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Thread: Input Wanted: Building My Next PC (Updated)

  1. #31
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    I would like to suggest a couple of programs for those looking to see how well there systeme are really performing. I recommend the Base download of 3DMark06 for stress testing and general benchmark scores. As you add components, you can run the benchmark again to track for improvements. Also download CPUz to monitor system information such as fan speed, core temps, usages, system info for settings e.g. cpu, memory settings, voltages, ect. For those of you using nVidia base motherboards there is a real cool "System Monitor" download for the desktop. Google them for the links.

  2. #32
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    3dmark06 is OK, but it doesn't really indicate gaming performance accurately. It's also fairly heavily CPU dependent. It will reveal any serious performance issues though. 3dmark Vantage is out now as well, for DX10 systems.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjl View Post
    How soon do you need it? Soon, intel is coming out with the next generation parts, and they should be significant improvements over the current stuff. Of course, if you need it right now, the Q9450 or 9550 is a great choice.
    I'll probably purchase mid-Sep.

    Well, the best bang for the buck right now is the ATI Radeon 4xxx series cards, but almost no single card out there has more than 2 monitor capability. The HD4870x2 might have the capability for 4 monitors in some non-reference variants though, or there's always multiple cards.
    I was planning on running my primary, high-res 16x10 display with either one or two cards (SLI or crossfire), and my two side monitors via a different video card that has dual-monitor out.

    Question: Does Vista Ultimate have both the 32-bit and 64-bit CDs? Someone mentioned the possibility earlier on the thread, but there's been no definative answers, and I couldn't determine that from Microsoft's website.

    Most higher end motherboards have optical out these days, and the Radeon HD4800 series video cards can also do 7.1 channel audio over HDMI (if your reciever supports HDMI in/out).
    I'd prefer to keep the chores separate. Sound processing doesn't take a lot of processing power, though, and even the best soundblaster offers perhaps a 15% improvement over mobo sound.

    Question: Do mobos with optical out sound encode the full 7.1?

  4. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    Question: Does Vista Ultimate have both the 32-bit and 64-bit CDs? Someone mentioned the possibility earlier on the thread, but there's been no definative answers, and I couldn't determine that from Microsoft's website.
    Yep, both are in the box and Microsoft has cleverly hidden the fact on their website...

    Quote Originally Posted by Compare editions: 64-bit editions of Windows Vista

    64-bit DVD

    If you bought Windows Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, or Business as a retail, packaged product, and you would like a DVD of 64-bit software media to install on your PC, please choose your language:

    [pulldown menu]

    Note: 64-bit media is included in the box with Windows Vista Ultimate. [emphasis added]
    I've also seen this confirmed on several reputable websites.

    But this has me wondering...the Microsoft site says you can order the 64-bit DVD "for a minimal fee, including shipping and handling." However, they don't say up front what that fee is. You have to enter your product key to get to the point in the ordering process where they tell you that. Maybe, if you don't want the Ultimate version, this might be the way to go.
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  5. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    I'll probably purchase mid-Sep.



    I was planning on running my primary, high-res 16x10 display with either one or two cards (SLI or crossfire), and my two side monitors via a different video card that has dual-monitor out.

    Question: Does Vista Ultimate have both the 32-bit and 64-bit CDs? Someone mentioned the possibility earlier on the thread, but there's been no definative answers, and I couldn't determine that from Microsoft's website.
    Yes, and all non-oem versions of vista include 64 bit in the cost, but you have to request the CD from microsoft and pay shipping for all but Ultimate (which has the CD in the box for both 32 and 64). Oh, and Crossfire is probably a better choice than SLI, as much as anything because the intel chipsets are better than the Nvidia ones (the X48 is a great choice right now, as is the P45).

    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    I'd prefer to keep the chores separate. Sound processing doesn't take a lot of processing power, though, and even the best soundblaster offers perhaps a 15% improvement over mobo sound.

