Is Your Windows Showing Less RAM Than Installed? Here Is Why

You may have noticed that your Windows 7 or Windows 8 may show that the usable memory may be less than the installed memory (RAM). For instance, your Windows 7 32-bit, may report that there is only 3.5 GB of usable system memory when 4 GB of memory has been installed. Or, a Windows 7 64-bit computer may show only 7.1 GB of usable system memory when 8 GB of memory may be installed.

Installed RAM vs Usable RAM

The indicative Usable Memory is a calculated amount of the total physical memory minus “hardware reserved” memory.
To view the installed memory and the usable memory in Windows 7:
  • Click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Properties.
  • View the Installed memory (RAM) value under System. For example, if it displays 4.00 GB (3.5 GB usable), this means that you have 3.5 GB of usable memory out of 4 GB of installed memory.

Windows shows less RAM than installed

The reduction in available system memory depends on the configuration of the following:
  • The devices that are installed in the computer and the memory that is reserved by those devices
  • The ability of the motherboard to handle memory
  • The System BIOS version and settings
  • The version of Windows 7 that is installed
  • Other system settings.
If, say, a computer has 4 GB of RAM installed, the system memory that is reported in the System Information dialog box in Windows  is less. For example, the System Information dialog box may report 3,120 MB of system memory on a computer that has 4 GB of memory installed (4,096 MB). If a computer has many installed devices, the available memory may be reduced to 3 GB or less. However, the maximum memory available in 32-bit versions of Windows Vista or Windows 7, is typically 3.12 GB. This behavior is the expected result of certain hardware and software factors. For Windows to use all 4 GB of memory on a computer that has 4 GB of memory installed, the computer must meet the following requirements:
The chipset must support at least 8 GB of address space. Chipsets that have this capability include the following:
  • Intel 975X
  • Intel P965
  • Intel 955X on Socket 775
  • Chipsets that support AMD processors that use socket F, socket 940, socket 939, or socket AM2. These chipsets include any AMD socket and CPU combination in which the memory controller resides in the CPU.
The CPU must support the x64 instruction set. The AMD64 CPU and the Intel EM64T CPU support this instruction set.
The BIOS must support the memory remapping feature. The memory remapping feature allows for the segment of system memory that was previously overwritten by the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) configuration space to be remapped above the 4 GB address line. This feature must be enabled in the BIOS configuration utility on the computer. View your computer product documentation for instructions that explain how to enable this feature. Many consumer-oriented computers may not support the memory remapping feature. No standard terminology is used in documentation or in BIOS configuration utilities for this feature. Therefore, you may have to read the descriptions of the various BIOS configuration settings that are available to determine whether any of the settings enable the memory remapping feature.
There are several additional situations that could cause the usable RAM to be less than expected.