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Still using a 32-bit Windows machine? Here’s how to remove the 4GB limit that might be hampering your RAM usage.

While 32-bit was once the standard, in recent years more and more Windows users have migrated to the 64-bit version of the OS. However, there are still some holdouts using 32-bit systems — and they might well be missing out on some of the potential of their hardware if they haven’t addressed a known issue with RAM on that sort of machine.

Fortunately, there’s a relatively simple solution to the problem, so long as you’re comfortable using the command line interface 6 Basic PowerShell Commands to Get More out of Windows 6 Basic PowerShell Commands to Get More out of Windows PowerShell is what you get when you give steroids to the Windows Command Prompt. It grants you control of nearly every aspect of the Windows system. We help you leap up its learning curve. Read More to make the necessary tweaks. Here’s all you need to know about patching your 32-bit system so you can take advantage of up to 64GB of RAM How Much RAM Do You Really Need? How Much RAM Do You Really Need? RAM is like short term memory. The more you multitask, the more you need. Find out how much your computer has, how to get the most out of it, or how to get more. Read More installed on your computer.

Why Am I Limited to 4GB of RAM?

The reason behind the so-called ‘3GB barrier’ lies in the architecture of 32-bit operating systems. Each individual byte of RAM has its own physical address that the system uses to access particular units of memory. 32-bit systems have a limit on the amount of addresses available for RAM and various other components. Depending on your setup, this can limit the amount of RAM your system can support to somewhere around 3GB — although it could be slightly higher or slightly lower.

A technique called physical address extension, or PAE, can allow a 32-bit OS to support up to 64GB of RAM. By increasing the physical address size from 32 bits to 36, there are plenty more addresses available for the system to use — but the system’s virtual addresses stay the same, ensuring that everything works just as it should.

How Can I Tell If I Need PAE?

Whether or not you need to utilize PAE will come down to two important factors; are you running a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows, and how much of your installed RAM is usable? To establish both, open up Control Panel, and navigate to System and Security > System.

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system

If you see something similar to the above, then you’re already sorted. However, if the System type reads 32-bit Operating System and there’s a bracketed entry stipulating how much of your RAM is usable, following the result given for Installed memory, you’ll need to make use of PAE in order to get the full effect of your RAM How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step How To Upgrade A Laptop's RAM, Step By Step Is your laptop old, slow, and has the hardware never been upgraded? Working on a slow computer can be a real drag. Before you buy a completely new one, however, you should consider ways to... Read More .

One more thing to consider before you go ahead with this process is that PAE has been reported as having some difficulties working with NVIDIA graphics cards Will NVIDIA's New Maxwell GPUs Revolutionize PC Gaming? Will NVIDIA's New Maxwell GPUs Revolutionize PC Gaming? Read More in the past. If that’s the case with your rig, it’s perhaps worth considering upgrading Need A Memory Upgrade? Outsource RAM & Speed Up Your Computer With ReadyBoost Need A Memory Upgrade? Outsource RAM & Speed Up Your Computer With ReadyBoost If you're looking to give your computer a quick & free speed boost, try ReadyBoost. The Windows feature adds additional memory to your system. All you need is a compatible flash drive. Read More to a 64-bit system outright.

How to Enable PAE on Windows 7 and Windows 8

First things first, download PatchPae2 from wj32. This will give you a .zip file containing a patch that will work for machines running either Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1, but there’s a few slight differences between the processes for versions of the OS pre- and post- Windows 8. Start by unzipping the file you downloaded and placing it in a folder inside Windows > System32, which will likely be found on your computer’s C: drive. Once PatchPae2.exe is in place, make a note of its file path, as you’ll need this later on.

