How Much Memory Does Windows Millenium Need?

What are the real Windows ME RAM Requirements?

While Microsoft has bundled allot of new features into its third and final version of Windows 98, the Millennium Edition, some of these new features do not come without a performance price. Here’s a straight-forward break down on some of the Windows ME features as well as how much memory you will need to overcome some of the performance slowdowns.

The upside: Why Upgrade to ME?
Microsoft included a number of improvements in Windows ME such as streamlining the operating system’s ability to handle multimedia, such as video, music, and photos, by including the Windows Media Player, Windows Media Maker, Microsoft DirectX, and a “My Pictures” folder in the operating system software. Microsoft has also improved the Internet capabilities and made home networking easier. Finally, Microsoft claims the system is now more trouble-free, due to features like System Restore, which allows you to return your system to its previous settings should you ever encounter problems with the operating system or a software package you may install.

The downside: Windows ME vs. Windows 98 SE
If maximum performance is what you are seeking from your operating system, Windows ME probably won’t be what you are looking for. Several manufacturers have tested Windows ME in comparisons with Windows 98 Second Edition, and we were one of them. Frankly, we were disappointed in the results. isn’t for you. On average,   Windows ME was 6 to 8% slower than Windows 98 in an identical system hardware configuration.

These test results were particularly disheartening given the fact that we ran a number of testing platform software, not just the Business Winstone 99 benchmark program. Winstone 99 simulates the performance of the system using word processing and spreadsheet packages such as Corel WordPerfect8, Lotus SmartSuite, and Microsoft Office 97, and ironically it was Winstone 99 that showed the best results. Typically the programs require less memory than the memory-intensive multi-media applications that Microsoft says are a benefit of Windows ME, therefore, it’s not difficult to extrapolate the Winstone 99 results into how you may expect Windows ME to run these additional “new features”.

How we ran the tests
First, about the system. We created a base system consisting of an Intel D815EEAA motherboard with a single Boxed 866MHz Pentium III processor. We reserved three sets of memory modules for our tests, one set from Crucial/Micron, one set from Samsung and another set from Mushkin. They consisted of (3) 32MB PC 133 modules, (3) 64 MB PC 133 modules and (1) 256MB PC 133 module. We used an ATI All in Wonder Radeon 32MB DDR video card and (2) Maxtor ATA100 hard drives in removable ATA100 trays. By using the removable drive trays we eliminated the need to try and build two identical systems as well as load and reload operating systems, as we could just swap the hard drives to run the tests in the same system. The operating systems consisted of OEM versions that were installed pursuant to Microsoft’s OEM procedures for delivery to the end user. This insured that everything would be as the end user would experience it. After loading the operating systems, we made an image of each drive using Drive Image Pro v.4.0. from PowerQuest. This would insure that in each round of testing, the test software would be installed on a virgin operating system.

The testing on the Windows 98 Second Edition based system was straight-forward, in that the only changes being made were to memory module values, starting with 32MB and ending with 320MB for each manufacturer. With respect to Windows ME, we ran the same benchmark program in the same manner, changing memory modules as we had in Windows 98 SE. The only differences in the Windows ME testing were that we ran one set of tests with the system restore feature both on and another set with this feature turned off. With system restore on, we were not even able to run the test with Microsoft’s recommended minimum of 32MB memory, the system would just lockup requiring a hard restart. With the system restore feature turned off, the results were only slightly better in all tests.

The Testing Details

For the tests, we used Business Winstone 99:

Operating System: Windows 98 SE and Windows ME
Processor: Pentium III 866MHz
Motherboard: Intel BOX D815EEAA
Video Card: ATI AIW Radeon 32MB DDR
Resolution: 1024x768x16
Hard Drive: Maxtor 20.4G ATA100

As we mentioned above, Microsoft has added some great features to its Windows Millennium Edition, however they aren’t without some performance penalties. As an example, with Windows ME you can edit video on your computer, manipulate photos and even work with other forms of multi-media files including recording and converting sounds, but you’re going to need a lot of RAM to overcome Windows ME’s limitations. Let’s review some of these popular features and what they demand from your computer.

