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WIN95 16/32MB performance difference much?

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First post, by kennyPENTIUMpowers

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hi guys,
im in the process of getting together a P120 build and trying to keep it period correct .. its going to be a christmas 1995 very late present..
back then a very nice upper end PC was a 120 (with the 133 being at the top) with 16 mb RAM.. ram was incredibly expensive with 32MB being around $1000 USD...
i have 32mb in the system at the moment and the only other config that i can do is 8 or 64 (that is what i own already).. the ram in this system was actually 64 (dated 99 i think) so was upgraded at a later time when ram had come down way in price..
so the question is what difference in performance does going to 32 make over 16 .. ill be running all the usual programs like period FPS's and racing sims (doom, need for speed, warcraft, wing commander 3)..

Reply 1 of 102, by Sphere478

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I always try to max out the ram, with the only exception being if less ram equals significantly more speed.

If you are trying to be period correct, that’s another matter I suppose.

But I find 32mb of ram to be very limiting on my gateway 2000 POD 83 build. (Which I have yet to get working right 🤣)

Something period correct would be to have 8mb plus 16mb 😀 and a overclocked 120.

Sphere's PCB projects.
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Reply 2 of 102, by Jo22

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Hi there! In the 90s, my father was a programmer and had a 386DX-40 PC with 16MB of RAM (30 pin SIMMs).

Plus two IDE HDDs (~120MB and 250MB? Can't remember exactly), an Laserjet Plus, an 28k8 modem (Trust Connect?) and a Mitsumi LU005S single-speed CD-ROM drive.

The 16MBs were installed especially for Windows 95 at the time (when it was RTM).
He tried to be reasonable in this regards, so he did the pricey upgrade.

Other people did torture themselves with 4 or 8MB of RAM also.
And a 386SX PC, maybe. 😉

Bottom line:
Once you're entering professional fields or become a power user, just forget about period-correctness.
It's a stereotype more than anything else.
Just think of those retro shows on TV, which present a biased and distorted portrayal of the past.
In reverse, the other way round, being in-correct was normal back then:
Millions of users ran Windows on underpowered (outdated) or otherwise non-standard PCs that weren't period-correct.

I was one of them, too. In the 90s. Got a multimedia upgrade kit for my 12 MHz 286.
16-Bit 44KHz Stereo soundcard with a double-speed CD-ROM drive.
PC was retrofitted with 4x 1 MB of SIMMs and 80 MB Conner IDE hard disk.
Got a Mustek handy scanner, too. It was a multimedia PC, albeit a weird one. 😉
Windows 3.1 ran smoothly, though.

Edit: Small edit.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 3 of 102, by waterbeesje

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With Windows 9x I can't advise anything else than to max out the ram to the cachable limits. With 64MB you can turn off the HDD swapping and that relieves stress on the ancient hard disk.
As said, in the principal world 64MB was very possible, even though it would have cost a small fortune. For consumers 8 or 16 was common because of the costs. The ram shortage was compensated by Windows with the swap file. MS did realize this was a problem already with the development of Windows 3.x and found swapping the next best choice. Not the single best.

For DOS stuff, be more careful as there are have titles that may refuse to run with this much ram... There 16 or even 8 might be the better choice.

Stuck at 10MHz...

Reply 4 of 102, by kennyPENTIUMpowers

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waterbeesje wrote on 2022-09-12, 07:54:

With 64MB you can turn off the HDD swapping and that relieves stress on the ancient hard disk.

For DOS stuff, be more careful as there are have titles that may refuse to run with this much ram... There 16 or even 8 might be the better choice.

yeah i would like to go easy on the drive... it is the original 1.2gb one ...
is it easy to disable the hdd swapping?

Reply 5 of 102, by leonardo

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kennyPENTIUMpowers wrote on 2022-09-12, 02:55:
hi guys, im in the process of getting together a P120 build and trying to keep it period correct .. its going to be a christmas […]
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hi guys,
im in the process of getting together a P120 build and trying to keep it period correct .. its going to be a christmas 1995 very late present..
back then a very nice upper end PC was a 120 (with the 133 being at the top) with 16 mb RAM.. ram was incredibly expensive with 32MB being around $1000 USD...
i have 32mb in the system at the moment and the only other config that i can do is 8 or 64 (that is what i own already).. the ram in this system was actually 64 (dated 99 i think) so was upgraded at a later time when ram had come down way in price..
so the question is what difference in performance does going to 32 make over 16 .. ill be running all the usual programs like period FPS's and racing sims (doom, need for speed, warcraft, wing commander 3)..

