Advantage in increasing RAM on a server over 4gb

jana used Ask the Experts™
I have a Xeon server, 4gb ram and 150 gb disks RAID with windows 2003 server.

I understand that the max ram for use of windows is 4gb.

Two questions:

1.  Is that correct for windows server 2003, max of use is 4gb?

2.  If I install over 4gb ram, say 8gb or 16gb, what advantage can a
     windows 2003 server have or use for?

     (maybe virtual space, or having the pagefile.sys moved to the extended ram,
     what can we use the extra RAM for?)

Please advice
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Take a look at the first link as it illustrates all of the advantages and disadvantages when you are using PAE method.

Second link provides steps on how to enable PAE mode...
Hi there,

the amount of RAM you can use with a Windows 2003 enviroment depends on the version of windows.
So 32 or 64 bit, standard, enterprise or datacenter.
You'll find an overview here:

More RAM = less swapping, more caches, genrally less hard disk acceses.

If you are using server 2003 standard 32bit, limit is 4GB.

Other versions can make it vary greatly. Not sure about the second part. Hope someone else can input.

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Windows Server 2003 x64 is able to address 16 Eb of memory (theoretically), the jump to 64 bit architecture has broke with the 4 Gb limitation.

If you install more memory in your server it's expected to run smoothly, but it depends on what it's being used for. More memory means more capability to manage user concurrency, faster response through network, etc..., but don't expect a significant improvement if your current memory is underused.

Check the memory ocupation evolution on your server during the day, if it's over 50% most of the time you surely will improve your server performance increasing it's RAM, if it's below 50% most of the time and you haven't significant peaks of memory occupation you'll be wasting money.


My windows server2003 is 32 bit, so I see its limited to 4gb.

I can increase the RAM and now I now that windows 2003 server will have no no advantage for it.

My question still stands for the second part:

2.  ....

     (maybe virtual space, or having the pagefile.sys moved to the extended ram,
     what can we use the extra RAM for?)

In other words, now I know that my ws2003 will have no advantage for any memory over 4gb, but if I do install additional ram, what can I do with it?  

In short:    

1)  With PAE applications like SQL can leverage more memory.    
2)  Even with 4 GIG in the system the OS will never use more than 2 gig for its own operations.  You can limit the OS to 1 gig by using the /3GB switch in the boot.ini (this makes 3 gig specifically for application use!) Adding more memory will not help you with your swap file.
3)  Before adding more memory you need to diagnose if you have a memory chokepoint on your system.  To understand how to do this I highly recommend that you get yourself a copy of Windows Internals 5th Edition and digest the contents of chapter 5.

Question 2:
"The result is that, if you have a system with 3GB or more of memory and you are running a 32-bit Windows client, you may not be getting the benefit of all of the RAM." Based on the technet article, you probably are not even able to use the full 4GB, must less more. Thanks
32 bit OS can only handle a maximum of 4Gb's of RAM please see the following hperlink for information

Reasons behind this are detailed at the following web page
I should state that to exceed 4 gig with Windows Server 32 bit you need to be running either Enterprise Edition or Datacenter edition.   My answer above sort of assumed you were running one of those.  If you are running standard then you cannot use more than 4 Gig of memory.


Thanx, I fully understand that OS 32 bit has the limit and will not be able to use the excess memory, but my question is if I do install the additional ram, based on EE experience, can I configure anything on the server to use that ram?

or just to close the question; there is nothing I can do with that excess ram on the server, no virutual drives, no swap option, no tools ti use that "ram drive", etc., so its not recommended to increase over 4gb.

Correct, unless you have an application that can and will use over 4gb of memory, there is no benefit to the OS to having that extra RAM.
If you have a 32bit OS your address space for memory usage is limited to 4Gb.

If you include more memory it will be invisible to the OS, because he simply is unable to find nothing further than 4 first Gbs.

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