Editing Video
While no one may want to sit through several hours of video coverage of your trip to the ocean, a cool, well edited half-hour segment may be enjoyable to both friends and relatives.

The development of new video software and hardware has made editing home videos on your own computer a real possibility, and prices have never been lower than they are right now. In the last half of 1999 and the first half of 2000, manufacturers collectively sold an average of 4,000 new computers per day. Add to this the thousands of computer users who have invested in upgrades, all of which are capable of digital video editing. When Apple released its first version of iMovie, it reported well over 150,000 downloads of the free version. Now Apple has released version 2.0.3 and its capabilities are stunning. As in everything today though, there is a BUT! Users with older, slower systems, and even some new ones with basic memory amounts, are finding that the amount of time it takes to create there video masterpiece makes the process a whole lot less fun than they thought it would be.

Enormous File Sizes
The main reason behind frustrations incurred in making video files is their enormous size. Here’s a tidbit for you to think about, each pixel that you see on your video screen takes up three bytes of storage space (one each for red, green, and blue). Now multiply those three bytes times 480 x 640 resolution and 30 frames per second. A simple one minute uncompressed video file could take up as much as 1.6 gigabytes of space! While compression software can and does make file sizes much more manageable, you will still need to deal with the raw footage first, and that’s going to be an enormous file.

Many technical experts suggest that the best way to deal with this problem is to add a very large hard drive, but that only solves one part of a three part problem. Large hard drives solve the problem of storing the file, but it doesn’t help with slow processing time. In order to deal with these large files and the editing tasks, we found that the processor must be running at least at 600MHz and there should be at least 256MB to 384MB of memory.

While Apple, as it pertains to iMovie, and Adobe, with respect to their Adobe Premiere package recommend 64MB of memory to handle these video editing software packages such as iMovie, if your computer has only 64MB of memory or less, you will probably spend a lot of time waiting while your computer retrieves information from your hard drive.

Other Test Results
We ran the Winstone 99 tests to give you an idea of how Windows ME responds to differing memory amounts using the typical office software packages, but we also ran additional tests to see exactly how differing memory amounts can affect desktop video editing These additional tests were conducted using Content Creation Winstone 2000. The Content Creation Winstone benchmark program is used to test system performance on computer’s using multimedia creation applications, including the popular Adobe Premiere desktop video software. Our tests revealed that merely increasing your memory from 64MB to 128MB would provide as much as a 45% increase in system performance. Upgrading to 256MB improved performance up to 87%, and 384MB yielded as much as 115% increase!

Our Recommendations
If you decide that desktop video editing is in your future, the more memory you have, the better. If you have a processor slower than 600MHz, we recommend upwards of 384MB to 512MB of memory and a hard drive with at least 20 gigabytes of space. If you have a processor that’s running at 600MHz or faster, we recommend that you start with no less than 256MB and consider as much as 512MB. What you decide to do is entirely up to you, however whatever that might be, the result will be reflected in the time it takes to edit your home movies. Remember, the easier and less frustrating it is to do, the more successful you will be.

Conclusion – Windows ME Memory Requirements
According to Microsoft, it takes at least 32MB of memory to run the OS alone, and at least 64MB if you choose to use the Windows Media Player or Windows Movie Maker. In our testing, that did not include Media Player or Movie Maker use, performance improved performance by a mere 80% when memory was increased from 32MB to 96MB, therefore we recommend that 96MB as the true minimum for Windows ME. If you plane on taking full advantage of all of ME’s built in multi-media capabilities, we recommend a minimum of 256MB and a target amount of 384MB.


How you intend to use your computer Memory Recommendations
Student/General Home Use
Word processing, e-mail, spreadsheets, fax and communication software, simple graphics, general gaming software, with two or three or more applications open at once.
Heavy Internet/Gaming
Sophisticated 3-D and online gaming, graphically intense local disk games, streaming media, broadband Internet connection, heavy downloading.
Content Creation Editing home videos, photo manipulation, downloading and manipulating audio files. 256MB-512MB

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