I only just completed a build that has 16 MB of RAM, and with Cacheman optimization enabled there's just 5-6 MB of free RAM when you start the system. I would say going up to even 24 or 32 megabytes of RAM would make a low-end configuration much more pleasing to use. Swapping makes performance terrible especially if you have slow hard disk. With 64 megabytes of RAM all your troubles are over. 😉

[Install Win95 like you were born in 1985!] on systems like this or this.

Reply 6 of 102, by kennyPENTIUMpowers

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thats all part of experience that we had back then..
i did read that in dos mode playing doom, that anything above 8mb made no difference..
maybe in windows desktop environment it makes a difference more? thing wont be in windows much ... its primary purpose is 94/95/96 gaming, not sure how much 32mb helps there

Reply 7 of 102, by mkarcher

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kennyPENTIUMpowers wrote on 2022-09-12, 14:35:

thats all part of experience that we had back then..
i did read that in dos mode playing doom, that anything above 8mb made no difference..
maybe in windows desktop environment it makes a difference more? thing wont be in windows much ... its primary purpose is 94/95/96 gaming, not sure how much 32mb helps there

If you have enough RAM, you don't need any more RAM. For DOOM in DOS, 4MB is enough. Add some MB to be allocated to a disk cache, and you have yourself a nice gaming system with 8MB which should run most games from 1991 to 1994/1995 nicely. RAM gets really interesting when you get into actual Windows software, like Word for Windows 95, Excel, Internet Explorer 4.0. You should be able to run a single one of those applications nicely with 16MB RAM, at least if you limit yourself to 256 colors. On the other hand, if you were to surf the web while writing a document in Word, or embed multiple Excel tables into a word document with some toy programs running in the background, you will be happy to have 32MB.

Basically, just check the HDD LED: If the computer feels slow at times during operation, not just at starting a program, and the hard drive LED is constantly flickering at that time, you need to add more RAM. In DOS, it's even easier: If the software doesn't loudly abort with "out of memory", you most likely don't need more memory.

Reply 8 of 102, by leonardo

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kennyPENTIUMpowers wrote on 2022-09-12, 14:35:

thats all part of experience that we had back then..
i did read that in dos mode playing doom, that anything above 8mb made no difference..
maybe in windows desktop environment it makes a difference more? thing wont be in windows much ... its primary purpose is 94/95/96 gaming, not sure how much 32mb helps there

For plain old DOS 8-16 is plenty.

[Install Win95 like you were born in 1985!] on systems like this or this.

Reply 9 of 102, by leonardo

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mkarcher wrote on 2022-09-12, 14:55:
kennyPENTIUMpowers wrote on 2022-09-12, 14:35:

thats all part of experience that we had back then..
i did read that in dos mode playing doom, that anything above 8mb made no difference..
maybe in windows desktop environment it makes a difference more? thing wont be in windows much ... its primary purpose is 94/95/96 gaming, not sure how much 32mb helps there

…RAM gets really interesting when you get into actual Windows software, like Word for Windows 95, Excel, Internet Explorer 4.0. You should be able to run a single one of those applications nicely with 16MB RAM, at least if you limit yourself to 256 colors. On the other hand, if you were to surf the web while writing a document in Word, or embed multiple Excel tables into a word document with some toy programs running in the background, you will be happy to have 32MB.

Installing IE 4.0 with the shell update on Windows 95 effectively doubles the RAM requirement from 16 to 32 megabytes. One of the worst design decisions Microsoft ever made. Without it, you will have plenty of RAM left over to run more than one app simultaneously, assuming they’re somewhat decent about their memory usage.

[Install Win95 like you were born in 1985!] on systems like this or this.

Reply 10 of 102, by Cosmic

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I hope this is somewhat on topic - this thread is mostly about ~1995 but I have an HP Vectra VL5 which is more of a '97 machine. It came with a 200MHz Pentium MMX and 96MB RAM (6 x 16MB EDO). Due to the 256K COAST module it can only cache 64MB (430HX chipset).

I currently run Windows 98 SE and it feels a bit sluggish. I've since upgraded to a 233MHz MMX and "downgraded" to 64MB RAM so it can be cached. Would Windows 95 be a more appropriate OS for this system? I just want it to feel snappy and more workstation-like as it was intended to. Maybe NT4 and 64MB ECC RAM would be a fun combo for the workstation feel?

Reply 11 of 102, by leonardo

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Cosmic wrote on 2022-09-12, 15:54:

I hope this is somewhat on topic - this thread is mostly about ~1995 but I have an HP Vectra VL5 which is more of a '97 machine. It came with a 200MHz Pentium MMX and 96MB RAM (6 x 16MB EDO). Due to the 256K COAST module it can only cache 64MB (430HX chipset).