    Question: Do mobos with optical out sound encode the full 7.1?
    Not sure, as I haven't tried it. I know the one I've tried (Asus Formula Rampage) does 5.1 though, and as I said, the ATI HD4800 series cards support 7.1 over HDMI (that's the way I would go if your receiver has HDMI support).

  6. #36
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    Thanks, guys!

    Brett - Microsoft typically charges $20 for a copy of any "free" software. Covers the CD, burning, a small manual, and S&H.

    And profit!

    Ok - 64 bit all the way, which means:

    1. Windows Vista Ultimate Full Version (64-bit version comes with it)

    Question: I have the Full Version of Windows XP Pro. Can I do a full install using Vista Ultimate simply by inserting the XP Pro CD when it asks (as XP did with NT)? Or much I shell out another $100 to get a clean Vista installation?

    Now all I need to do is figure out which 64-bit mobo, processor, and memory I'll buy.

    That and the video card...

    Any good links for the latest comparisons of these items? 64-bit only, please!

  7. #37
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    Any recent Intel chipset and CPU (Core 2 CPU, P35, X38, P45, or X48 chipset) will support 64 bit just fine, as should any memory (make sure you check whether your motherboard supports DDR2 or DDR3 (the slots aren't compatible)). I think I'd go for a P45 based motherboard with DDR2, and a Q9550 (the recent price drops on the 9550 are quite nice).

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    Question: I have the Full Version of Windows XP Pro. Can I do a full install using Vista Ultimate simply by inserting the XP Pro CD when it asks (as XP did with NT)? Or much I shell out another $100 to get a clean Vista installation?
    I'm confused. Are you asking about using an upgrade version of Vista Ultimate rather than the full retail box? Otherwise, why would your full version of XP Pro ask for your NT disk? That sounds like an upgrade. The whole idea of a full version is that one doesn't need to already own a previous version. You should be able to install it as if it was your first OS on your first computer. Maybe I just don't understand what you're asking.

    ETA...FWIW: Your question reminds me that I read an interesting article or two on using the upgrade version of Vista. Seems that you can buy the upgrade and install it without registration, which amounts to having a 30-day trial. Then you can run the install disc again and it will recogize the trial install as a "previous" version. It sounds sneaky but according to the write-ups, it complies with Microsoft's upgrade licensing agreement. I don't know if that's still true or if MS has fixed this "loophole"...so caveat emptor.
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  9. #39
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    I believe that you can do the "upgrade" like that (with the xp disk), though I'd e-mail microsoft to make sure.

  10. #40
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    I haven't read all of the replies but you will be wasting time and money putting more than 4GB of RAM into a 32 bit Vista machine, as it will not recognise anything above 3.2GB. A 64 bit system will recognise up to 8GB but I doubt you would ever need that much, no matter what you throw at it.

  11. #41
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    Actually, 32 bit has 4GB of total addressable space (you see less than this because ALL memory, such as video memory, uses address space, and address space is also used to allow certain devices to function even if they have no memory). Depending on the components, somewhere between 2.5 and 3.6GB should be usable system memory from what I've seen. 64 bit vista supports varying quantities, depending on the version. Ultimate supports 128GB IIRC.

  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjl View Post
    Actually, 32 bit has 4GB of total addressable space (you see less than this because ALL memory, such as video memory, uses address space, and address space is also used to allow certain devices to function even if they have no memory). Depending on the components, somewhere between 2.5 and 3.6GB should be usable system memory from what I've seen. 64 bit vista supports varying quantities, depending on the version. Ultimate supports 128GB IIRC.
    Here is a darn good explanation of 32 bit addressing:
    http://www.maximumpc.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=71236

  13. #43
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    That is a darn good explanation. I've bookmarked it. Thanks

    The one inaccuracy that I see: SLI/CF videocard configs do not increase the required amount of system memory. A pair of 512MB cards in SLI still only have 512MB of usable video memory, due to the method used for the performance increase (often alternate frame rendering, in which both cards must have a complete copy of all of the texture data, rather than having a shared pool).

