XP pro only using 508mb of 2GB RAM

Posted on 2011-09-26
Last Modified: 2013-11-09
I have a Dell Optiplex 170L with Windows XP Pro SP3 that is only seeing (and using based upon it's slowness) 508mb of the 2GB RAM installed. All 2GB show up in the BIOS, but when you boot into Windows it only shows 508mb in the system properties. So far I have updated the BIOS from AO7 to AO9, ran a CHKDSK /R, did a repair installation of XP Pro SP3, and I am currently doing a memory test using Ultimate Boot CD. I also went to and had it scan the PC and Crucial shows that there is 2GB of RAM installed. I am perplexed. Have any of you experienced this? Thanks in advance for your help!
Question by:NWAtech
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Expert Comment

ID: 36599975
Perhaps your embedded graphic card is using up the rest?

Expert Comment

ID: 36600017
Is the RAM dual sided RAM? I once had a problem with SDRAM in an older machine when it would only detect half the ram since it only sees one side. It's unusual that it would detect 2GB in the BIOS though.

Expert Comment

ID: 36600050
I got that backwards. Dual sided RAM is good. Single sided ram will cause it to cut the memory size in half.
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Author Comment

ID: 36600095
EP, It is dual sided. I have tried other 1GB modules as well.

Anjos, I will try another video card as soon as the memory test is finished and let you know.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 36600104
First, the BIOS is "seeing" 2GB, so it's not an issue with single vs. dual-sided RAM (or any other RAM characteristics issue).     It's also NOT due to the embedded graphics [That is using SOME memory -- about 4MB ... that's why you "see" 508 instead of 512MB ... but it certainly isn't the cause of the issue you've asked about]

Most likely, you have the BIOS set to "install mode".     This features (a residual feature from NT days) only lets the OS "see" 512MB of RAM while you install the OS.     Go into the BIOS and change it, and your OS will suddenly "see" all 2GB.


Author Comment

ID: 36600129
Thanks for the input from everyone so far.  I should have mentioned in the initial post that the first thing I checked was the install mode setting.  It is set to off.  Also the machine has been updated to the latest BIOS revision.
LVL 70

Accepted Solution

garycase earned 500 total points
ID: 36600603
Check your BOOT.INI file  [You'll need to set Explorer so you can see hidden & protected system files]  and see if there's a "/maxmem=xxx" switch.     If so, delete it.     The BOOT.INI file is in the root of C:

There's also a registry key that does the same thing ... I don't remember that offhand, but if it's not a simple /maxmem switch I'll see if I can find it.
LVL 70

Expert Comment

ID: 36600646
... one other thought:   Not sure which is overriding, but if it's the maxmem switch then you can fix this by simply ADDING a /maxmem=2048 swtich to your BOOT.INI file.

Also, you can easily see and edit the BOOT.INI file by just right-clicking on My Computer; selecting Properties; clicking the Advanced tab; clicking on Startup & Recovery; then clicking on Edit.

As I noted above, if it shows a /maxmem=512 switch, just delete it.    If not, you can try just adding a /maxmem=2048 switch (add this immediately after the OS name) -- so you'd have a line that looks someting like this:

multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Professional" /maxmem=2048 /noexecute=optin /fastdetect

Author Closing Comment

ID: 36600971
That did it. Thanks.  I would have never thought to look at the boot.ini being an XP workstation.  But yes it had a maxmem switch and removing it shows up 2gb.

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