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XP memory musing

64MB, 128MB, 1GB - how long's a piece of string?

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Last week we reported what Microsoft was telling system builders and resellers about the memory needs of XP - 128MB is fine for most users, but you can survive on 64MB.

Register readers have been mucking about with release candidate (RC) 2 of XP. Here's what they say about its memory sucking powers.

I've recently tried RC2 on an old K6-2/500 with 64Mb of RAM I had lying around and XP ran just fine. Not the fastest windows box I've ever used, but more than adequate for most 'non-power' users.

Had some fun getting all the sound/modem etc to work (no drivers!), but that's another story. Got there in the end with some highly unofficial Win2k drivers some nice person had put up on driverguide.com. - Paul Hutchinson

I had 96MB during beta 1, and it was not usable with one component from Office and Outlook open. I whipped out and got a 128MB DIMM, taking me to 160MB. With 160 MB, beta 1 and the post-beta 1 IDWs were fine - no paging.

Then I got my new Dell laptop, and it had 128 MB of memory. I was stuck with 128MB for a few days until I figured out that my old 128MB Toshiba DIMM worked in my new Dell. 128 MB had the occasional page fest, particularly if I had a nice background loaded and I had all of Office loaded. Once I went to 256MB, things were fine again. I've got IE6, Outlook 2000 and a few other programs open, and a great background, and I'm using 143MB of commit charge. Plenty spare for even larger backgrounds or Office XP when I get around to splashing out for it.

Memory for multiple users is about 16MB per user. Programs seem to share memory quite well. There was no noticeable delay in using Word when Word was open in another user - it opened immediately, and the amount of commit charge (the task mgr memory figure) went up by 1MB.

I think that memory suppliers saying you need 512 MB of memory are scaremongering. But then again, memory is cheaper than at any time I've ever known it, and 1 GB of RAM is affordable by all but those in the most penurious of situations. You'd be silly not to max out your current machines in today's memory market. - Andrew van der Stock

I am part of MSDN and I have been testing the final version of Windows XP. I am very pleased with XP, but I think it runs much better with 256MB RAM than it does on 128MB! We have an old P2-300 laptop that has 288 MB RAM, and XP runs fine! - Stuart Pierce

The reported minimum requirements sound fairly accurate according to what I and my colleagues have observed in test installs at our office. We tried installing a Win XP Beta on a P2 233 with 128 MB RAM and had no problems with it. (Admittedly, after wiping the system and attempting to put another MS OS on the machine, the install always bails out approximately 80% of the way through, but that seems more likely to be some other issue.)

We recently attempted to install Win XP RC2 on a P2 400 with 80 MB RAM and it installed with no problems and the machine runs just fine, with minimal speed problems (other than what you might otherwise expect from a machine running a Windows system and those hardware specs.) We have yet to really try and see what it can handle, but it seems stable enough for now. - Kevin J. Tjarksen

Well all I can say is, ppphhhrrrttt! I am running XP on a P200 with 128MB fine. I'll be the first to admit it ain't no bolt of lightning but it's comparable to running 2000 on the same box. - Peter Freeman

I remember hearing about system requirements for Win2000 and how much equipment/memory was needed. If you look at Microsoft's site - microsoft.com/windows2000/en/server/help/system_requirements.htm - it clearly says that 128MB is the minimum supported and 256 is recommended.

But for my home email server/2ndary DNS server, running Win2000 and Internet Anywhere Mail Server on a P166 with 96MB RAM worked great (this machine handled email for on average four people). I monitored physical memory usage and it never went over 64MB.

So what do these recommendations really mean? If anything, it sounds like PC vendors are just looking for excuses to sell you more computer than you probably need. They are of course the same fellows who try to convince my poor auntie that she really does need a 2GHz machine to read her email and surf the web.

But as you state in your last sentence, with RAM being so cheap do the facts of what really is the minimum you need really matter? - Paul

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