4GB RAM showing as 3.25GB in Vista 32-bit


Nov 29, 2007

BIOS in my ASUS P5K detects 4GB of RAM but my Vista 32-bit detects only 3.25GB. I learned that there is a problem with 32-bit OS. I have also heard about something called memory swap function which is available under newer motherboards. One solution for me is to switch to 64-bit OS. My problems are.. do I have to use 64-bit software as well, will there be a problem running 32-bit software etc. I will be very thankful if somebody can advice me on switching to 64-bit OS.

Thank you


In 32 bit Windows operating systems, the total addressable space available is 4GB. If you install a total of 4GB worth of RAM, the system will detect/use/display less than 4GB of total memory because of address space allocation for other critical functions, such as:

- System BIOS (including motherboard, add-on cards, etc..)
- Motherboards resources
- Memory mapped I/O
- Configuration for AGP/PCI-Ex/PCI
- Other memory allocations for PCI devices

Different onboard devices and different add-on cards (devices) will result of different total memory size. e.g. more PCI cards installed will require more memory resources, resulting of less memory free for other uses.

This limitation applies to most chipsets & Windows XP/Vista 32-bit version operating systems. Again, this is a limitation of the Operating System not having enough address space to allocate to the system *and* the RAM. Not allocating address space to devices renders them inoperable. Not allocating addresses to RAM simply results in the unaddressed section not being used in an otherwise fully functional computer. Therefore the OS designers assign RAM last.

We can have long debates about mathematical fundamentals and discussions about why the original Windows designers couldn't allocate the full theoretical max of 36 bits of address space so that users today would be able to use more resource. But at the end of the day, the designers and engineers 'Didn't Then'. So we 'Can't Now'.

If you install a Windows operating system, and if more than 3GB memory is required for your system, then the below conditions must be met:

1. A memory controller which supports memory swap functionality is used. The latest chipsets like Intel 975X, 955X, Nvidia NF4 SLI Intel Edition, Nvidia NF4 SLI X16, AMD K8 and newer architectures can support the memory swap function.

2. Installation of Windows XP Pro X64 Ed. (64-bit), Windows Vista 64, or other OS which can provide more than 4GB worth of address space.

Note: According to the latest Change Log published by Microsoft, Windows Vista 32bit SP1 will display the installed amount of RAM. This is a display change only.


Apr 18, 2007

It is my understanding that they did. But some vendors didn't though that one day people would actually begin to take >4GB address space in use, so they wrote bad drivers. And now Microsoft just refuse to let anyone use it


Den - It's a limitation in Windows. The driver thing is that, in order to use more than the 4GB {through PAE, for example} the drivers have to be 64 bit 'aware'. If they are not, then as soon as one attempts a DMA operation (Direct Memory Access) to a location that is remapped elsewhere, the screen turns blue and people send (more) hate mail (than they already do) to Microsoft complaining about how bad the OS is.

We have already seen how "well" the various vendors provide "prompt" and "functional" drivers when Microsoft makes changes to things. So the pragmatic decision taken was to simply make a blanket policy for the consumer operating systems that if you need more than 4GB, you have to use a 64 bit OS, and the addressable space was set accordingly. On the server side, it's different and PAE is implemented fully. But for consumer operating systems, PAE functionality is limited to the DP (Data Execution Prevention) security stuff XP got with SP2. At the time it made sense, because almost *nobody* used more than 2GB of RAM.


Jun 1, 2007

Download Vista SP1 and 4gb comes instantly available ( in print anyway )


Apr 24, 2009


May 21, 2009
I have Vista 32-bit and have been able to use all 4GB of RAM without any driver problems. If you want to try yourself http://www.geoffchappell.com/notes/windows/license/memory.htm Basically it allows us to increase the physical address limit of 4GB set by Microsoft so we can test if there are any driver problems or other issues. ;)

The nice thing is that it can be tried by using BCDEDIT to create a second configuration so no need to mess with your original configuration which can be reverted back to by rebooting and selecting the original configuration. :)

Normally I am left with just 3GB of physical address space for RAM after the memory mapped devices have taken their cut (1GB) but even 3GB is more than I would usually need. Most 32-bit programs will be limited to using just under 2GB per application.

For those that can use a 64-bit OS without issues, 64-bit is probably the better way to go.


May 30, 2006
one thing to remember YOU can run 32bit programs on a 64bit OS (well Vista anyway) seeing it is backwards compatible, i have yet to have any prog/hardware give me any issues.