It’s too bad that they don’t actually tell you about this when you are, I don’t know, actually purchasing your computer!
I picked up a new Dell Inspiron 530 computer back in early October of 2007 and saw that, in spite of having paid for 4 Gigabytes of RAM, the system reported only 3.2 Gigabytes.
In looking around I saw various folks talking about BIOS issues etc. But I’m pretty sure that this MS article explains the situation the best.
To paraphrase, your chip set is only capable of addressing up to 4 Gigabytes of memory. Addressing for other devices (video card memory is given as an example) must also come out of that. So if you have 2 or 3 Gigabytes of RAM installed, the other pieces can still be addressed by the operating system and you don’t notice anything. But install 4 Gigabytes of RAM and you will see Vista’s need to address those devices limited by your chip set and it will eat into the addressing available for your RAM.
The proposed workaround is to ensure that you use a chip set that supports at least 8 Gigabytes of address space.
Ah, well, as a consumer I suppose I should have known that. Silly me.
This series of exchanges in “James Hayes’ Blog” indicate that there is still an advantage to going with the 4 Gigabytes of RAM if you want more than 2 Gigabytes (check the comments section and look for the postings by “DellCA”). I can’t vouch for what is being expressed, but I can say that they knew about the issue nearly a year before I bought my system and made no effort to either inform or correct my purchase options.
Of course I cannot see how much the wasted .75 Gigabytes of memory has cost me, Dell’s pretty savvy in how they report the computer options on the receipt – one lump sum price. But I think that one of the posters in the blog comments is right in that what Dell is liable for is 3/8 of the cost of the hefty 2 Gigabyte upgrade price. Not so much because it’s not usable, but because they knew it to be unusable and blithely offer the option anyway. Let’s face it. Were I a *real* computer hardware expert, I would be piecing together my own system, not buying from Dell anyway. We buy from Dell because we know enough to want to customize our systems for a known need (I know my computer habits mean that I need more memory than average) but do not want to spend all of our waking hours troubleshooting those systems. Dell’s biggest value to me is that they will ensure that all the pieces I have chosen will all work together properly and then deliver the result to me so I can just get on with using it.
Dell has fallen down on the job here.