Does Upgrading Memory in Windows NT Clients Help?

SAN MATEO (05/08/2000) - Recently, we have gone through a round of memory upgrades for our Windows NT Workstations. I decided to take a closer look at how much memory we gained by checking Task Manager. After adding 64MB to a particular machine, I noticed that it gained roughly 55MB. I then checked on a machine that went from 128MB to 256MB and it had a similar shortfall, with roughly a 110MB increase. Obviously, NT as well as some other apps must be taking a bigger chunk of the RAM when it becomes available. Why does this happen? Is there some place to control how much an application takes, since it worked just fine with less before the upgrade?

Ed Walker

Lori: It's not clear from your message if the memory was completely recognized.

After you installed the memory, did you notice if the BIOS counted it correctly when the machines booted up? NT should recognize whatever the BIOS has identified is in the machine. If the machine is not counting up to the correct amount of memory, the problem isn't with NT but with the memory and/or the motherboard.

For instance, some motherboards do not recognize double-sided chip sets. Thus your machine, if it recognizes the memory at all, will see only about half of what you installed. In other instances some machines are picky about the type of memory you use, so you want to make sure you have the memory that is best suited for your machine. There are motherboards that don't like mixing and matching different types of chips, so be careful when upgrading.

As far as configuring NT to control the usage of your installed memory, let's see what Brooks has to say.

Brooks: I'm with Lori here. The first thing to do is make sure that the memory is really, truly there. Check the BIOS count, then run Control Panel/System and confirm that NT actually sees the memory. There can be funky compatibility issues here. If NT doesn't see all of the physical memory, you may want to flash the BIOS with a newer version and browse the BIOS looking for weird settings.

If the machine did indeed recognize the memory, I'm guessing that the Task Manager statistic you're going by is Physical Memory/ Available. It's normal to add memory to a machine and not see it all become available, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

After all, it doesn't do you any good to have additional memory sitting around unused. If it's not being used by an application, you are better off employing memory to cache disk or network resources, which will improve overall system performance.

NT is fairly smart (well, sometimes), and as you add memory it will, among other things, increase the size of its disk cache. If an application allocates that memory, it will be taken out of the disk cache and pressed into service, just the way it should be.

Using the task manager isn't the best way to see what's going on with your memory, though. To really see if it's being used efficiently, Performance Monitor is the only way to go. There are a number of helpful articles in Microsoft's Knowledge Base that describe monitoring and troubleshooting techniques using Performance Monitor, although most are focused on troubleshooting memory leaks or excessive paging. You can find the knowledge base at search.support.microsoft.com/kb. In particular, you can confirm that neither NT nor your applications are starved for memory by looking at the Pages/Sec counter; it probably won't be zero, but it should be low.

In a nutshell, I'd say don't sweat it. If the BIOS is recognizing the memory, you should be happy that NT is putting it to good use rather than waiting for a memory-hungry application to run.

Pesky print-banner problem solved

In response to our April 24 column, "Pesky print banners just won't go away when running Windows NT clients on NetWare," many of our faithful readers revealed that they experienced this same problem after installing NT Service Pack 5. The Microsoft Web site offers work-arounds, or you can add Service Pack 6 to solve the problem.

Brooks Talley is senior business and technology architect for InfoWorld.com.

Lori Mitchell is a senior analyst in the Test Center. Send your questions for them to testcenter_rx@infoworld.com.

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