Computer memory prices dropped like a stone earlier this year. What I expected to cost $200 was suddenly $40. Yep, a 1 GB DDR2 PC-5400 SIMM module was suddenly $40. Knowing my motherboard could accept four 2 GB modules, I went looking. Granted I didn’t need 8GB of memory, but since when is [em]need[/em] an issue?

I started running the 64-bit version of Vista on a lark. I read stories of driver troubles and how everyone went back to the nice and safe 32-bit version afterwards. Much to my surprise, 64-bit Vista ran just fine for me. My machine is just over a year old so perhaps it’s recent enough that I bypassed the troubles so many others experienced.

My computer, a Dell, is ridiculous in many ways. One is that although the motherboard will recognize 8 GB of memory, it will only allow a 64-bit operating system to see it all. A 32-bit operating system is allowed to see only 2 GB, even if there is more installed. Yes, I know about the memory addressing limitations of 32-bit operating systems, and this is not the cause. This is a Dell issue, and I have no idea why they did this.

I also read that while 32-bit Vista runs like a champ with 2 GB, the 64-bit version requires more memory to hit its sweet-spot. I decided to go ahead and give the extra RAM a try.

One thing that’s blatantly obvious is Vistas caching has a lot of RAM to take advantage of. Any unused memory is co-opted to store previously run applications. Once you’ve used the machine for a bit, programs start lightning fast because they do not need to be loaded from disk. The only down side is my paging file has grown quite large. I’ve yet to experiment with disabling it entirely.

I only have one native 64-bit application that was not included with the operating system. Prime95 is available in a 64-bit version for Windows and I’m running two copies now. It’s identical to the 32-bit compile except that I can specify far larger memory space. I had P‑1 factoring use 6 GB at one point, just to see if it would work. Since I’m running two copies, I backed them off to 3 GB each. They’ll almost never be P‑1 factoring at the same time so I should manage to scrape by on the remaining 5 GB when one is P‑1 factoring. Now if only the service version had a 64-bit compile available.

Do I need a 64-bit operating system? Of course not, but it doesn’t hurt. Now who wants four 1 GB SIMMs of PC-5400 RAM, cheap?