PC runs on 254 mb RAM but 4 Gb installed

August 11, 2011 at 21:56:27
Specs: Windows XP SP3, 533 Mh / 4 Gb
in August 2010, I upgraded my RAM from 254 Mb (2 x 128 Mb) to 4 x 1024 Mb. I have a Dell 4600i system running Windows XP Pro SP3. Everything was running very well until I decided to play my saved music files on Windows Media Playe with the visual wave effects. The computer locked up a few times, forcing me to force a shutdown. The end result after running several scans (PC Health Advisor, Spybot SD, Trend Micro Internet Security) was the computer now runs on only 254 mb RAM, according to Tuneup Utilities 2011 and the System Properties; literally everwhere I look. I know I have 4 1024 Mb memory sticks and Belarc Advisor reports them but I can't make the computer recognise it all as RAM. I have been searching for ideas for over a month now and am almost ready to give up. Any suggestions would be welcome.

See More: PC runs on 254 mb RAM but 4 Gb installed

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August 11, 2011 at 22:16:42
sounds like you have a 32 bit OS. I'm just wondering if you added right type of ram as I googled and your PC will take 4GB

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August 11, 2011 at 22:27:10
Are you looking in the right places ?

E.g. System Information in Windows lists the amount of ram reported by the bios in the Total Physical Memory line

Modern ram modules are always 128mb or an exact even multiple of that - 256mb, 512mb, 1,024mb (1gb), etc.

If you haven't made a typo several times, it appears your bios is subtracting 2mb from the amount of ram installed, which bioses sometimes do.

If two 128mb modules are reported as 254mb, then 4 1gb modules should be reported as 4 X 1,024 - 2 = 4,094mb, in the bios Setup.

Are the 4 1gb modules identical, or do they have different part numbers ?

When you look in the bios Setup, how much ram is being reported there ?

Open up your case and examine the mboard to see if you have bad capacitors, and/or other findable signs of mboard damage .

What to look for, mboard symptoms, example pictures:
Home page that site
- what the problem is caused by
- he says there are STILL bad capacitors on more recent mboards.

Pictures of blown capacitors, other components, power supplies, Athlon cpu's, etc.:

See response 2 in this - try cleaning the contacts on the ram modules, and making sure the modules are properly seated:

Most people that have XP Pro have the 32 bit version of it.
32 bit operating systems have a 4gb virtual memory address limit. When you install 4gb or more, the amount of ram actually available to the operating system is always less than 4gb - it varies from under 3gb to 3.x gb.
I avoid that problem by installing no more than 3gb of ram if the operating system is 32 bit.

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August 11, 2011 at 22:33:20
XP unless (64bit), has a physical limit of 4 gigs max of ram , THIS includes any ram that may be used by video. I'm betting you have 4 gigs less the amount of the video onboard or card. or you are looking at how much video ram windows is using.

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August 12, 2011 at 09:31:21
Thanks for the information. I can't look at anything until I get home tonight but I am quite sure I have tried much of what you are suggesting about where to look. Until Belarc Advisor documented everything, I did not see any acknowledgement of the 4, 1024 memory chips. I thought Malware might have gotten in there and blocked it or something but Malware Bytes did not find anything. The 4 memory chips are all identical and they were professionally installed and have worked properly for almost a year. I have a hard time thinking the memory is not properly seated because the tower hasn't been moved or jostled. The only thing I did was run the visual toys with the music and I guess it was too much for my system, even with 4 Gb RAM. According to Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer, it passes all the checks. I will get back to you if any of this helps when I work on it over the weekend. Thanks again.

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August 12, 2011 at 09:39:32
They're not memory chips or ram chips.
The ram or memory you install in slots on the mboard is on modules. There is always more than one identical individual actual memory chip on the module, e.g. often 8 of them, and a tiny SPD chip on one end of the module.

The tiny SPD chip is what the bios reads to determine the size of the module and the settings the bios needs to use for the ram otherwise.

If the ram module(s) is(are) not 100% compatible with being installed in the mboard, or if the settings the bios has automatically chosen, or is custom set to by the user, for the ram is not compatible with the ram's specs, some programs you can use in Windows read the info on those SPD chips - e.g. Belarc advisor, CPU-Z - the mboard / the bios can be NOT actually recognizing the ram properly, yet the SPD chip info is correct regarding the total amount of memory on the modules (they don't subtract anything the bios may subtract from the total).

That's why I asked you if the bios Setup is reporting all of the ram installed, or rather all of it minus 2mb (4,094mb).

"The 4 memory chips are all identical and they were professionally installed and have worked properly for almost a year. I have a hard time thinking the memory is not properly seated because the tower hasn't been moved or jostled."

You can't assume they're identical unless they all have the same module part number.

I've seen many cases where the ram that worked fine previously has developed a poor connerction in the ram slots as time has gone by. Trying cleaning it's contacts and making sure it's seated properly is free and easy to do.
You MUST remove the AC power to the case when you plug in or unplug anything inside the computer case.

Only hardware problems, or incorrect (incompatible) settings for the ram in the bios, can cause the bios or the operating system to recognize less total ram than was being detected for the same modules that were detected fine previously.
The software in the Windows partition on the hard drive has nothing to do with that, and that includes malware.
Malware that does something to the bios is extremely rare these days.

Some mboards develop failing capacitors - the symptoms caused by that can be many different ones. See response 2.

If you've been fiddling with settings for the ram in the bios, usually loading bios defaults allows the ram to be detected properly again.

Assuming you're looking in the right places, it's very odd that only 254mb would be reported in Windows if one or more modules were not being detected properly because of a poor connection in the ram slot(s). In that case it would a lot more likely be a multiple of 1,024 minus 2mb.

As I mentioned before, even when the bios is reporting 4gb of ram (minus 2mb in your case), XP Pro 32 bit can't use all of the 4gb.

More about that....

The 4gb virtual memory address limit for 32 bit operating systems.
An example of 3gb working better than 4gb in a 32 bit operating system.

See response 6:

jam's explanation refers to links on other sties:

You probably don't need 4gb.

Memory Assessor
How much memory do you really need?

Memory Limits for Windows Releases

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August 12, 2011 at 10:40:18
try a memtest:
Let it run for a few hours to see if your ram is working fine.

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August 12, 2011 at 12:08:02
Try cleaning the contacts on the modules and re-seating them, and loading bios defaults if you've been fiddling with bios settings, BEFORE you do a ram diagnostics test, otherwise the results of the testing may not be valid !

Running a complete set of tests more than once or twice is NOT necessary.
If it passes the set of tests once there's nothing wrong with the ram.

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August 12, 2011 at 12:28:28
you may want to run Ccleaner slim
to clean out all excess junk files on your PC...just wondering...what size is your hard drive and how much of it is free?

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August 12, 2011 at 13:02:14
When you start memtest it should state the type and amount the app sees. It is the best place to start I think.

Some Dells have an old bios setting to limit memory to install NT
I doubt yours does but might as well see.

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