Now, open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges enabled. You can do this easily by searching your system for Command Prompt, and then right-clicking the correct entry in the search results and choosing to Run as Administrator. You should be presented with the standard command line interface — ensure that the directory reads system32.

commandline

If you’re using Windows 8 or later, now it’s time to run the command 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy Don't let the command prompt intimidate you. It's simpler and more useful than you expect. You might be surprised by what you can accomplish with just a few keystrokes. Read More PatchPae2.exe -type kernel -o ntoskrnx.exe ntoskrnl.exe, which should look like this.

patchpae

If you’re using a version of Windows older than Windows 8 The 2014 Guide To Windows 7 For Ex Windows XP Users The 2014 Guide To Windows 7 For Ex Windows XP Users Have you finally decided to upgrade from Windows XP? You will get used to Windows 7 in no time. Let us help you settle in and get up to speed. Follow me. Read More , you’ll need to do the same, but with a slightly different list of instructions following the file’s location. In place of -type kernel -o ntoskrnx.exe ntoskrnl.exe, instead input  -type kernel -o ntkrnlpx.exe ntkrnlpa.exe.

Next, patch the loader to disable digital signature verification by entering the command PatchPae2.exe -type loader -o winloadp.exe winload.exe. Then, create a new boot option with the following input: bcdedit /copy {current} /d “Windows (PAE Patched)”. The phrase between the quotation marks is simply a comment for you to label what you’ve done.

You should see a message that tells you that the copy was successful, and gives you a unique boot ID in the format {xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx}. Copy that ID, because we’re going to use it for the next few commands. Enter bcdedit /set {boot ID} kernel ntoskrnx.exe if you’re using Windows 8 or 8.1, and bcdedit /set {boot ID} kernel ntkrnlpx.exe for anything earlier.

bootid

There are just a few more commands that we need to run. First, make sure our patched loader is selected by inputting bcdedit /set {boot ID} path \Windows\system32\winloadp.exeThen, use bcdedit /set {boot ID} nointegritychecks 1 to confirm that the loader shouldn’t be verified. Then, set this boot entry as the default with bcdedit /set {bootmgr} default {boot ID}. You can also use bcdedit /set {bootmgr} timeout X to set a custom boot menu display time by replacing X with your desired length of time in seconds, but this is optional. All that’s left from this point is to restart your computer.

Have you used PAE to free your computer from its limited RAM usage 5 Ways to Clear Memory & Increase RAM on Your Windows Computer 5 Ways to Clear Memory & Increase RAM on Your Windows Computer RAM, the final frontier. You always seem to run out of it. We'll show you how you can free up internal memory and extend your RAM, both virtually and physically. Read More ? Let us know about your experiences — and any tips that you might have — in the comments section below.

  1. Roberto
    September 11, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Can't get past (bcdedit /copy {current} /d “Windows (PAE Patched)”) even when asking and copying boot numbers.

    Thanks.

  2. Alexander
    July 25, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    This patch work only if you do not using windows update. Microsoft released some updates which modifies kernel, so patch cant be applied to it. One or two was somewhere 2014 fall, and another one march 2015 or so, after which I fully disabled windows update.

    Another problem - is NVidia. If you use card GF 9xx and higher - your only choice use 64-bit windows. Because last pae-compatible 32-bit driver was 332.21. and it support only 7xx series.

  3. TeeQue
    July 25, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    I'm getting parameter incorrect after trying to run this. bcdedit /copy {current} /d “Windows (PAE Patched)” any ideas on how to fix this?

  4. Oleg
    July 24, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    It doesn't work for Win 7 Ultimate.
    Everything is patched successfully, but after reboot it goes to repair as many complained here and in other web-sites.
    I suspect that some KBXXXXX update prevents this patch to work.

  5. Riona
    June 22, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    For NTFS issues you can try Long Path Tool.

