Optimizating RAM

In the traditional PC architecture that uses the command system of Intel processors, the first megabyte of RAM has a special function. It's no wonder that the first 640 KB of RAM within that first megabyte (which is the only part of memory available for certain types of programs) is known as the conventional (or basic) memory.

Part of this memory area is used by system programs; application programs take up the rest. Often, these programs are sensitive to the conventional memory concerns. For example, certain application programs require no less than 600 KB of conventional memory to run.

If the amount of available conventional memory is insufficient, such programs will not run, and a message will appear informing you that there is not enough conventional memory. As a matter of fact, this will happen even in a system with a large amount of RAM that exceeds that program's requirements.

In the case we are considering, however, this large amount of available RAM is practically useless, because the first 640 KB is the only area that the program can access. This is due to the fact that all memory above the first megabyte is of the extended type, which a normal DOS program can't use.

One of the most common methods of RAM optimization under Windows 9x is using the drivers specially developed for the particular Windows version. These drivers work in protected mode. To maximize conventional memory under Windows 9x, try to avoid if possible using drivers that require an MS-DOS compatibility mode (a real mode).

This is because such drivers load in the first MB of memory, thus decreasing the available conventional memory, and resulting in performance degradation and a limited capability of running programs that need a large amount of conventional memory.

The programs that run under Windows 9x in MS-DOS compatibility mode may require real-mode drivers. To use these drivers, you need to describe them in the appropriate manner in Autoexec.bat and Config.sys files. Real-mode drivers are loaded into conventional memory, and thus decrease the size of available conventional memory.

To maximize conventional memory and increase the performance, it's recommended to try loading some of the real-mode drivers into the upper memory area (UMA), which is the upper 384 KB of the first megabyte of system memory, directly above conventional memory.

You can also optimize the location of the system programs within the first mega byte of memory and increase the size of conventional memory available for applications using the MemMaker utility specially designed for this purpose.

This utility, included with MS-DOS version 6.0 and later versions, modifies the Config.sys and Autoexec.bat configuration files. After you execute MemMaker, device drivers and other resident programs that reside in the RAM will use the conventional memory in the most advantageous manner possible.

If possible, MemMaker will try to load resident programs into the so-called UMB blocks. All of this maximizes free space within the conventional memory, thus making it available to user applications, such as, for example, games, educational programs, business applications, multimedia programs, etc.

Express Setup Mode

To use the MemMaker utility in Express Setup mode:

  1. Start the MemMaker program. To do this, type MemMaker in the command line and press. The first window will appear. To continue, select the Continue option and press.
  2. You will then be prompted to select the setup mode.
  3. To use the standard mode, select the Express Setup option and press. Then specify whether or not you need EMS memory.
  4. If none of the programs requires space in the EMS memory, or if you're not sure, select No and press. If you are going to use programs that require EMS memory, select Yes by pressing the bar, and then press. You will then be asked if you want the computer to reboot in order to test the loading order of the device drivers and resident programs.
  5. After that, MemMaker will optimize the memory configuration. Having finished the analysis, MemMaker will introduce all necessary changes into Config.sys and Autoexec.bat configuration files. Once again, it will prompt you to reboot the computer with the new configuration settings. To reboot, press.
  6. After rebooting, MemMaker will prompt you to specify whether the system is functioning correctly. If MemMaker did not display error messages during optimization, and the system functions properly after rebooting, select Yes and press. If you have any doubts, press the bar to select No. Then follow the instructions that appear on the screen.
  7. If you confirm that the system is working correctly, MemMaker will display a table summarizing the amount of free memory of each type both before and after optimization.

Custom Setup Mode

If MemMaker has encountered any errors caused by a specific device driver or by any program, reboot the computer and select the Custom Setup mode. Then, select the Yes option when prompted to answer the question Specify which drivers and TSRs to include in optimization?

The Custom Setup mode looks very similar to Express Setup. The difference is that after the question about EMS memory is displayed, an Advanced Options dialog appears. The options specified in this dialog determine the manner in which MemMaker will configure the memory during the optimization process.

If necessary, the user can change the options in the Advanced Options dialog. Use the up arrow and down arrow keys to select the option you need. To change the values, use the bar. For information on a particular option press the key. Having set all the options, press to continue.

When necessary, MemMaker will prompt you to specify an option or answer a question. In such a case, you need simply answer correctly and/or follow the instructions. When optimization is completed, MemMaker will prompt you to restart the computer to test the loading order of the device drivers and resident programs.

After this, the process is similar to that in Express Setup. MemMaker will modify the system configuration, and introduce changes into Config.sys, Autoexec.bat, and sometimes System.ini files.

Before modifying the files, MemMaker will create backup copies, usually with the same names but with the .umb filename extension. In case of problems you will be able to use these backup copies to restore the original configuration. You can even undo the changes after you've exited MemMaker.

To undo the changes, proceed as follows:

  1. Exit all active programs.

  2. From the command line, run the following command: Memmaker/undo. A message will appear prompting you to restore original configuration or to exit MemMaker.
  3. To restore the original configuration files, press Enter. You'll see a message prompting you to restart the computer.

  4. Press Enter.