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1GB vs 2GB for gaming XP build

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First post, by Lostdotfish

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I'm in the process of building an XP gaming platform and wondered what everyone's thoughts were on RAM capacity and configurations.

I'm playing with various platforms and chipsets, so a broad discussion is welcome. I'm mostly playing with the following AMD hardware

nForce 2 - Athlon XP S462
nForce 4 - S939
790GX - AM2/AM3

Also keen to hear about what works well on the contemporary Pentium 4 chipsets, 875, 915, X38, X48, X58 etc

I have most experience with the nForce 2 S462 platform, as that was my system back in the day. The received wisdom back then was that 1GB in dual channel (2x512) was optimal for gaming performance with 2GB configurations showing performance dips (whether 2x1GB or 4x512). This was running BH5 on super tight timings and high voltages (3.6vdimm ftw).

I also had a 939 system back in the day but I never really clicked with it but on reflection, maybe moving my BH5 ram over to it wasn't the best match.

I have no real experience of the later, PCI Express platforms.

Reply 1 of 27, by Jo22

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3GB

Edit: Or 4GB for dual-channel?

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Reply 2 of 27, by TrashPanda

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Jo22 wrote on 2022-05-08, 13:31:

3GB

Edit: Or 4GB for dual-channel?

4gb is pretty pointless if running a 32bit OS, since you will only ever get 3.5gb of it due to how Windows maps out Video memory, 3 gb is pretty nice but 2gb will also work just as good for gaming.

Yea I know about the weird hacks that let you get 4+gb under a 32bit os but who the fuck wants to bother with that shit for a gaming rig.

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Reply 4 of 27, by TrashPanda

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Lostdotfish wrote on 2022-05-08, 13:40:
Jo22 wrote on 2022-05-08, 13:31:

3GB

Edit: Or 4GB for dual-channel?

But surely there's no point exceeding 2GB on XP. I'm even questioning whether exceeding 1GB is worthwhile.

I honestly doubt there are many 32bit XP games that would exceed 1gb of ram usage let alone 2gb, but if you have other things running in the background then 2gb does provide a bit of wiggle room before you hit the swap file thrashing point.

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Reply 5 of 27, by auron

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Lostdotfish wrote on 2022-05-08, 13:08:

I have most experience with the nForce 2 S462 platform, as that was my system back in the day. The received wisdom back then was that 1GB in dual channel (2x512) was optimal for gaming performance with 2GB configurations showing performance dips (whether 2x1GB or 4x512). This was running BH5 on super tight timings and high voltages (3.6vdimm ftw).

never heard about this and the only related mention i can find offhand is that some boards may downclock to DDR333 with 3GB installed. that would still be quite a different case than 2GB performing slower than 1GB at the same settings. 2-DIMM configs should allow for potentially better timings than 4-DIMM when manually tweaking of course. and well, some received wisdom might be worth re-testing at times...

1GB was mostly fine for 2005-6 but with exceptions, e.g. battlefield 2, where you can still find a lot of reports of bad stutters with 1GB from back in the day, especially maxed out on large servers, that were gone with 2GB. a big thread here for example: https://forums.anandtech.com/threads/battlefi … pdated.1625598/

Reply 6 of 27, by waterbeesje

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In my opinion, if the costs are low, max it out. Put in 4x1GB or 2x1GB+2x513MB if possible. Just make sure it runs dual channel.

It sure will help to prevent a lot of swapping if you provide enough ram. And if not all ram is used... Who cares?

Stuck at 10MHz...

Reply 7 of 27, by Meatball

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2GB (1x1GB) in Dual Channel for 32-bit 2000/XP and call it a day. 4GB if you want to mess around with 64-bit XP. Any greater, and the next stop is 8GB+ with Vista/7/8.1/10.

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Reply 8 of 27, by TrashPanda

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waterbeesje wrote on 2022-05-08, 14:16:

In my opinion, if the costs are low, max it out. Put in 4x1GB or 2x1GB+2x513MB if possible. Just make sure it runs dual channel.

It sure will help to prevent a lot of swapping if you provide enough ram. And if not all ram is used... Who cares?

Windows does . .especially if OP decides to throw a 2gb GPU in that rig, having extra ram in the system that the OS cannot address really doesnt help at all and if it happens to be bad it can also cause further issues that can be downright painful to remedy. 3gb is honestly far more than will ever be required by the OS and Games and most boards will still run the first two dimms in dual channel and run the third in single.

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Reply 9 of 27, by Sombrero

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The first game I remember running into that needed more than the 1GB I had at the time was Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and that was released 2004.

I see no reason not to go 2GB unless the rig is specifically intended for earlier games.

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Reply 10 of 27, by Lostdotfish

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auron wrote on 2022-05-08, 14:04:
Lostdotfish wrote on 2022-05-08, 13:08:

I have most experience with the nForce 2 S462 platform, as that was my system back in the day. The received wisdom back then was that 1GB in dual channel (2x512) was optimal for gaming performance with 2GB configurations showing performance dips (whether 2x1GB or 4x512). This was running BH5 on super tight timings and high voltages (3.6vdimm ftw).

never heard about this and the only related mention i can find offhand is that some boards may downclock to DDR333 with 3GB installed. that would still be quite a different case than 2GB performing slower than 1GB at the same settings. 2-DIMM configs should allow for potentially better timings than 4-DIMM when manually tweaking of course. and well, some received wisdom might be worth re-testing at times...

