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I have an older run of the mill Acer Aspire 4720Z laptop which is about 2 years old and came with 1 GB of PC-5300 RAM.

I just purchased 4 GB of PC-4300 in 2 sticks and when I plug them both in the computer BIOS recognizes the 4 GB of memory, but Windows Vista crashes with a BSOD just as the boot-up progress meter displays, with 100% consistency.

I tried each 2 GB stick individually and each boots fine; I ran a memory test on one of them and it passed fine. I tried each 2 GB stick with one of the original 512 MB sticks and it BDOD's at the same point.

I have a 2 hour round-trip drive to return the RAM, so I would like to be certain that the 4 GB is not somehow usable (I can certainly make use of it... well the about 3.5 GB that will actually be usable, anyway).

It seems as if Windows or the laptop has a problem with more than 2 GB RAM - is this likely or even possible?

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According to what I can find your laptop model, it only supports 2GB or RAM. That is what is listed on the Acer Support Page and the Crucial Memory Selector. Also going to Intel's specs for the laptop chipset, the GL960, lists 2GB max of RAM as well. So it looks like that's what the issue is.

I'm surprised though that the computer recognizes all the RAM and then crashes Windows rather than just ignoring the extra RAM.

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That's what surprised me too. And, it's not like the slots will only take 1 GB max... each of the 2 GB chips runs in a single slot just fine. –  Lawrence Dol Jan 10 '10 at 22:24

Windows doesn't have a problem with 2GB, I know that. Maybe your laptops physical hardware limitations won't allow over 2GB. You can run the crucial memory scanner to check the max RAM your system will support.

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Windows in general, sure, I know - I have 4 GB in my desktop... but it wouldn't be the first time MS artificially crippled an "OEM" version of Windows. I tried the tool and, according to it, my laptop is limited to 2 GB total. Thanks. –  Lawrence Dol Jan 10 '10 at 8:53

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