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How much RAM for XP?

Discussion in 'Technical Discussions' started by Dan Penny, Feb 19, 2009.

  1. Dan Penny

    Dan Penny Staff Techie7 Moderator

    I've read that many "tech's" etc recommend that 1 GB memory is what you should really have to run XP. I have 384 MB of RAM, on a 866 Mhz machine, and it runs just fine.

    Does anyone else run a machine this "low" (MB/GB RAM & Mhz) with less than satisfactory results?
  2. dobhar

    dobhar Technical Guest

    Hi Dan...

    Yep...at work...we have a couple Pentium II 400 MHz with 384MB RAM...slow as molasses but they are running on a Domain....probably run much better on a home network. I've always recommended to "users" that 512MB should be their minimum.

    My first PC to run WinXP was a "Home Built" PIII 450MHz with 512MB RAM. A couple yrs later I built a P4 2.0GHz with 512MB RAM and WinXP SP2...I ran it for a few months before I added another 1.0GB stick.

    I have 3 PC's (one's the wife's) running WinXP and all are over 1.0GB RAM. I also have 4 Laptops (3 running WinXP SP3 & 1 Running Vista Ultimate). Two of the Laptops are over 1.0GB RAM with the third having only 512MB...It's an older Dell Inspiron so I'm not going to bother updating it. Just a side note...my Vista Laptop is running 4.0GB RAM.
  3. rokytnji

    rokytnji Dedicated Member

    Just as a side note since I live in the region that runs caveman hardware. I've installed Xp on as little as 256mb of ram on a P3 500 mhz and it ran. Not fast as lightening but it ran.
  4. jephree

    jephree ¨*·.¸ «.·°·..·°·.» ¸.·*¨

    I started my computing life with a HP Vectra VLi8 SF PIII 450MHz with 128MB RAM running Win 2K.

    I upgraded to XP and it ran with no problem.

    I will posit the issue depends on what you use your computer for.

    The above specs will run XP but I'm sure they won't run any video or graphic intense programs.

    I eventually upgraded my RAM to 512MB which was the board max.

    At some point the equation boils down to what you want the computer to do and what is the value of upgrading.

    I learned that trying to upgrade an elderly system such as I had cost more than starting over.

    Last edited: Feb 19, 2009
  5. Kaistar

    Kaistar Dedicated Member

    My first XP was an XP Home on 256MB RAm running on a P4 1.9Ghz. My gosh that sounds so old now that I think about it...
  6. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    I don't think it is 1Gb to "run" XP, as it will "run" in as little as 64Mb (the MS minimum - with 128 recommended). I think we're looking for "satisfactory" performance - which is highly subjective.

    My current standard recommendation for "satisfactory" performance is 1Gb for XP with single core CPUs, 2Gb for mulitcore CPUs, and 2Gb for Vista. Of course, satisfactory to me may be totally unacceptable to others. So, MUCH depends on the intended use of that computer. If a user does not play 3D animated games, but simply surfs, email, and Word, he or she can get by very little horsepower - especially if using dial-up for Internet access.

    So much depends on other factors too. Dan's opening post does not mention his graphics solution. Even a budget add-in card with it's own chunk of RAM tweaked for graphics will make a big, beneficial impact on overall performance of the computer compared to on-board graphics. This is because the GPU is probably more advanced than the on-board GPU, the GPU will have it own dedicated RAM to work with, AND, of course, an add-in card does not snarf a big chunk of system RAM for graphics crunching.

    Finally, sufficient RAM allows the CPU and XP to use RAM for temporary cache instead of beating on the sloooowww hard drive's page file. So more RAM (when starting with only a small amount) will make a big, noticeable - how did I live without it all this time? - impact on performance, and may extend the life of the poor hard drive too.
  7. Dan Penny

    Dan Penny Staff Techie7 Moderator

    I was equating/interpreting what you should really have to run XP with "satisfactory" performance in these "read statements", but as stated, this is highly subject to differing opinions.

    My machine is similar to jephrees mentioned machine;
    Hewlett-Packard HP Vectra VL400
    Intel Pentium IIIE, 866 MHz (6.5 x 133)
    384 MB RAM with 512MB board max.

    My display;
    Video Adapter All-In-Wonder 128 AGP (32 MB)
    3D Accelerator ATI Rage128 GL
    (This card includes a TV Tuner)

    It's true I don't run any graphic intense applications/games.

    At this moment I have 70MB of free RAM. I've set my own PageFile settings based upon my own research. (Three WD 40GB disks, PageFiles set in the first partition of each disk.)

    Heh, this make me feel/think that I'm the oldest dinosaur here, with the oldest dinosaur machine. ;>)

    And yet another thought..... This machine runs well because it doesn't have all those critical/security updates bogging it down. :rolleyes_

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 19, 2009
  8. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    Nah, since most changes just plugged holes or changed registry settings, that is, they did not add more programs to run.
  9. jephree

    jephree ¨*·.¸ «.·°·..·°·.» ¸.·*¨

    Also just to add Dan if you are considering maxing out that board @ 512MB I ran in to this density issue:

    As long as I ran 256 I had no problem with currently available RAM but when I maxed the board to 512 with contemporary RAM it would not boot.