  6. Failed
    April 8, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    Blue screens at boot, with my Windows 7 installation. :-(

  7. Driven
    February 10, 2016 at 3:28 am

    nice it works!. but I got problem on shutting down. It just stock in Shutting down screen and won't turn off at all expect on turning off on Power button. Is there any solution on this? Please help

  8. Tanaël Ghazarian
    January 7, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Hey, I tried using the patch and followed the instructions (for a 32-bits Windows 7 Ultimate SP1), but one of the command didn't work

    PatchPae2.exe -type loader -o winloadp.exe winload.exe

    I think it said "Failure". Though I tried all the other steps and the operations were successful. After rebooting, I could choose to boot with Win7 or Win (Patched), and chose the patched version. After that, the system tries to repair itself and get stuck on the "attempting repairs..." procedure, even when prompting "start windows normally" at startup.

    Any advices ?

  9. Samo
    November 20, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    Funguje to, ve?ká v?aka starec.

  10. MarkZed
    November 14, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    Is there a PAE 32-bit patch update for Windows 10?

    I recently installed Windows 10 32-bit on my Dell Precision 380 Workstation.The 64-bit version of Windows 10 won't install on this old PC.

  11. user
    May 19, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    If you created an patched kernel for an alternate boot option using the testsinging method instead of the winload method, then you could boot the stock kernel after the Windows Update this spring broke the patched kernel and reapply the patch without problem.

  12. Mike
    May 19, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    Thought I would add a clarification to the issue of PAE. PAE has been part of the Intel architecture and Windows since at least the year 2000 and is enabled automatically in Windows Server 2003. When you "patch" the kernel what you are doing is changing a function that checks to see if you are "licensed" for PAE. The idea was that PAE was part of "Enterprise" or "Datacenter" editions of Windows that cost more, even though the PAE kernel is in every edition of Windows over the past 15 years. Drivers that break PAE, like NVidia, are really implementations that break the rules of Windows 32 bit coding - any software that follows the rules will be fine with PAE. That also means that any individual application is still limited to 4GB; it is the OS that can manage against the full memory you have installed. To me it is quite annoying that MS doesn't support PAE in Windows desktop OSs as a feature - probably just because they don't want to support it in their documentation, testing, and call centers.

  13. Mike
    May 19, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    I first did this by hand (using a hex editor) about 3 years ago - on Win 7 SP1 on a 2006 Dell Dimension 9200. For a long time I was fine with the entire 4GB, but I recently discovered I could go double-density and now successfully run 32 bit with 8GB. This works perfectly, but periodically an update will kill it - Nvidia broke PAE last fall and I have to keep the video driver at an older version - 332.21. More recently, MS updates broke it this month and I keep KB3045685, KB3045999, and KB3022345 as hidden. When it breaks I simply boot back to 3GB and isolate what went wrong. I imagine I can re-create a PAE kernel again after applying these updates, but haven't done that yet. I've gone this route (as you likely know) because MS does not offer an upgrade path from Win 7 32 to Win 7 64 and I do not want to rebuild a machine that is the centerpiece of the house - all TV and movies run through WMC to 3 XBox extenders - and I believe I will lose all encrypted recordings (HBO and Showtime mostly) if I rebuild.

  14. Windows XP
    May 16, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    This is actually possible for windows XP not after they patched it in windows XP SP2
    I got the tweak file from here, the program just turns the 64gb support on and off, if it works you will be given a different OS version, so you can at least boot back to your original OS if it fails
    http://bbs.pediy.com/showthread.php?t=142776
    Long discussion braching out and didn't manage to find anything I could use
    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/unlock-64gb-ram-32-bit-windows-pae-patch/#comment-form

  15. Andrew
    April 7, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    When I use this command it says it failed. C:PatchPae2.exe -type loader -o winloadp.exe winload.exe What should i do to fix the problem

  16. DDH0905
    April 4, 2015 at 4:51 am

    I can get through the command PatchPae2.exe -type kernel -o ntkrnlpx.exe ntkrnlpa.exe but fails each time on line PatchPae2.exe -type loader -o winloadp.exe winload.exe. I am running windows 7 Professional. Any suggestions.

