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I am running Win 7 Starter 32-bit on an Acer Aspire, 2gb RAM.

Will 2 extra GB Ram make my system faster?

When I install the RAM system properties says that the system has 4 GB but only 2 is usable. Does that mean my extra 2 GB are useless?

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    If you're limited to 2GB of RAM but you have another slot, one way to eek more performance out of it would be to swap the 2GB to two 1GB sticks to take advantage of dual-channel (assuming the system is capable of it, which it most likely is). – helrich Oct 20 '14 at 12:22
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    @cybermonkey Why do you think it's a bad question? – gronostaj Oct 20 '14 at 13:21
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    @helrich Performance gain from dual channel would be barely noticeable. RAM throughput is rarely a bottleneck, capacity is. – gronostaj Oct 20 '14 at 13:23
  • @gronostaj because there is an already existing question about 32-bit windows with 4gb of memory – Ramhound Oct 20 '14 at 14:07
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    @Ramhound The answer is completely different here: Windows 7 Starter has additional, artificial 2 GB limit. It has nothing to do with OS being 32-bit. – gronostaj Oct 20 '14 at 14:10
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Windows 7 Starter is limited to a max 2GB of usable RAM, so yes your extra 2GB is useless.

Sources:

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    If the computer came with a 2GB module plus an empty slot, it likely means that the computer architecture is capable of addressing more than 2 GB but is limited by the operating system. If Windows is upgraded or Linux is set up as a dual boot or booted from a USB stick, the additional RAM could be utilized. – fixer1234 Oct 20 '14 at 6:36
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    @fixer1234 The cpu could impose a limit. However, yes it is likely that changing to another operating system would allow using the 4GB of ram. – Robin Hood Oct 20 '14 at 6:48
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    It's not quite useless. While the OS is limiting you to 2gb of usable ram; going from single to dual channel mode will double ram bandwidth and should give a modest improvement in real world speed when doing anything computationally intensive. – Dan is Fiddling by Firelight Oct 20 '14 at 13:14
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Many 64-bit CPUs/memory controllers support so called dual channel memory access to speed up memory accesss, if you have two sufficiently similar memory modules properly installed in a mother board that support this feature. See Wikipedia article on more the more general concept of multi-channel memory architecture for more details. So while the operating systems that you are currently using implements this artificial limitation for maximum usable memory, there might still be slight performance boost depending on the application.

However, as mentioned in below comment by @gronostaj, if your system is running out of physical memory, this added memory bandwidth is going to help you even less noticeably.

You need to consult your motherboard user manual for details how to install the memory to benefit from the feature.

  • With 2 GB of RAM OP is probably limited by RAM's capacity and paging speed. Increasing memory throughput won't help much because system will still page a lot. – gronostaj Oct 20 '14 at 13:25
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    @gronostaj - I added your comment on the answer. And personally I do not think it is in general worth the trouble opening the case and installing a new memory module for the anticipated performance boost when you are running OS amputated by evil marketing droids. – FooF Oct 20 '14 at 13:41
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    Also, 32-bit processors can address more than 2/4GB of memory through PAE. One nameless company simply decided to charge proportionally based on how powerful the hardware is, such as having multiple cores or multiple processors (or both), and how much RAM is installed. – phyrfox Oct 20 '14 at 16:03
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    @FooF Actually, PAE has been supported on Windows since XP (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3_GB_barrier for references). They simply choose to not license more than 2/4GB of RAM. There are patches you can apply to these OS's to break that limit, so long as you're not using certain incompatible drivers. PAE has been around for 20 years now, and Microsoft has the implemented code in their OS. The barrier is instead implemented as a kernel limitation. Any 32-bit Windows running today is probably running in PAE mode... – phyrfox Oct 24 '14 at 12:45
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    @FooF That is exactly right. They could have just barred incompatible drivers, putting the onus of system stability on manufacturers (and they would have done so, or their products would have failed), but instead decided that they should punish the consumers. Since PAE is enabled (required by NX-bit to reduce the effect of viruses), they've already had to support more than 2/4GB of memory in PAE. And, as noted, most drivers are compatible, and there are live patches available to fix XP/Vista/7 32-bit that allows far more memory. – phyrfox Oct 24 '14 at 13:03

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