Memory Limits for Win95/98?

Microsoft Windows 95
July 10, 2010 at 16:23:13
Specs: Windows 95, 256
I have been doing some digging around about the memory limits for Windows 95. There is still some debate about this, because apparently there are software solutions to break the 512Mb 'crash' barrier.

Has anyone tried these rather redundant RAM performance enhancing programs in Win95? I say redundant, because I have found in my testing that while enormous RAM is a huge boost for a system, it is by no means an elixir for mega-multitasking as though your PC was downtown Beijing. I'll explain my discovery below.

First of all, I have 256Mb in both my 3.11 and Win95 machines. In the 3.11, it is simple - 64mb and that's it as far as physical goes. Now it might be different for other people because I have an i430TX in that one. However, it seemingly can provide an 8Mb RAM drive, without cost to its allowable physical memory - perhaps more. Eventually, if you go overboard with the RAM drive, it suddenly think it's a disk partition - at least with XMSDSK it does.

That said, can a Windows 95 system over the safe RAM limit of 512Mb simply be reduced by the use of a RAM drive? Or does the allocation rule still hold?

Not that it matters, but I am interested. Like I say, system resources rely on RAM greatly, but there is more to it. Although my Win95 flies on 256Mb with disk activity practically non-existant after a just a few program opens, like 3.11 can too, the resources eventually fall faster when you to try to open too many memory intense programs. It surprises me how easy it is to accomplish this. Something else besides RAM must come into play with system resources - what is the cause of the sharp decline in resources after you cross certain line? It certainly can't be RAM - because you still have lots!

See More: Memory Limits for Win95/98?

Report •

July 10, 2010 at 17:05:41
Generally, 512MB is said to be the limit for Win95/98...the limit is actually 2GB. But before you can install that much, you have to edit the vcache setting in the system.ini file.

Another thing to consider is the amount of RAM that's cached by the motherboard chipset. For example, the i430TX chipset that you mentioned only caches 64MB. If more than 64MB is installed, Windows will automatically go to the uncached RAM 1st & that *may* reduce performance. Cached RAM is ALWAYS faster than reading directly off the RAM stick so it's generally adviseable to stay within the cache limit. The exception to that is if you know you will regularly run software that requires more than 64MB. In that case, exceeding the cache limit & having Windows read directly off the RAM is preferrable to staying within the 64MB limit & having Windows use the much slower virtual memory on the HDD to make up the difference.

Report •

July 10, 2010 at 17:39:18
Yeah, of Intel's P-I chipsets, the 430HX is the only one that can cache more than 64 meg of ram.

Check this thread for a discussion of large amounts of ram for 9X:

Glass Packs--The sound of freedom.

Report •

July 11, 2010 at 02:39:53
Interesting. So are you saying I would get better performance from a single 64Mb SDRAM chip (which I happen to have one) in the i430TX 200+ chipset, even though the 256Mb is allowed by the GA-586T2 Mobo and recognized in the BIOS?

This might explain why a utility called SETXMSTO does not seem work as I expected in that 3.11 machine.

On the Win95 side, why does there seem to be some weird law of diminishing returns that comes into play with memory 256Mb and above?

Report •

Related Solutions

July 11, 2010 at 03:00:47
I should also mention that DPMI works well in the i430TX machine. Especially DOSLYNX .39b 'S' edition, which I have setup a batch to copy it and its relevant files to the ramdrive when I run it. The ramdrive is so fast that it does not need a buffer setting in the DOSLYNX config (dnldbufs=0) if I am downloading. This speed is especially noticeable if I try to get file via FTP rather than just visiting websites.

Report •

July 11, 2010 at 07:37:23
"why does there seem to be some weird law of diminishing returns that comes into play with memory 256Mb and above?"

All OS'es suffer from that at some point.

Report •

July 11, 2010 at 19:27:51
I got the 64 mb info from an old link (that's no longer there) on Intel's site. Part of it reads:

"It is possible for you to also see a performance increase by dropping to 64MB of memory. This does depend on your operating system, and the requirements for your applications, but it is a possibility."

So it's not necessarily a good idea to drop to 64 meg on the 430 chipsets.

As far as the diminishing returns, the 512 barrier is where you're likely to start getting memory error messages. I suspect the actual slowdown starts at around 256. But again, that may depend on the OS and applications you're running.

Glass Packs--The sound of freedom.

Report •

July 12, 2010 at 00:38:57
So basically it is up to the user to test these things. That's fair enough I suppose. It's 3.11 I have that running on. Next time I need to take off the case I might change to a single 64Mb chip for an experiment.

I have grown quite fond of the Win3.11 machine because it has become a repository for all my old stuff and more. The fact it runs on broadband and has an S3 Virge up to 16m colors with DOS internet capability makes it an interesting piece of yesterday. Yet it is now my other 21st century computer - secure and solid.

Report •

July 17, 2010 at 12:16:34
You don't have to keep the machine. Get Windows Virtual Machine and you can run Windows 3.11 on your XP, VISTA and 7 box like it was on your old machine.

Highly recommended because one day you will not be able to get parts for that old thing.

Report •

July 17, 2010 at 23:21:12
I have a lot of backup parts - no worries. I even have the ultimate in backup parts ... another machine. I have virtual machine already and it's not quite the same. The key word I guess is 'virtual' which has limitations to what you can accomplish.

I think I'll keep this old tube radio :)

Report •

July 22, 2010 at 09:30:27
Where does this "512mb limit" mobo jombo come from?

There is NO 512mb "crash" limit. I have NEVER had a problem with 9x.

The vcache setting ALWAYS NEEDS to be modified, otherwise Win 9X will crash out simply by installing a driver half of the time, but that is not a direct "memory" related fix, it's simply windows cache setting. And anyone that has ever installed 9x should know this by now.

This myth really needs to be put to rest.

EDIT: Also I think this myth stems from people using either bad RAM, non-ecc RAM, and cheap high density, or 4 layer RAM. Use decent RAM next time.

PowerMac 9600(1 ghz G4)
512mb RAM
50gb SCSI
ATi 9200 PCI

Report •

July 22, 2010 at 10:49:37
No one says there is a 512mb 'crash' limit. For some chipsets, the vcache setting in system.ini may need to be tweaked to go beyond that. 2GB is the maximum Win 9x can use, that's pretty much undisputed - even microsoft says so. You can load up as high as you want, but 2GB is all that Win95 is going to use. Similarly, 256MB is all you are going to get out of Windows for Workgroups. You can up that to 512MB in standard mode, but essentially it will still be capable of being a 256MB machine because enhanced mode is more efficient.

All in all, from my experiments, if you have 256MB for Windows 95, you are getting into the extreme RAM area for the operating system and the law of diminishing returns begins to take effect. 256MB or so seems to be where this curious phenomenon noticeably begins. I have used more than one benchmark program for these mem tests and the results concur.

I wish I could go beyond 384MB on one of my older PCs that were current for that era, to see how it does. Keeping Win95 on a newer system (when I say newer, I mean less old) is kinda wasteful when there are other newer exotic operating systems to play with such as EComStation and Linux off-shoots.

Report •

Ask Question