4GB memory with 32-bit OS

By: jam
October 26, 2008

This isn't as much a "Howto" as it is an explanation:

The 4GB memory issue is something that's been discussed in these forums quite a bit lately. A lot of people have been upgrading to 4GB with their 32-bit operating systems only to find that the full amount of RAM isn't being recognized. The amount varies from system to system depending on the hardware configuration, but it usually falls between 3.0 - 3.5GB, sometimes even less than 3.0GB.

I wrote an analogy in one of the forum threads a while ago explaining why all of the RAM isn't recognized, hopefully it will help you to understand:

Let's say you have a 4 oz glass for mixing a drink & the drink you're making MUST consist of juice, vodka & ice. If you immediately fill the glass with 4 oz of juice, there obviously would be no room for the vodka & ice. But since you MUST use ALL of these ingredients to make the drink, you'll have to sacrifice some of that 4 oz of juice to make room for the vodka & ice.

4 oz glass = 4GB of virtual address space (VAS) for 32-bit OS
4 oz juice = 4GB of RAM
vodka & ice = video card & other components that MUST be mapped to the VAS.

HP explains it fairly well:


Here's another explanation that should help you understand what the "vodka & ice" represent:


Here's one more explanation from Crucial:


Hope that helps.

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