    The above density issue happened to be the case and I did buy low density RAM which was over twice the price of contemporary sticks.

    2 x Double density 256MB module 16 chips double sided.

    Last edited: Feb 20, 2009
  10. VopThis

    VopThis Senior Member (Canada)

    At this level of resources, each and every minor activity (such as moving the mouse or changing the window) results in more constant disk swapping activity going on than any actually work. Would any of us ever want to go back to mainly running one application at a time rather than the multi-tasking that is now the norm? That is like trying to pass a car on a hill but you need to turnoff the air conditioning, radio, and windshield wipers to free up enough power to achieve the desired results.

    How much RAM does my specific PC need for XP given the typical tasks I might wish to perform?

    As soon as you boot your PC and go into your user profile you can monitor and observe what is occurring in RAM memory at each major step in the process:

    • Ctrl+Alt+Delete gives you the ‘Task Manager’.
    • Next, you want to select the “Performance’ TAB.
    • Now, give the PC a chance to show the CPU at around 0%. That could take several minutes on some older computers.

    Here is the initial ‘Commit Charge’ and ‘Commit Charge Limit’ that was observed on my current Desktop:
    278M/3938M (dual core 3.0 GHz CPU with 2GB RAM)​
    That is my initial PC MEMORY USEAGE before anything useful starts to happen. I could certainly fine-tune that to about 200MB by trimming out desirable but optional utility processes.

    • A1) Initial TOTAL MEMORY (PF Usage) in use / PEAK MEMORY utilized ……………….…. 278M / 442M (PF / PEAK)

      Cumulative Additional INITIAL memory required by loading the following APPLICATIONS (actions):
      (# = same as last reported)

    • B1) Internet Explorer ………………………..…………. 316M / 442M
    • B2) MS WORD …………………………..…….....……… 320M / #
    • B3) MS OUTLOOK ………………………….......………. 340M / #

    • C1) SKYPE ………………………………….........……….. 395M / #
    • C2) LOGMEIN [remote access] ……………..…..……. 433M / #

    • D1) SW DOCTOR ……………………………….......…… 800M / 836M
    • D2) (run intelli-scan quick scan) ……………….…….. 911M / 935M
    • D3) (completely exit above application) ……….…... 441M / #

    • E1) FIREFOX 3.0 …………………………………......…… 502M / #
    • E2) (OPEN 10 TABS from bookmarks) ………….…... 548M / #

    • F2) (quick scan) ……………………………………....…… 595M / #
    • F3) (completely exit MBAM) …………………..………… 564M / #

    • G1) (Exit all loaded programs above) ……....………. 399M / 935M

    Questions and Answers:

    Q: What is the most memory this PC seems to currently require?
    A: At least 935MB and higher – D2 & G1. Some loaded programs are essentially and may be mostly idle at the moment – B & C).

    Q: Would 384MB of RAM be sufficient for this recent build PC?
    A: Definitely not. There is a minor initial memory deficiency at startup – PEAKED at 442MB – A1. But then there is a major shortfall evident while trying to run an anti-malware scan tool – D1 & D2 – PEAKED at 935MB. That may necessitate substantial swapping to and from disk, and potentially a significantly extended scan time because of it. To make matters even worse, older drives can be 50-66% slower than the latest 100MB/sec drives ( HD Tune website ). Accordingly, a shortage of memory can make you want to avoid running certain security applications even if they should be run more often.

    Q: Why is the ending memory in use higher than the opening number (399MB – G1 vs. 278MB – A1) after exiting all programs loaded above?
    A: Some applications leave behind small active parts of themselves (perhaps in the toolbar) and some simply do not cleanup after themselves very well. The system may also have serious issues trying to optimally manage this resource. This can become a major problem as your day progresses.

    Q: Why is 1GB of RAM often a good starting point to consider?
    A: It is difficult to make good use of multi-core processors when adequate memory resources are not present. On single core processors, a major application will almost always hog all the system’s resources making multi-tasking virtually impossible or impractical.

    Furthermore, if the user of a given PC is planning to do any gaming, the minimums often listed for many specific games is 512MB and often 1GB or more is highly recommended. See: Can You RUN It? . If you do not have a dedicated separate video card then substantial system memory may also have to be shared with the onboard video subsystem, anyway.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2009
  11. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    Great breakdown Vince.

    A couple comments.

    This is often caused by services that are started when an application starts, but does not stop when the program is exited. This is LAZY programming in most cases.

    Back under the Performance tab of Task Manager, I like to look at the Peak value. The Peak value is the maximum amount of memory the system has used since last boot. If this value is more than the total amount of system ram installed, then you need to install more RAM as it means your system is banging on the slow HD's page file a lot.

    Also note that Windows expects to see and will use a PF, even if it has tons of RAM.