Windows memory problem

Microsoft Windows 3.11
May 28, 2010 at 16:26:37
Specs: Windows 3.11, 256
I recently resurrected an old cyrix x86 pr200+ on a rather ahead of its time motherboard - intel i430-TX triton chipset. This board has slots for DIMMS as well as SDRAM. There were lots of SDRAM lying around our department so, I whacked a couple of 128mb modules into the machines. The machine already had 2x16mb dimms in those slots. The BIOS clocked up the SDRAM normally - so I thought the ram would flow right in. The 'progman about' showed the RAM and so I thought 'good - all well'.


I discovered something weird when I decided to get a browser, in this case IE 5 16 bit. Windows said I didn't have enough memory to run the setup. I dug a little deeper and in system info ( primarily an application add-on in the about section in word or publisher eg.) and it said I had -64 Total Extended memory!

I took out the SDRAM chips and left the machine with the 32 meg DIMMS. The extended memory went up and I was able to load IE 5.0 normallly.

I am now suspicious that the SDRAM is not getting all of windows attention. More than that, I put the SDRAM and it runs more or less the same.

What's the problem with BIOS RAM reporting vs Windows reporting? How can I get all that juicy 256 meg SDRAM optimized correctly for win 3.11? The progman lied to me...

See More: Windows memory problem

May 28, 2010 at 19:07:51
That's a common problem with IE5/Win3.1 for anything more than 40MB of RAM:

And if you're using DOS, 64MB of RAM would be your limit if you're using HIMEM.SYS:

There's little increase in Win 3.11 performance above roughly 24MB anyway; remember you're dealing with a GUI that was developed almost 20 years ago designed to function mostly on 4MB to 8MB systems---when RAM was still $30-$40/MB

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

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May 29, 2010 at 01:15:41
I was barking at the wrong tree when I was doing my googling about this - thanks! I didn't think it was the application at all - I was blaming windows system reporting.

I went to a site and traded in my old DOS 5 Himem.sys for a later one from win98 SE to see if XMS would report differently, because I did notice that the wall was 64meg when I checked with MEM parameters.

I might create a RAM disk with all the wasted memory, but I am risking problems by doing this and I am but an intermediate, not expert, at these things.

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May 29, 2010 at 09:19:09
This may be of some help if your serious about running from a RAM disk:

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

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Related Solutions

June 14, 2010 at 13:35:06
As for DOS not detecting all your memory, try installing MS-DOS 7.10 instead. Also, after the Windows setup, make sure that DOS is using it's own himem.sys, emm386.exe etc. and not Windows.

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June 14, 2010 at 14:19:24
I have created a Ramdisk. Quite easily done with XMSDSK - a program that is superior to using ramdrive.sys and is lauded for its effectiveness. I only made it 8192 (8mb), because I just needed enough to have DOSLYNX .39b run in protected mode with plenty of room for temporary file buffering.

I am also using UMBPCI - a replacement for EMM386 for DOS memory handling.

There is a program called SETXMSTO which I have tried, but the results were disappointing. It is supposed to trick himem.sys into recognizing the BIOS ram for windows, but from my tests, I have found that it will not work for my machine with the parameters I have set.

One thing that has had a profound effect was changing the disk caching (smartdrv) from 2048 to 8192. The disk performance after the tweak went up significantly.

Also, using a permanent swap file to 262140 (256mb) has increased the max ram for windows 3.11 to maximum permitted with the system under 386 enhanced mode. Some windows programs however seem to prefer using physical ram and don't like to use the swap.

Verdict: High memory in windows 3.x has a negligible effect on things. It seems that beyond 24mb or so, the curve for memory performance doesn't have all the desired effect you want. I tested the machine with 32mb and compared to 64mb there's little to be realized in the way of enormous multitasking.

I have now moved on to another project - I have put OS2 Warp 4 on another old machine with 256mb of RAM. Warp 4 is a much more modern system - rivalling WinXP in a lot of respects. OS2 is the 'forgotten OS' and although it has not updated in 10 years, it is robust enough to use as an alternative to Windows or Linux in the 21st century. It seems to be able to run almost anything. It is much more challenging than old windows systems, but it is rich in system management tweaks to keep the power user interested for a long time. It is secure for the simple fact that modern web viruses,worms and trojans were never created for it - nor ever shall. The Warp continuum of users know this and never have trouble from system compromises.

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