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new motherboard only reports minimal amount of installed RAM

Posted on 2006-10-19
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Just put together a new system with an ECS motherboard (P4M800PRO-M) and an Intel Pent 4 3.2 Ghs processor.  I put in two Kingston DDR2 512MB RAM modules (PC2-4200 -- 533 MHz). Installed WIN XP (home).  It boots up fine -- but runs very slow.  I ran Belarc and it reports 256 as total physical installed memory -- but it does show 512 in both slots (DIMM0 & DIMM1).  Kingston's website says RAM is appropriate for this motherboard.  I originally had a WinFast 128MB video card installed -- but thought maybe that was eating the RAM so took it out and am just running off the internal VIA/S3G Pro IGP.  Anyone have an idea of where my RAM has gone -- and how I can get it back?
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Question by:fitzinvegas
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by:Callandor
Callandor earned 100 total points
ID: 17769976
If your BIOS is reporting the full 1GB amount and Belarc reports 256, some of it may be used by the onboard video, but I can't believe all of it is.  You may have a lot of startup programs using memory.  Try Everest as a second report: http://www.majorgeeks.com/download4181.html
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by:fitzinvegas
ID: 17770423
The Everest software is nice, thanks.   I downloaded it and it appears to be very good to have.  Unfortunately, as far as my immediate situation is concerned, it just seems to confirm Belac.  Under "memory modules" it shows both Kingston 512MB modules -- but also "system memory" says I have just a total of 255 MB.  I checked for Start-Up programs, and it does seem to be much out of the ordinary (total of 6).  Windows Task Manager "Processes" shows I'm using 173M.  
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by:fitzinvegas
ID: 17770440
previous message should have been "Start-up programs does NOT seem to be much out of the ordinary.. My bad.
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by:jamietoner
ID: 17770470
check your bios for an os compaibility mode (exact name differs usualt include os-2 or legacy os) seen this in many motherbaord and will limit the amount of memory seen to 256mb so make sure it is disabled.
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by:fitzinvegas
ID: 17771039
jamie, that sure seems like a plausible explanation—especially since the amount of RAM I’m showing is just that number.  However, I can’t locate any part of my BIOS that appears to limit the operating system’s memory.  I went through item-by-item (twice) and also went carefully over ECS’s “User’s Guide” – and didn’t come up with anything.  There is “Aperture Size Select” for use with a graphic board (its set @ 128 MB) and “Share Memory Size” to allocate a portion of memory for the onboard VGA display (set @ 32MB) – but I didn’t find anything that limits the OS.  Any further leads would be appreciated.
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by:garycase
ID: 17771519
Some server motherboards have a mode for installing the server OS that limits the memory to 256MB ... but I've not seen it before on a desktop board => but it certainly doesn't hurt to look very carefully for it.   I did download the manual and scan through it, but did not find anything that indicates such a mode.

I would also try:  (1)  Using just ONE of the memory modules; and (2)  If you have some DDR modules available; remove the DDR-2 modules and try running with DDR ... just to see if it makes a difference.   You MAY have a compatibility issue with the memory modules you're using; if so, you might find that DDR works better.
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by:garycase
ID: 17771523
What does Windows show for total memory if you do a right-click on My Computer and choose "Properties" ??

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by:fitzinvegas
ID: 17774782
gary -- thanks -- your suggestions were helpful in narrowing the focus.

1)  I tried using just one module of the DDR2 at a time -- nothing changed -- the system still reported 256MB of RAM.  I tried each module seperately -- no difference.
2)  I pulled the DDR2 modules and inserted two 512MB DDR-333 RAM.  Nothing changed -- the system still reported 256MB of RAM.
3)  Windows showed 256MB as total memory during all the previous configurations.

So, I guess this means the memory modules aren't the problem.  What might be limiting the motherboard?  By the way, I did e-mail ECS with a detailed description of the problem when it first occured (3 days ago) -- but have not received a reply.
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by:garycase
ID: 17774916
Interestingly, I would expect XP to report 224MB of RAM, since you have 32MB assigned for the onboard video (assuming you're still using that).   So the shared video RAM is apparently coming from the "unseen" memory ... but the OS is somehow being restricted to 256MB !!

I'm sure you've already done so ... but after a night's sleep and a bit of time away from the system, it won't hurt do do this again:  Look VERY carefully in the BIOS to see if there's a "configuration mode" setting (that's what it's usually called).   If I recall correctly (haven't seen it in a while, and don't have any systems with this issue), that's what it's called => and the function is to restrict the memory reported to the OS to 256MB.   [You're stretching my memory here ... but I believe this was implemented on some motherboards because the NT installer didn't work correctly on systems with more than 256MB of memory; and although it's no longer an issue, some boards still have this setting].


