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RAM amounts in retro PC builds

Discussion in 'Retro Gaming and Vintage Computing' started by Retro6, 24 Oct 2021.

  1. Retro6


    Joined: 30 Jan 2019

    Posts: 210

    During the mid to late 90s into the early and mid 2000s I remember all the old computers I saw never had as much RAM in them as people put in them today like for example people putting 512MB RAM into a Windows 98 build. I always found that Windows 98 was better on half that at 256MB RAM and even 256MB RAM is still plenty. The most I ever saw in a Windows 98 machine was 192MB RAM most had only 64MB RAM.

    Windows 3.1 machines commonly had between 4MB and 8MB of RAM
    Windows 95 machines commonly had 24MB to 32MB of RAM
    Windows 98 machines commonly had between 32MB, 64MB. 128MB RAM
    Windows 2000 Professional 128MB to 256MB
    It only when Windows XP had been out for a while RAM started drastically increasing. Most people were still using Windows 98 to about 2005 until Windows XP became the go to OS.
  2. almoststew1990


    Joined: 12 May 2011

    Posts: 5,676

    Location: Southampton

    Yeah I agree but most RAM is so cheap nowadays there isn't much reason not to max out the RAM. People like to build aspirational builds and maxing out the RAM is part of that!

    My XP builds tend to have 3 or 4 GB of RAM just to avoid RAM being a potential bottleneck when messing with old hardware. My 98 builds tend to have 256mb as it is plenty for 98 and is a single stick (so less chance of failure compared to having 2 sticks) and 512mb SDRAM is not that cheap. Or 512MB of DDR1 as it's it seems more common than 256 sticks (at least at faster DDR1 speeds).

    It gets a bit messier with 72 pin RAM but that's not really my area anymore!

    But I doubt people were using 98 until 2005 as a matter of course. 2005 is well into PCI-E and DX9. Games like Battlefield 2 and COD2 didn't support 98.

    All the family PCs I knew growing up has XP from around 2002/3
  3. Retro6


    Joined: 30 Jan 2019

    Posts: 210

    It must have been towards the end of 2003 it was when computers only had single core and Pentium 4 was pretty new and Pentium III was still considered the best computer. I think my memory might be off by a year or two because Windows XP came out in 2001 and before that I remember my work friends telling that there was a new Windows OS coming out called Windows Whistler which then was officially XP.
  4. K.C. Leblanc


    Joined: 13 Sep 2003

    Posts: 8,178

    Location: Glocestershire

    I seem to remember Pentium 4 was a big of a disappointment at launch. The performance wasn't a big step up, it was very expensive and initially used RD ram which was mad expensive.
  5. Quartz


    Joined: 1 Apr 2014

    Posts: 14,118

    Location: Aberdeen

    RAM use really only exploded with the move to 64 bit. 256 MB was still fine for Windows XP. I don’t remember Win 9x systems with more than 16 MB - we tended to use Windows NT in those cases.
  6. paradigm


    Joined: 26 Aug 2003

    Posts: 36,990

    Location: Staffordshire

    I was likely an edge case due to getting my hardware for free back in the 90s, but my Pentium 90MHz machine had 80MB of RAM. Never caused a problem but was also likely pointless :D
  7. Armageus


    Joined: 19 May 2012

    Posts: 13,161

    Location: Spalding, Lincolnshire

    Some of your requirements seem a little off - during 95/98, a lot of people were still buying off the shelf PCs (e.g. Packard Bell, Tiny, Gateway etc) with tiny amounts of RAM. The amounts you listed are more the ideals, but a lot of PCs shipped with lower amounts (and worse user experience as a result)

    Not really - I'd say by 2003 most people were running XP - unlike the move from XP->7 or 7->10, there was far more of a reason to jump onboard XP (as it was fully 32 bit and far more stable), and even "conservative" users e.g. gamers with old DOS games and the like were dual booting 98SE with XP for the best of both worlds.

    Windows XP was also needed far sooner for improved hardware support with the release of Hyperthreaded P4 chips (2002) just a year after XP's release.
  8. Ravenger


    Joined: 16 Jul 2010

    Posts: 3,738

    Ram was extortionately priced in the late 90's, as there was a shortage. There were even RAM thefts targeting computer companies. I remember paying £160 for 8gb. :eek:
  9. Retro6


    Joined: 30 Jan 2019

    Posts: 210

    I used to go to the weekend computer fair to get cheap computer bits. I was in a good position back then because I could also get things like Ram from work, they had boxes of it and it was all donated stuff. The first PC I got was before I worked at the computer place was a Compaq Intel Pentium pro secondhand with 32MB RAM Windows 98 and MS office 2000. A collage I went to they had 128 MB of Ram in there computers running Windows 98. In 2000 to 2010 I lived in London. Things were cheaper and easier to come by with more markets and other places where you could get Ram dirt cheap and it was good branded stuff. London was very different back then.