  14. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    I'm confused. Are you asking about using an upgrade version of Vista Ultimate rather than the full retail box? Otherwise, why would your full version of XP Pro ask for your NT disk? That sounds like an upgrade.
    It may have been one of the Office versions. I had the full CD of the previous version, bought the upgrade to install on a new computer (the old one had died). Instead of having to install the previous version, the upgrade simply asked me to point it in the direction of a licensed copy of the previous version, and it accepted my sticking the disk in the drive and telling it "lookey here!"

    Maybe I just don't understand what you're asking.
    I have the complete version of XP Pro. I'm trying to save money by purchasing the upgrade version of Vista Ultimate. However, I do not want to install XP first, then Ultimate. I'm hoping someone can tell me if Ultimate's upgrade version will simply check the CD for my complete version of XP Pro, or must I actually install XP on the machine first, before Ultimate upgrade will install?

    If the latter, I'll spring for the complete version. If the former, I'll save some bucks and go with the upgrade version.

    ETA...FWIW: Your question reminds me that I read an interesting article or two on using the upgrade version of Vista. Seems that you can buy the upgrade and install it without registration, which amounts to having a 30-day trial. Then you can run the install disc again and it will recogize the trial install as a "previous" version. It sounds sneaky but according to the write-ups, it complies with Microsoft's upgrade licensing agreement. I don't know if that's still true or if MS has fixed this "loophole"...so caveat emptor.[/QUOTE]

    I'd say, "it's worth a try," but unfortunately stores don't do refunds on opened software.

    Anyone have any experience with the technique mentioned by Brett, above?

  15. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Occam View Post
    I haven't read all of the replies but you will be wasting time and money putting more than 4GB of RAM into a 32 bit Vista machine, as it will not recognise anything above 3.2GB. A 64 bit system will recognise up to 8GB but I doubt you would ever need that much, no matter what you throw at it.
    As cjl said earlier, Vista will use what you give it, and the more you give it, the more efficient the OS will be.

    That said, there is a point of diminishing returns. At any given time, I'm usually running the OS, two windows of explorer (five or six tabs in each window), Photoshop CS, WinDVD Platinum, MS Word, MS Excel, calculator, charmap, Google Earth, Truecrypt, passkey, Norton 360, NetStat, Uniblue reg booster, Yahoo! messenger, cobian backup, and according to Task Manager, 43 other processes which take up various amounts of system resources (59 total processes).

    TM also says that while I have a gig, physical, only 600k is available, and that of 150 megs of kernal memory, 2/3 are paged (inefficient). Thus, with XP Pro, I really could have used 2 GB.

    Moving up to Vista, I'll start at 4 GB, but if there's a lot of paging, I'll bump that up to 6 GB or even 8 GB (memory is very cheap these days - 8 GB costs less than the 512 kB that went into the original configuration of my current system.

  16. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    As cjl said earlier, Vista will use what you give it, and the more you give it, the more efficient the OS will be.
    A 32 bit operating system will not support more than 4 GB of RAM.
    Yes, Vista is extremely hungry and will consume whatever resources it can lay its greedy little hands on. The point is, it cannot lay its hands on more than 4GB of RAM. To use more (up to 8GB and no more**) you will have to go to a 64 bit OS.
    Anyone who doubts this would do well to consult Microsoft, as you will apparently get conflicting (and inaccurate) IT advice on an astronomy forum.

    ** On a system running x64 Vista Home Basic, you can add as much as 8 GB of RAM.
    64 bit Vista Home Premium supports up to 16 GB of RAM.
    64 bit Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate will allow up to 128 GB of RAM

  17. #47
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    Neverfly's IT advice: Vista Sucks.

  18. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    Neverfly's IT advice: Vista Sucks.
    Another good piece of advice

  19. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    Neverfly's IT advice: Vista Sucks.
    NO WAI d00d!

  20. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Occam View Post
    A 32 bit operating system will not support more than 4 GB of RAM.
    Yes, Vista is extremely hungry and will consume whatever resources it can lay its greedy little hands on. The point is, it cannot lay its hands on more than 4GB of RAM. To use more (up to 8GB and no more**) you will have to go to a 64 bit OS.
    Anyone who doubts this would do well to consult Microsoft, as you will apparently get conflicting (and inaccurate) IT advice on an astronomy forum.