I currently run Windows 98 SE on it feels a bit sluggish. I've since upgraded to a 233MHz MMX and "downgraded" to 64MB RAM so it can be cached. Would Windows 95 be a more appropriate OS for this system? I just want it to feel snappy and more workstation-like as it was intended to. Maybe NT4 and 64MB ECC RAM would be a fun combo for the workstation feel?

64 MB for Windows 98 SE isn't bad, but given that the IE 4.0 shell-update is built into 98/98SE and you can't really do away with it (not without hacking at the OS) - even if you're not running into the swapping issue, the shell itself is simply slower and more bloated because of IE. You can literally see the speed difference, even on faster systems.

I would recommend 95 OSR2, but then I always do. 😀

You need to assess if there are features in 98/SE that you actually need and if not, make sure none of your favourite apps depend on you having IE installed. If they do - you might as well stick with 98SE. 95+IE isn't going to be any better...

[Install Win95 like you were born in 1985!] on systems like this or this.

Reply 12 of 102, by Cosmic

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leonardo wrote on 2022-09-12, 16:07:
64 MB for Windows 98 SE isn't bad, but given that the IE 4.0 shell-update is built into 98/98SE and you can't really do away wit […]
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Cosmic wrote on 2022-09-12, 15:54:

I hope this is somewhat on topic - this thread is mostly about ~1995 but I have an HP Vectra VL5 which is more of a '97 machine. It came with a 200MHz Pentium MMX and 96MB RAM (6 x 16MB EDO). Due to the 256K COAST module it can only cache 64MB (430HX chipset).

I currently run Windows 98 SE on it feels a bit sluggish. I've since upgraded to a 233MHz MMX and "downgraded" to 64MB RAM so it can be cached. Would Windows 95 be a more appropriate OS for this system? I just want it to feel snappy and more workstation-like as it was intended to. Maybe NT4 and 64MB ECC RAM would be a fun combo for the workstation feel?

64 MB for Windows 98 SE isn't bad, but given that the IE 4.0 shell-update is built into 98/98SE and you can't really do away with it (not without hacking at the OS) - even if you're not running into the swapping issue, the shell itself is simply slower and more bloated because of IE. You can literally see the speed difference, even on faster systems.

I would recommend 95 OSR2, but then I always do. 😀

You need to assess if there are features in 98/SE that you actually need and if not, make sure none of your favourite apps depend on you having IE installed. If they do - you might as well stick with 98SE. 95+IE isn't going to be any better...

Great ideas, thank you! I think I will try 95 just to spend some more time on it. I've been spending a lot of time on 98 SE on my new K6-3 build, so it might be kind of refreshing to use 95 for a while, especially since the front of the box has a "Designed for Windows 95" sticker. 😁 I also use Plop boot manager so maybe I can dual boot NT4 as well and run some productivity software. I found I could get 4 x 16MB = 64MB ECC SIMMs (because ECC in workstations is cool) but it would be about $100, so maybe I'll save that for another day. Cheers for the advice.

Reply 13 of 102, by H3nrik V!

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Cosmic wrote on 2022-09-12, 15:54:

I hope this is somewhat on topic - this thread is mostly about ~1995 but I have an HP Vectra VL5 which is more of a '97 machine. It came with a 200MHz Pentium MMX and 96MB RAM (6 x 16MB EDO). Due to the 256K COAST module it can only cache 64MB (430HX chipset).

I currently run Windows 98 SE and it feels a bit sluggish. I've since upgraded to a 233MHz MMX and "downgraded" to 64MB RAM so it can be cached. Would Windows 95 be a more appropriate OS for this system? I just want it to feel snappy and more workstation-like as it was intended to. Maybe NT4 and 64MB ECC RAM would be a fun combo for the workstation feel?

I don't know if that's also the case when using COAST module, but HX's ability to cache 64 or 512 MiB normally depends on the TAG size (but maybe that's a part of the COAST and thus limited? )

Windows 95/98 are IIRC really bad when having an uncached portion of memory, as the lowest portion of memory is cached (I.e. the first 64megs) but memory is utilized "bottoms up" so the uncached memory is the first that's used. IIRC, NT does it the other way around, so the first utilized memory is the cached portion.

