Win2K RAM Requirements and Pagefile Size

Welcome to the Year 2000. I don't know about you, but I've had a hard time accepting that fact—but this week, when the news broke about AOL merging with Time Warner, I knew it wasn't the 20th Century any more!

Before I get much further, I want to apologize to the folks who publish this newsletter—I wasn't able to write last week's edition because of the millennium bug. No, not Y2K (Did anyone actually experience a problem? If so, please write and tell me about it!), but the real millennium bug: the flu. Thanks, I'm feeling much better now. And on to the news...

Microsoft Changes Win2K Server RAM Requirements
Last week, Microsoft advised editors reviewing Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server) and Windows 2000 Advanced Server (Win2K AS) that the reviewers guide for Win2K Server and Win2K AS contained incorrect information about system requirements; the system requirements appear to have grown since the last time Microsoft told us about them. The new figures for Win2K Server are:

  • CPU: 133MHz or faster Pentium-compatible
  • RAM: 256MB recommended minimum (though Microsoft will support 128MB)
  • HD: 2GB with a minimum of 1GB free (you'll need more free space for network install and for pagefile space—see note below)

Win2K AS has the same minimum requirements, but it supports up to eight CPUs in a multiprocessor configuration (Win2K Server tops out at four), and up to 8GB of RAM (Win2K Server tops out at 4GB). What's striking about this change is that the memory requirement has doubled. Although Microsoft will support users running Win2K Server or Win2K AS with 128MB of RAM, the company no longer recommends it. That echoes my experience with Win2K Pro, which really needs more than the required 64MB to minimize disk swapping. Remember that Win2K is built on the Windows NT kernel, and NT has always benefited from extra RAM—so do yourself a favor, and don't skimp on memory.

Will the Real RTM Build Number Please Stand Up?
In regards to whether the 120-day evaluation version of Win2K is really the final code, two readers have written to say that the code isn't final. Both readers are involved in special programs that give them access to the final code, which has a build number of 1295.3; the time-bombed version is 1295.1. There's also a 1295.2 version that Microsoft will supply to MSDN subscribers. But I can't figure out how to tell the difference among the builds; both VER and WINVER report the build as 1295 without reporting the decimal.

Be Careful when Upgrading
Just to make my life last week especially miserable, while recovering from the flu, I discovered that my Win2K/Windows 98 dual-boot had stopped working. After investigating, I found that when I upgraded to the Win2K preview code from Release Candidate RC2, I inadvertently hit Enter when the install asked if I'd like to upgrade my C partition—so the process converted the partition to NTFS, and my dual-boot stopped working. I had to reformat the partition and reinstall both Win2K and Win98. Has this snag hit anyone else, or am I the only one?

Yes, You Really Do Need a Pagefile that Big!
Two readers have written to question my comments on the Win2K pagefile size in my column in the January 2000 issue of Windows NT Magazine (soon to be Windows 2000 Magazine). To reiterate: You need a pagefile at least as large as the physical RAM in your system. And if you add RAM, you'll need to expand the pagefile. The reason is that Microsoft designed Win2K for nonstop operation. Other OSs—including early versions of OS/2—allow pagefile sizes significantly smaller than physical RAM. Under certain conditions, the system might need to page out more virtual memory than would fit in the file—and the system would hang. By making the minimum pagefile size in Win2K the same size as the RAM, this memory overrun won't happen. That doesn't mean you can't run out of virtual memory in Win2K—you can; the system will try to expand the pagefile, and in the process, the system will slow to a crawl, but it won't stop running. So, to those growing system requirements for Win2K Server, add at least as much hard disk space as physical RAM. On a Win2K AS system with 8GB of RAM, you'll need at least 8GB of space for a pagefile, over and above the 2GB minimum requirement.

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