    ** On a system running x64 Vista Home Basic, you can add as much as 8 GB of RAM.
    64 bit Vista Home Premium supports up to 16 GB of RAM.
    64 bit Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate will allow up to 128 GB of RAM
    Saying 8GB and no more when that is the amount for Vista Home Basic is a slight mischaracterization when the variety of Vista in question is Ultimate, and the most common is Home Premium. Oh, and the reason Vista uses so much RAM just sitting there is because of Superfetch. Vista itself does not take much RAM, but it prefetches commonly used program files into RAM to allow those programs to load faster. If a different program is requesting the RAM in use for the prefetch files, it simply allows it to take it - it does not continuously use as much memory as it initially appears to.

  21. #51
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjl View Post
    Saying 8GB and no more when that is the amount for Vista Home Basic is a slight mischaracterization when the variety of Vista in question is Ultimate, and the most common is Home Premium. Oh, and the reason Vista uses so much RAM just sitting there is because of Superfetch. Vista itself does not take much RAM, but it prefetches commonly used program files into RAM to allow those programs to load faster. If a different program is requesting the RAM in use for the prefetch files, it simply allows it to take it - it does not continuously use as much memory as it initially appears to.
    The OP clearly indicates that a 32 bit system is intended. To repeat myself, no 32 bit system will be able to address more than 4GB of RAM and, due to the nature of the intended OS, the user will "see" less than that - about 3.2 GB. This is a well known and documented limitation and no amount of semantics will change that fact.

    Secondly, though this thread isn't really about Vista per se, "Superfetch" for commonly used programmes is not the only reason Vista uses a lot of RAM. My department installed Vista on a brand new PC, 64 bit dual core processor with 1GB of RAM and no other software. We then turned off all the pointless frippery and eye candy. The only software on this PC was the OS. At rest, with the processor virtually flat-lining, Vista was using 685 Megabytes of RAM.

  22. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjl View Post
    Any recent Intel chipset and CPU (Core 2 CPU, P35, X38, P45, or X48 chipset) will support 64 bit just fine, as should any memory (make sure you check whether your motherboard supports DDR2 or DDR3 (the slots aren't compatible)). I think I'd go for a P45 based motherboard with DDR2, and a Q9550 (the recent price drops on the 9550 are quite nice).
    There's the quandry...

    A local store has an MSI P7N SLI Platinum mobo. As "Core 2" is Intel's 64-bit line, the P45 supports 64 bit, quad, 1333 FSB, and DDR 2. Alas, it doesn't support DDR 3 (the chipset does - just not that mobo). It only supports up to DDR2-800.

    Checking into DDR3, I found this entry. In a nutshell, it promises 30% less power, significantly more (100% more) data transfers per second and a correspondingly faster peak transfer rate. Latencies are roughly the same (duration).

    Question: How much of a performance hit will I notice using, say, DDR2-800 vs DDR3-1333, all things else being equal?

    If "not much," then I'll skip DDR3, save the bucks, and go with the MSI.

    (screeching brakes sound)

    I just checked MSI's website, and the P7N SLI Platinum isn't anywhere close to their top of the line. I don't want/need top of the line. I do want to hit the "magic shoulder" or "sweet spot" of the price-performance curve, just before the point where increasing price ceases yielding significant increases in performance.

    Their P45 Platinum board extends the FSB speed from the P7N's 1300 to 1600, and the DDR2 memory from 800 to 1200, while the Diamond version of their P45 goes with DDR3 memory up to 1600.

    Meanwhile, all will take Core 2 Quads up to 1300 FSB (and beyond).

    Back at Wikipedia's List of Intel Core 2 microprocessors, I find your Q9550 to be a 2.8 GHz, 1333 FSB LGA 775.

