Is 4GB and Dual Channel mode good with XP?

I've been getting into doing some video editing (and audio editing) for business presentations for my company. As CEO of a small, fast-growing business, I do not have the luxury of walking away from the computer for half an hour while Adobe Premier Elements converts a video I've created into Flash or DVD format (which is what Adobe TS said I should do – walk away and don’t use the machine while it’s converting). I need to continue working.

I also need to minimize or, better yet, eliminate the chance of overloading the system and having a crash!

I'm running XP SP2 on an HP Compaq business desktop machine (dc 7800) with the following specs according to what I got from HP (I can provide links to much more thorough specs on my mother board if needed):

Intel® Q35 chipset integrated
Intel® Core 2 Duo E6850 processor

The type of RAM it's using is:

DIMM 240-pin - DDR II - 800 MHz / PC2-6400

I had HP originally configure it with 3 1-GB sticks, which is how they shipped it to me.

The question is whether to add a fourth stick -- and thus have it operate in Dual Channel mode -- or not do so.

I'm trying to determine whether I'm better off having 3GB of RAM in it or 4GB or RAM in it. The question revolves around the facts that I'm told XP will only be using 3GB of RAM or a tad more and that I'm told once I put a 4th 1GB memory stick into this board, which will then be using up all four slots (4 x 1GB = 4GB), it automatically goes into Dual Channel mode.

I'm told it won't go into Dual Channel mode until 4 1-GB sticks are in, and that once they are it automatically kicks into Dual Channel mode by itself. This is after a few talks with HP TS (possibly even level 3 TS).

When I have 3 1-GB sticks in the machine, I get the following readings:

Start - Settings - Control Panel - System = 2.98 GB RAM
Start - Run - msinfo32 - System Information - Total Physical Memory = 3.076 GB RAM

When I have 4 1-GB sticks in the machine, I get the following readings:

XP - Control Panel - System = 3.48 GB RAM
Start - Run - msinfo32 - System Information - Total Physical Memory = 4.1 GB RAM

Obviously, XP isn't see all of the 4GB (it shows only 3.48), but the "machine" is seeing it just fine.

I would tend to think that, obviously, the maximum amount of memory, and Dual Channel operation, are good things.

However, since I keep hearing that XP is only able to use 3GB or a tad more, I'm wondering if, in fact, it will work better with 3GB than with 4GB. I'm wondering if Dual Channel mode is a good thing for XP or maybe not so good.

If XP is in Dual Channel Mode and is thus faced with the choice of using only one channel (2GB) or using both channels (4GB) , I'm wondering if it may end up choosing to use only 2GB (one channel) since it can’t use 4GB.

On the other hand, having only 3 1-GB sticks in it seems to ensure it will fully utilize the 3GB (since it won't be in Dual Channel mode and therefore won't be faced with choosing between 2GB or 4GB) -- or so I'm assuming.

Optimized performance would be nice, of course, but avoiding a crash is the supreme priority. (I lost a month last year to a Pentium 4 crash while getting up to speed with using this video editing software on my older machine and doing some multi-tasking -- maybe just a coincidence or maybe I pushed the machine beyond its abilities.)

For what it's worth, the HP techs suggested that while XP won't use all of the 4GB, they said my more resource-intensive "apps" very likely will. They suggested I ask Adobe what their software will use (I'm not sure that will be an easy thing to get reliable answers on from Adobe). I have no idea if those HP techs knew what they're talking about, and that still doesn't quite answer the question of how XP itself will be using the available RAM -- nor does it tell me which I should care about more: how XP utilizes the RAM or how the more resource-intensive apps utilize it.

I have considered a dedicated machine for video editing but that's quite an expense, not to mention the time to set it up and the less efficient work flow. I really don't do that much video editing to warrant it -- unless I end up being told that the reality is that I'll always be at risk of a system crash if I don't leave it alone when it's working on conversions of video (and audio?) files.

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  1. (1) It 'sees' 3.48, so it'll use the 3.48 that it sees.

    (2) XP in and of itself won't use anywhere near the amount of RAM you have installed. After all, XP runs fine in a business environment on 512Mb if you're just using the usual office suite and eMail.
  2. HardwareJay as you will be using Adobe Premier Elements I would say stick with your 1x4GB ram configuration in your machine to get the dual channel speed increase. But you really will not see to much increase in system speed.

    As to the memory address limitation of the 32 bit OS, that has been explained many times here on the forum.

    You might be better off if you just got a cheaper machine and installed a dual KVM to switch between the 2 computers.
    So that you could do other work on the second as the Adobe programs are working on the faster and more powerful first one.
    I know for my self in this kind of production environment, I would hate to have to restart a project because I crashed it looking at the web or whatever.

    Rattus Viola: Sino non they quisnam operor non have scientia futurus vestri rector.
  3. The biggest improvement you could make would be upgrading to a quadcore.
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