big files under a normal 32-Bit environment with 2GB of RAM can seriously drag my system down.

    So I am thinking that if the swap file, default temp well as Sound Forge's working folder..were moved to volatile memory (RAM), that this would speed things up immensely. Do any readers have any experience of this?

    The GTA IV benchmark looks very impressive, too. Anyone who's played that game will know how much it relies on CPU, GPU and hard drive resources. To knock 15 - 25% off the load times..'wow', is all I can say. Sure it's subjective, and may not be consistent, but that sounds a good enough reason for me to try this especially on less-capable hardware. I bet the previous incarnations of the GTA series might just show some subtle improvements, too.

    Thanks for the very interesting article, Igor.
  • Ko0lHaNDLuKe
    Interesting article considering I was just considering doubling my RAM from 4GB to 8GB. My thanks!
  • Rab1d-BDGR
    I've had 12 GiB installed for about a year, I managed to find a tripple channel kit that didn't cost the earth so I thought I may as well - but I've never seen more than half of it in use... I think 8 is probably the sweet spot now with 12 and 16 for future-proofing only if the price is right.

    On second thoughts, don't buy any more RAM, it only encourages Adobe and M$FT to add more bloat! :-P
  • Anonymous
    The swap file is actually physical memory. To call it virtual is a very old mistake by Microsoft that they are too proud to correct.
    The only way to increase virtual memory in a 32 bit system is with the /3GB switch. It might ruin your system though. Get VMMap fro Sysinternals if you don't believe me. The Virtual memory gets badly fragmented over time. Something VMMap will also show you. It leads to system crashes over time.
    The main point to take home, is that you really really badly need 64 bit. Unfortunately the damage has been done. Too many programs have already been written for 32 bit Windows because the uptake of 64 bit Windows have been too damn slow.
    Fortunately with 64 bit windows you get 4GB virtual memory per 32 bit process, but only IF the software is compiled with Large_Adress_Aware.
    So please tomshardware tell people the truth. They need to know.
  • Killingmaster
    nice article, I have an question. Is 2.5gb enough for core2 duo cpu with w7 64 bit?
  • Silmarunya
    killingmasternice article, I have an question. Is 2.5gb enough for core2 duo cpu with w7 64 bit?

    Depends what you intend to do with it. If you want to game or do heavy photo/sound/video editing, not really. If it's mainly used for internet, email, office and other light tasks, it should be fine.
  • xltbx
    ive got 3gb ram, on 64bit is it worth it to upgrade
  • MMclachlan
    I think that surely the conclusion from this is that for the average user, the advice should be to stick with 4gb?
    An extra 4gb doubles your outlay on RAM for what? A few less texture pop-ins on one game and ~10% faster loading times in some apps.
    I'm an 'average' user (gamer, and not productive!) and I had 6gb in my system for a while (2x2 + 2x4). I took the 2s out and sold them because I only once saw memory useage go above 4gb - that was running GTAIV and it crept up to about 4.5Gb. Other than that one game I saw no perceptable difference between 4 and 6 on Vista 64.
  • pichemanu
    I recently bought another 8 Gb of ram for my machine (i already have 4 gb installed) and RAM Disk Plus.

    I am running win 7 32. I used these 8 GB to create 2*4 GB ram drives. On the first i moved the temp and tmp folder, the iexplore cache and the firefox cache. The second i reserved for swap file.

    I then did some compression tests using 7zip. I took 2 large files (2*4.3GB) and compressed them in .7z format. I did this with the ram drive enabled and with them disabled. Sadly i didn't see any speed improvement.

    Do you have any ideea why that would be?

    I am asking as i have 30 days to return my ram, which i will do if i can't make the ram drives work.

    Thank you.