Yep, it was down to timings, sub-timings and stable overclock. You could get 2x512 stable at super tight timings and push FSB into the 250-300MHz range (on A-XP platforms). The resulting memory bandwidth was much higher than 2x1GB or 4x512GB where you needed to loosen the timings and drop the FSB to run stable.

My 2500+ mobile Barton used to run at 300x10 1:1 for DDR600

With no games demanding more than 1GB at the time, it made no sense sacrificing raw clock speed and tight timing for RAM that would sit unused.

Reply 11 of 27, by AlexZ

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Socket AM3+ is the best choice as it still supports Windows XP, has PCIe 2.0 and USB 3.0. I would recommend 8-16GB RAM as then you can have dual boot with Windows XP and 7. It doesn't matter that memory will be unused in Windows XP.

I would avoid AM2 and consider S939 only if it has AGP (very rare). Socket 754 (preferable) or 462 with AGP is another option for dual boot Windows XP / 98 rig. If you want Windows XP only then know that 754/462 is not sufficiently powerful for late Windows XP games. 754 is preferable to 462 as both are very cheap nowadays and 754 is superior.

There is probably also a good Intel option instead of AM3+, however I'm not familiar with Intel hardware of that era.

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Reply 12 of 27, by auron

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Lostdotfish wrote on 2022-05-08, 14:50:

With no games demanding more than 1GB at the time, it made no sense sacrificing raw clock speed and tight timing for RAM that would sit unused.

well, if you ignore BF2, that seems arguable. here's a roundup that looks like it's from 2005: https://whirlpool.net.au/wiki/rmp_mem

if you actually go socket 939, the gains from more memory bandwidth will be less pronounced though, as shown here: https://www.anandtech.com/show/1731

Reply 13 of 27, by frudi

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Lostdotfish wrote on 2022-05-08, 14:50:

Yep, it was down to timings, sub-timings and stable overclock. You could get 2x512 stable at super tight timings and push FSB into the 250-300MHz range (on A-XP platforms). The resulting memory bandwidth was much higher than 2x1GB or 4x512GB where you needed to loosen the timings and drop the FSB to run stable.

My 2500+ mobile Barton used to run at 300x10 1:1 for DDR600

With no games demanding more than 1GB at the time, it made no sense sacrificing raw clock speed and tight timing for RAM that would sit unused.

Back then it made sense to try and squeeze every drop of performance out of systems as there was no faster hardware one could get (either it was beyond your budget or nothing faster even existed yet). Today, when putting together retro systems to cover that same era, this is no longer the case. Today you can always get slightly newer but faster old hardware for not much difference in price. If you're not happy with how much performance you're getting out of a Barton with DDR memory, simply switch to a newer platform and it will blow the Barton away, no matter how much tweaking of FSB and memory sub-timings you invested into the socket 462 platform.

I would recommend you first decide what you want to run on this XP system. And then pick a platform that's fast enough that it doesn't matter any more whether you overclock it by 50% or not, because it's already faster than you could ever need at stock speeds for what you intend to run on it. Then you can max it out with 4 GB of ram without worrying about lost performance, because who to hell is going to tell the difference between 250 or 200 fps. My suggestion for an XP build is almost always Core 2 Duo based on a P35/P43/P45 platform, with DDR2 memory and preferably an E8x00 series CPU. These parts are as cheap as retro hardware gets these days, but will chew through anything XP can throw at it with ease. Hell, some boards even support DDR3 and allow overclocking FSB up to ~500-ish MHz for some PC3-16000 memory speeds, if that tickles your fancy.

Reply 14 of 27, by Errius

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I have a late P4 machine which can take up to 4 GB RAM, but which can only use 3 GB of that, so 1 GB is wasted.

It currently has two 1 GB modules and two 512 GB modules, which saves two 1 GB modules which can be more effectively used elsewhere, and does not sacrifice dual channel operation, as would happen with three 1 GB modules.

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Reply 15 of 27, by Shponglefan

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Personally I max out RAM in my Windows XP machine since I also have virtual memory disabled on account of using an SSD with it.

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Reply 16 of 27, by stanwebber

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spend the most money you can on 2 x 256mb sticks with the absolute best timings. if 256mb ddr is too hard to find go 2 x 512mb. can those nforce boards do ecc unregistered? that's what i did for my amd761 build.

Reply 17 of 27, by The Serpent Rider

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AlexZ wrote:

Socket AM3+ is the best choice as it still supports Windows XP, has PCIe 2.0 and USB 3.0. I would recommend 8-16GB RAM as then you can have dual boot with Windows XP and 7. It doesn't matter that memory will be unused in Windows XP.

Sandy Bridge/Ivy Bridge works just fine. Including X79 platform.

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Reply 19 of 27, by red-ray

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TrashPanda wrote on 2022-05-08, 13:38:

4gb is pretty pointless if running a 32bit OS, since you will only ever get 3.5gb of it due to how Windows maps out Video memory

Yea I know about the weird hacks that let you get 4+gb under a 32bit os but who the fuck wants to bother with that shit for a gaming rig.

Just run 2003 Enterprise Server and you can have way more than 4GB. I only have a system setup with 8GB, but 32GB should be fine

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