How to Increase the Memory Limit for 32-bit Applications in Windows 64-bit OS

Most of us are now probably using a 64-bit Microsoft Operating System like Windows 7 x64 or Windows Vista x64, which allows the computer to address more than 3GB of RAM. Did you know, however, that any 32-bit applications you run are still limited to making use of only 2GB of RAM? This includes many games and probably the version of Microsoft Office you have installed, unless you specifically opted to install the 64-bit version.

You might wonder why this is a problem. Well, obviously if your system has more than 2GB of RAM, it’d be great to allow your applications or games to make use of it. Furthermore, some applications actually crash when they hit this limit, or start popping up boxes with out of memory errors. If you work on large excel files (500,000 rows+) then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Thankfully, there’s a solution! A great coder by the name of Daniel Pistelli has written a little patching application that will modify your 32-bit programs, and allow them to address up to 4GB of RAM. It’s important to remember that this utility is only useful if you are running a 64-bit OS. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then here’s an easy way to check:

1. Go to Control Panel, and click view by “small icons” in the top right hand corner
2. Click System
3. As per the image below, next to System Type, it should say 64-bit operating system. If it doesn’t then this utility is of no use to you.

4gbpatch-systeminfo

The second thing to remember is that this utility can only be used on 32-bit applications. If you are unsure if an application you are running is 32-bit, run task manager by pressing CTRL-SHIFT-ESCAPE. Click the tab for processes. A list of currently running programs will load. Find your application in the list, and look to see if it has *32 next to it. The example image below illustrates what I mean.

4gbpatch-taskmanager

Assuming that you’ve followed the previous two points and now wish to patch your 32-bit application, first backup the executable file of the program you wish to patch. If the patching process fails, or if you need to download an update for the program you are patching, you may need to revert to the original file. Remember, you only need to backup the executable file for the program (i.e. the file with a .exe extension), not the entire program folder itself. Once you’ve done this, download the patching utility from here. Run it, and it will ask you to select your program. Simply select the executable file you wish to patch and the utility will work its magic. Upon completion, it will ask you if you wish to patch another file. If you do, go ahead, if not, quit!

4gbpatch-patch

If all goes well, your application should now be able to make use of up to 4GB of RAM. Obviously this will be most useful for resource-intensive applications, and you’ll probably see the greatest benefits with games. Some productivity software will also benefit, assuming you aren’t utilising the 64-bit versions of these (e.g. Excel, Photoshop, 3D Studio Max, and so on.)