    This sounds reasonable. And it appears the latest release, Aug 08's SLB8V (E0) runs around $300. But the 9450, an earlier model went for the same when it was released, so I suspect it's prices are $300 * 316/530 = $188. Call it $200.

    So we're at:

    Likely Q9550, the more recent version.

    I don't have enough info to ascertain mobo performance, but I suspect that the P45 Platinum, with it's high-end DDR2 capability would be an monetarily acceptable alternative to the more expensive P45 Diamond (DDR3) and the much more expensive DDR3 memory.

    Still, I do not have a good feel for how much of a performance hit I'd see (feel, experience) if I went with DDR2 1066 vs DDR3 1333.

    As for SLI vs Crossfire, I talked with several people from different shops who do nothing but build machines all day long and game all night long. All said pretty much the same thing: Yes, Crossfire X is a (finally) solution to the single-monitor constraint with SLI and earlier versions of Crossfire. However, nVidea has always had the lion's share of the gaming market over the last 6 years, and SLI is no exception. Few sell Crossfire, and only on request, as far more games have SLI support than Crossfire support (although just about all will run on either approach, but without the finer, platform-specific tweaks).

    Thus, if I do opt for a dual-card system, it'll be SLI.

    So - Two Remaining Questions:

    1. What's the performance hit for DDR2 vs DDR3 as stated above?

    2. Do I really need SLI? For playing MS FlightSim X or X-Planes (or their next versions)? Or would the money I save (cheaper mobo and a single graphics card) be better spent upgrading the graphics card to a more top of the line model and adding a second, cheap, PCIe dual-monitor card for the left and right information only screens of my three-screen display?

  23. #53
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    Originally Posted by mugaliens
    As cjl said earlier, Vista will use what you give it, and the more you give it, the more efficient the OS will be.
    Quote Originally Posted by Occam View Post
    A 32 bit operating system will not support more than 4 GB of RAM. Yes, Vista is extremely hungry and will consume whatever resources it can lay its greedy little hands on. The point is, it cannot lay its hands on more than 4GB of RAM.
    Yes, it can. Read on (and if you have a 32-bit version of Vista, you can order (free!) the 64-bit version, here).

    To use more (up to 8GB and no more**) you will have to go to a 64 bit OS.
    Such as Vista's 64-bit versions?

    Anyone who doubts this would do well to consult Microsoft, as you will apparently get conflicting (and inaccurate) IT advice on an astronomy forum.
    Well, I did one better than merely making a call, where a Microsoft sales rep may have mislead me into thinking that Vista's 64-bit version was only 32-bit.

    I surfed to Microsoft's website where I and billions of others around the globe could read what Microsoft has laid out in print some information about their 64-bit versions of their Vista operating systems.

    ** On a system running x64 Vista Home Basic, you can add as much as 8 GB of RAM.
    64 bit Vista Home Premium supports up to 16 GB of RAM.
    64 bit Vista Business, Enterprise and Ultimate will allow up to 128 GB of RAM
    Ah! It seems I misunderstood where you were coming from when you said the following:

    "Yes, Vista is extremely hungry and will consume whatever resources it can lay its greedy little hands on. The point is, it cannot lay its hands on more than 4GB of RAM."

    "To use more (up to 8GB and no more**) you will have to go to a 64 bit OS" (this seems to imply Vista wasn't, as you were previously talking about Vista as a 32-bit OS)

    "Anyone who doubts this would do well to consult Microsoft, as you will apparently get conflicting (and inaccurate) IT advice on an astronomy forum."

    I'm confused by your post.

    The first part, prior to the "**" appendix, seemed to very clearly insinuate that Vista was 32-bit, wouldn't support more than 4 GB RAM, that if we wanted more RAM we'd have to upgrade to a 64-bit OS (implying a non-Vista product), and admonishing us to call Microsoft to verify all of this.

    The second part, after the "**", seems to clearly state you understand Vista comes both 32 and 64-bit flavors, and you even go so far as to inform us how much RAM each version of Windows can support.



    Regardless, I'm going with Vista Ultimate 64-bit for two reasons: remote business access, and all-in-one media center. None of the other versions have both these features.