    • PatchPae2.exe
      January 22, 2016 at 2:44 am

      please sombody help i have the same too

  17. didn't set it up
    March 14, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    I am not on no windows 7 or no 32 bit an all this will be off my phone people thing everyone owes them something

    • RyanSteele
      April 24, 2015 at 12:56 am

      Huh? Wow, dude...

  18. didn't set it up
    March 14, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    This is not on a computer it's a phone you need to get the one set this up in my name and added this stuff before the phone was all the way set up I no who it is just waiting on a report then it will stop

  19. donavan
    March 13, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    I get as far as the second command and it fails. running on windows 7 32bit fully patched. Read the readme.txt to make sure and it still doesnt work.

  20. ciccio
    March 13, 2015 at 10:12 am

    it doen's work with the new microsoft updates of march,2015

    • Ciar59
      March 19, 2015 at 3:42 am

      Thats correct, cant find solution yet.

    • Lightning
      March 23, 2015 at 10:51 am

      same here, it's pretty frustrating going back to 3GB limit, the slowness after going back is hard to bear...
      hope somebody find solution soon

  21. Ravi
    March 12, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    I have an old Lenovo Thinkpad. The usable RAM in the system is limited to 3GB because of some limitation in the motherboard, even though it has a 64 bit compatible Core 2 Duo processor. Does this patch help with this problem?

    • Doc
      March 14, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      Yes, you would, because the "motherboard limitation" is that Windows needs some of the 4GB of address space for a graphics framebuffer, and your video card probably uses some RAM to provide that framebuffer. Some hardware (such as PCI Express hardware, DMA buffers, etc.) also need I/O address space that can't be used for RAM.

  22. Suleiman
    March 12, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    I was exited when I read the title of this article because just yesterday I was trying to resurrect my sweet heart PC of yesteryear:

    Intel(R) Pentium 4 CPU 2.80GHz
    2.79 GHz, 1.00 GB RAM
    ...running
    Win xp Pro SP3

    As I kept on reading this cool article, I didn't see a mention on dino pc running on Win XP.

    So do u think it is possible to use your suggestion on my all the time fave PC :) I need a prompt respond, I can wait to hear positive respond.

    • likefunbutnot
      March 12, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      @Suleiman,
      There are instructions for enabling PAE support under Windows XP out there, but relatively few applications can take advantage of it on a desktop Windows XP machine. It might help if you regularly use more than 2GB RAM while browsing the web, but chances are that you'd be better off moving to newer hardware if you really use lots of RAM.

    • Doc
      March 14, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      You were *exited* or *excited* LOL.
      I would not recommend using XP on any machine, anywhere. Microsoft stopped supporting XP almost a year ago, so unless you've got a paid support account, you're not getting security patches, and antivirus vendors are slowly dropping support, so getting an up-to-date antivirus (you do use antivirus, don't you?) will start getting harder and harder.
      There are a lot of cheap computers that come with Windows 7/8.1 64-bit preinstalled...dump the old hardware unless you have a need for it, or go with a Linux distro that will run on that hardware.

    • Suleiman
      March 14, 2015 at 4:22 pm

      @likefunbutnot thank you so much for your prompt respond and the infos. In that case I will keep my babe the way it is. I don't want to make any change on it physically lol . Btw, I have high end pc with insane power on it sitting at home. But I just wanted my fist love pc to function better.

      @Doc
      Ya I was exited out of excitement....guess u do not have that auto correct thing and what is anti virus? lol Thanks for the feedback. Now i will let my pc retire peacefully.

  23. likefunbutnot
    March 12, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    At the risk of belaboring the obvious, this is a third-party tool that the author of the article is suggesting that people use to modify the deepest level of their Windows installation and further, to tell Windows to ignore its own security policies for dealing with just this sort of modification.
    PAE is something I've used on Windows Server machines for ages and it is certainly a legitimate technology, but perhaps a warning to proceed at one's own risk might be in order?

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