Please use the "quote" option if asking questions to what I write - it will really up the chances of me noticing 😀

Reply 14 of 102, by Cosmic

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H3nrik V! wrote on 2022-09-12, 17:02:
Cosmic wrote on 2022-09-12, 15:54:

I hope this is somewhat on topic - this thread is mostly about ~1995 but I have an HP Vectra VL5 which is more of a '97 machine. It came with a 200MHz Pentium MMX and 96MB RAM (6 x 16MB EDO). Due to the 256K COAST module it can only cache 64MB (430HX chipset).

I currently run Windows 98 SE and it feels a bit sluggish. I've since upgraded to a 233MHz MMX and "downgraded" to 64MB RAM so it can be cached. Would Windows 95 be a more appropriate OS for this system? I just want it to feel snappy and more workstation-like as it was intended to. Maybe NT4 and 64MB ECC RAM would be a fun combo for the workstation feel?

I don't know if that's also the case when using COAST module, but HX's ability to cache 64 or 512 MiB normally depends on the TAG size (but maybe that's a part of the COAST and thus limited? )

Windows 95/98 are IIRC really bad when having an uncached portion of memory, as the lowest portion of memory is cached (I.e. the first 64megs) but memory is utilized "bottoms up" so the uncached memory is the first that's used. IIRC, NT does it the other way around, so the first utilized memory is the cached portion.

Thanks! You're exactly right on the COAST module, the technical reference manual advises it's used as a TAG and a larger module would allow caching the full 512 MiB. There is even an HP part number for the larger module in the normal manual:

  • 256 KB synchronous cache memory module - D3659B
  • 512 KB synchronous cache memory module - D4599A

Unfortunately, the technical reference manual also states:

When a 512 KB cache memory module is installed, the chip set allows provision for an 11-bit tag to be used to allow 512 MB of main memory to be cached, but this facility has not been enabled in the HP BIOS.

After watching eBay for these 512 KB modules for a while, two finally appeared this past week for $40 USD shipped from AUS, but I decided not to buy either of them because of this limitation. Maybe it was fixed in a later BIOS update, but I didn't see it mentioned in the few BIOS change logs I found, so it would have been a gamble for sure.

Thanks for the tip on the 9X and NT memory utilization, that probably explains why 98 it didn't run as well as I wished with 96 or even 320 MiB. 😁 I think I'll stick with 64 MiB for now. I have my K6 and PIII machine around if I need loads of memory.

Reply 15 of 102, by H3nrik V!

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In theory, if the tag on the coast module is a separate chip and the 256 and 512 uses the same pcb, it should be possible to replace the tag with an 11-bit... But if the BIOS doesn't support it, it would not make any difference, probably

Please use the "quote" option if asking questions to what I write - it will really up the chances of me noticing 😀

Reply 16 of 102, by Sphere478

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Typically you get that much tag using one 8 bit on the board and one 8 bit on the coast.

If you can find an identical board that that oem board was based on you may be able to flash it with that board’s bios.

Alternately some bios editing programs may be able to enable that option in your bios

Sphere's PCB projects.
-
Sphere’s socket 5/7 cpu collection.
-
SUCCESSFUL K6-2+ to K6-3+ Full Cache Enable Mod
-
Tyan S1564S to S1564D single to dual processor conversion (also s1563 and s1562)

Reply 17 of 102, by Jasin Natael

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Max out to the cacheable limit would be my advice, it's what I almost always do.
My Windows 95 laptops both Pentium MMX, one has 80MB the other one has 64MB.
My only Windows 95 desktop, Cyrix 5x86 on a Asus PVI-486sp3 has 32MB and it does fine. I wouldn't go less than 32MB.

Reply 18 of 102, by Cosmic

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H3nrik V! wrote on 2022-09-12, 19:03:

In theory, if the tag on the coast module is a separate chip and the 256 and 512 uses the same pcb, it should be possible to replace the tag with an 11-bit... But if the BIOS doesn't support it, it would not make any difference, probably

Interesting! I never thought about doing that. Indeed there are two cache chips and what looks like a separate TAG chip. I don't have the module with me, but I have an old photo of it and I think I can make out the DIP chip on the far right as a Samsung KM68257CJ-15, 32Kx8 Bit High Speed Static RAM.

It would be a fun project to try replacing it given how uncommon these modules seem to be. Though like others have said, BIOS support would need to be cloned from another machine or modified somehow. Unless I'm lucky and the latest BIOS already supports it. Should have just bought one when I had the chance, haha.

XjFB0cw.jpg

Reply 19 of 102, by Cosmic

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Here is the 512KB COAST module that appeared on eBay recently, just for reference in case anyone comes through here in the future looking for similar info. I can't quite make out the DIP chip... it's Mitsubishi, looks like maybe M5M5218DJ, but that doesn't return any datasheets.

MmTtpAx.jpg