Should I upgrade to 4GB RAM?

My wife and I will be moving back to the US soon, but I was thinking of upgrading the ram in my computer before going home to 4GB (from 2).

Here’s my computer:
Dell Inspiron 1420
Vista 32bit
Intel Centrino Duo

I ask this because I googled it yesterday and one of the sites said something along the lines of “The 1420 can take up to 4GB of RAM but Dell on sells Vista 32 bit so don’t expect to use all 4GB.” Frankly, I don’t know what that means, but I want to know if someone who constantly uses his computer, and normally runs at least four or five programs at once (one of which being Firefox, which usually has about twenty tabs open).

None of these programs, however, are games, design software, etc. More like Word, Winamp, Onenote, Firefox, etc.

This has been discussed in General Questions, but it is my Understanding 32 bit Vista will only operate with up to 3.3 GB RAM.

This doesn’t prevent the computer from running, it just accesses at maximum the 3 gig amount. It’s a program limitation, not a hardware one.

Is it possible to just get 3 GB?

As long as it is paired correctly.

As in 2 X 1 GB and 2 X 500 MB. And in the correct slots.

I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure I’ve only got two slots. Isn’t that the case with most laptops?

Oh sorry- have only worked on desk tops. Will let someone way more proficient answer that.

I don’t know enough to understand what Cicero’s talking about, but it sounds to me like where ever you are right now you can get ram for less than you can in the states. I guess if its cheap enough you should go for it, but I have a computer with 2 gb of ram and I never felt like I needed more while doing the kind of multitasking you’re talking about, or even with good looking games like bioshock.

Memory in the US is pretty cheap. Normally I’d say go with 4GB even if you can’t use it all, the price difference isn’t that much. I 'm assuming that you have 1GB in each slot though, which would mean throwing all of that away. I’d get one 2GB and put it in with an existing 1GB.

It will work fine, and minimize the cost and waste. Vista can always use more memory.

I’m pretty sure modern DIMM slots haven’t needed to be paired in quite a while. You can easily combine a 1GB with a 500MB or a 2GB and a 1GB, they all operate independently now.

In my Mac laptop, I have a 1-gig and a 2-gig memory module. That takes it to the maximum; the OS can handle more, but the hardware in this particular model can’t. (If I’d waited a month and a half to buy, that would have changed…)

Everything you ever wanted to know about 64-bit computing and the 4-gig memory limit, and more:

The Road to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
64-bits, Santa Rosa, and more
twice the RAM, half the price, 64-bits
the future of 64-bit apps

This series of articles is from a Mac perspective, but the first article has a good history of the issue in general, covering the evolution of personal computers from 8 bits through 16 bits to 32 bits, and then the issues involved in going to 64 bits and addressing more than 4 gigabytes of RAM.

IMO 2GB should be plenty unless you run many memory-intensive apps at once.

I am a gamer and have 2GB in my (XP) computer, it runs 3D action games at 1650x1080 resolution just fine.

During typical usage, or even heavy usage, how often do you experience a delay while the disk drive light flashes when switching from one running application to another already running application? Or, same question, except instead of switching between applications, you are switching between different documents in one application (say, you are in Photoshop with 2 different files open - does your disk drive run when you switch between the 2 already open images)? If it is more often than you’d like, more memory may help.

You can also just open up Task Manager at any time during typical use, and check out how much physical and virtual memory is in use.

From the list of programs you gave, it sounds like 2GB is probably enough.

Lemme put it this way–for the ultra-high end workstations at my company (we design electromagnetic field mapping and modeling software), which are generally 2 dual core server processors running at 3+Ghz, PLUS at least two video cards slaved in as extra stream processing units…

We STILL only get 4GB of RAM for them. Unless you are doing SERIOUS computing, you should be fine with 2.

I was going to suggest that, but on the Vista box I have here, Task Manager shows 893MB physical memory used, 550MB cached, and 13MB free. I don’t understand the math there, they’re leaving something out. And that’s with only one application running.

At the bottom of Task Manager it says “Physical Memory 63%”, maybe that’s a better indicator.

One thing to keep in mind, just because Vista 32 bit doesn’t recognize past 3.3 GB doesn’t mean you can’t install it. You can still install the 4GB of RAM it will just stop seeing the last .7 GB.

If you bought the retail version of Vista (meaning not installed on your PC) you may have a 64bit disk to install the 64bit version of the OS. That would recognize the full 4 GB. However before you do this you’ll want to research to see if all of your hardware have 64 bit drivers. I was able to get everything on mine set up except for an old scanner.

I was under the impression that the issue in Windows is not that it can’t use the full 4 GB, but that it can’t give more than 3.3 GB of memory to a single program. I thought that if you had 2 programs that both wanted 2 GB, you’d be fine, but a single program that needs 4 GB wouldn’t work. I know that’s how things work on FreeBSD.

Actually 32 bit windows won’t even see past 3.3 GB. This is due to a limitation to the address space of memory. 32 bit will see up to 4GB of memory but the last .5GB or so of address space is used for hardware memory address space so items like SCSI cards, video cards, PCI cards and such use that space. So Windows 32 will never let you access that space regardless of how many programs you are using. It’s a limitation of the 32 bit OS.

I had a video card with 1GB onboard ram, that decreased my RAM even further (closer to 2.8) because of the address space needed. When I switched to 64 bit, problem solved.

Eighty percent of the time, my computer runs very quickly. However, when numerous programs are open, and I have skype running in the background. For example, if I hit capslock to get Enso to open something, it sometimes takes about five seconds for the green bar to flash up at the top of the screen. Sometimes, too, firefox does get bogged down with all the things I’m doing at once.

Windows programs being unable to use all of the physical memory is not due to address space limitations. True, an individual user process can only use 2GB or 3GB of its 4GB address space, depending on the configuration. But different processes can map their address spaces do different parts of physical memory. And applications can and do use more than one process.

I’m looking at a Task Manager in 32-bit Windows right now, and physical memory usage is about 5.5GB out of 8GB on this particular computer. But no one process is using more than 2GB.