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by:jamietoner
ID: 17777266
The os install mode setting is usualy disabled by default so try reseting bios defaults and if that fails load optimized defaults (f you have that option). If those fail try reseting the bios with the cmos jumper.
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by:fitzinvegas
ID: 17784292
I entered BIOS setup -- changed to Optinmal Defaults -- exited and there was no change.  So, I cleared the  CMOS using the jumper.  When I rebooted I entered "Load Optimal Settings" and then "Save Changes and Exit."  It booted up fine -- but still thinks I have just 256MB of RAM.  
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by:jamietoner
ID: 17784297
Wow.... Im starting to thing the memory controler on the motherboard may be bad.
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by:garycase
ID: 17784418
I reviewed this thread for any clues I might have missed ... but don't see anything that jumps out.

One thing I did notice (that I didn't comment on before) was the discussion about startup programs ==> they absolutely have NOTHING to do with this issue;  even if you had a bunch of startup programs that used most of your memory, XP would still SHOW the memory [i.e. right-clicking on My Computer & selecting Properties would show the total memory], it just wouldn't be available for other applications.

The problem certainly looks like a configuration mode ... HOWEVER, that's very unlikely on such an inexpensive board.    I did find a few references to issues with ECS boards and higher speed memory modules => in those cases they were resolved by using lower-spec memory; but I can't say for sure whether this is the problem here.   Another possibility is that the board requires low-density memory and you're using high density modules ==> are the memory modules you're using single-sided or double-sided?  (answer that for both the DDR-2 and DDR modules)

Just to be ABSOLUTELY certain that CMOS was cleared, I would clear it again via battery-removal instead of the jumper.   Just unplug the system; then remove the CMOS battery from the motherboard for ten minutes;  then replace it and boot back up.   See if that helps.   If not, I suspect either bad hardware OR the wrong density memory.
In case you're wondering how Everest, Belarc, etc. could "see" the full memory if that's the case ==> they read the SPD info from the modules (which will be the actual memory amount) to report their size;  but also report the total memory that Windows has available.

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by:Callandor
ID: 17786273
Well, one never knows what the technical expertise is of the asker and whether something simple was overlooked or misread; ie, was the 256MB actually the total reported, or another number.
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by:fitzinvegas
ID: 17790202
I checked with Kingston Technical Support to see if I am using the correct memory modules.  The serial number is slightly different from the one listed in the ECS user's guide and on their website.  They have confirmed that the modules I have installed (KVR533D2/512R) are the ones approved for my P4M800PRO-M motherboard.  The reason the number was slightly different is that I have the retail version – but they assured me the modules are identical.
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by:fitzinvegas
ID: 17791897
I’ll readily admit that my technical expertise is limited – thus, I am, pleased to have the IT Pros of Experts Exchange to turn to when I’m stumped.
I certainly may have overlooked or missed something.
From the very beginning, I felt the new system wasn’t running very well, this is what I’ve observed:
• When I go to “My Computer” – right click and select “properties” – it describes my processor then says “256MB RAM”
• When I use the EVEREST analysis program it reports:  Physical Memory Total 255MB; Used 153 MB; Free 101 MB; Utilization 60%).  But it does show my two 512MB RAM modules as being installed – complete with serial numbers and manufacture date.
• When I use the BELARC Advisor program, it reports:  Memory Modules -- 256 Megabytes Installed Memory
• When I use AOL’s “Computer Check-Up” program, it says  ” RAM:  256MB”

And, to be even more confusing, this does not change whether I have one DDR2 512MB module installed or both DDR2 512 MB modules installed.
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by:jamietoner
jamietoner earned 150 total points
ID: 17791989
what does it report in the bios for installed ram?
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garycase earned 250 total points
ID: 17793154
"... But it does show my two 512MB RAM modules as being installed – complete with serial numbers and manufacture date. " ==>  As I noted above, that's not surprising ... this information is simply coming from the SPD info.   Doesn't help resolve this though.   If you've tried the "remove the battery for ten minutes" I suggested above and it still doesn't help, I'd return the motherboard.
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by:fitzinvegas
ID: 17826214
I finally had e-mail exchganges with Elite (ECS) -- they blamed the RAM.  Kingston blamed the MB. I did end up returning the moterboard to Fry's.  .  . had it replaced -- installed the new one and the whole saga started over again. I began to think that I was crazy.  Finally, I came across an on-line tech forum where 3 other people had had the same (or very similar) problems with the ECS P4M800PRO-M motherboard.  That was enough.  I took the second board back and traded it in on a GIGABYTE board (GA-965G-DS3) that works well.  And I have sworn off looking for bargins.  Thanks to all of you who helped me work my way through this frustrating process.  I'll split the points.
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by:garycase
ID: 17826253
I'm not surprised ... as I noted earlier, I had a found several references to memory issues with ECS boards.   I've never encountered that ... but I basically only use Intel boards (which are rock solid).
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