  24. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by Occam View Post
    The OP clearly indicates that a 32 bit system is intended. To repeat myself, no 32 bit system will be able to address more than 4GB of RAM and, due to the nature of the intended OS, the user will "see" less than that - about 3.2 GB. This is a well known and documented limitation and no amount of semantics will change that fact.
    I highly respect the OP! However, the original post itself was about upgrading. After Brett had indicated he had a 90% solution, I waded in with my own upgrade plans, and began re-educating myself to catch up where I'd left off a few years back. Thus, I learned that most mobos support 64-bit computing these days, as do Intel's processors, and the 64-bit versions of Vista.

    With the difference between a 32-bit and a 64-bit version of everything, all else (proc speed, ram capacity, mobo extensions), the 64-bit path is less than $200 more, and both PetersCreek and I have indicated our interest in 64-bit.

    My department installed Vista on a brand new PC, 64 bit dual core processor with 1GB of RAM and no other software. We then turned off all the pointless frippery and eye candy. The only software on this PC was the OS. At rest, with the processor virtually flat-lining, Vista was using 685 Megabytes of RAM.
    And on my 32-bit laptop running Vista Home Premium, with no pointless frippery and eye candy, and 2 GB of RAM, Vista uses 51%, or just over 1 GB.

    Super-prefetch? Yep. If I had 8 GB, it'd probably super-prefetch more than 3GB of what it thinks I'll need.

    Given that RAM is many times faster than the hard drive, I like the idea of not having to wait for programs to spool up. Also, since I'm already pushing 1 GB of RAM usage on my most intensive tasks, assuming a three-fold increase in requirement over the next five years, and Vista's penchant for taking half, I think the "sweet spot" for myself and my computer over the next five years is 6 GB RAM.

  25. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    I highly respect the OP!...
    Me too, and it seems there has been a little misunderstanding. I felt it important to address the 32/64 bit issue though, as many can become bamboozled by sales hyperbole. I personally know of two people who spent hard earned money on a copy of 64 bit Vista, with the encouragement of a sales person, when their PC was quite incapable of running it (not a 64 bit processor). I also have experience of a number of people who had the mistaken belief that a PC could use as much RAM as you could throw at it - also not true.

    My initial reason for entering the thread was when the OP wrote...
    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    I plan to install Vista Ultimate 64-bit 32-bit and some heavy-weight programs like Photoshop CS3 and Adobe Lightroom.
    Some replies were indicating that 8GB of RAM would be good, when in reality that would not be viable on a 32 bit system.

  26. #56
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    Mugs,

    I know very little about Vista. What makes its "all-in-one media center"
    attractive to you?

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis

  27. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Occam View Post
    The OP clearly indicates that a 32 bit system is intended.
    Uh...not so clearly after all, I'm afraid. What with all the going back and forth and with Mugs in the mix, I failed to update my OP after once again deciding on going with the 64-bit OS.
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  28. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by PetersCreek View Post
    Uh...not so clearly after all, I'm afraid. What with all the going back and forth and with Mugs in the mix, I failed to update my OP after once again deciding on going with the 64-bit OS.
    D'Oh!
    Enjoy your 8GB, then

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    if anybody is interested,
    here is what Microsoft says about memory


    http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/system...AE/PAEmem.mspx

    The maximum amount of memory that can be supported on Windows XP Professional and Windows Server 2003 is also 4 GB. However, Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition supports 32 GB of physical RAM and Windows Server 2003, Datacenter Edition supports 64 GB of physical RAM
    while the PAE allows a 32 bit os support up to 64 gigs of ram.

    Physical Address Extension. PAE is an Intel-provided memory address extension that enables support of up to 64 GB of physical memory for applications running on most 32-bit (IA-32) Intel Pentium Pro and later platforms. Support for PAE is provided under Windows 2000 and 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003

  30. #60
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    Brett,

    I asked earlier in the thread about the different versions of the Asus P5Q
    motherboard, but got no reply. What determined your choice of the version
    you picked out?

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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