Final Thoughts

Having seen the results of the hotfix, we can unequivocally say that anyone doing serious gaming under Windows Vista should install the hotfix (and the latest drivers for their video card) at the first chance they get. It's not a solution to the 2GB barrier, but it is a solution to Vista's extreme virtual address space usage. For gamers who are or may be experiencing crashes related to the 2GB barrier, and who are weary of the fixes we outlined in part 1, this is the best solution to resolving the problem for now.

We'd like to pause on "for now" though, as in spite of our enthusiasm for this hotfix we can't ignore the fact that this is a fix to take care of what we feel was a stupid problem in Vista long-overdue for a solution, but that's it. This hotfix won't resolve the 2GB barrier; at best it buys some more time for the 32-bit (x86) version of Vista, and at worse it's no better for applications that don't make heavy use of video memory. The 2GB barrier is still the imposing problem this series is all about, and dealing with it won't be any easier, but with this hotfix at least status quo is (nearly) maintained a bit longer.

As for what can be done to deal with the forthcoming messy transition, our views are still those that we started with at the beginning of this series. There are many interim solutions, but the only real solution is moving to 64-bit operating systems with 64-bit applications. Due to the overhead involved with such a transition we fear that this process may get a late start and won't be complete for a few years, while in the meantime users will still be dealing with the kind of crashing and odd behavior that results from hitting the 2GB barrier. Making the best of this messy transition will require some work from everyone from developers to users, if everyone is willing to put in the effort and deal with the problems.

It's worth noting that Microsoft's own solution for the issue is the same as ours, although slightly more forceful and we suspect slightly more profit-motivated (Windows XP users will have to pay to upgrade to Vista x64):

The long-term solution to this virtual address space problem is 64-bit hardware, which has significantly more address space. Windows Vista X64 provides 8 TB (8,096 GB) of user-mode virtual address space to native 64-bit applications. This is large enough to allow growth on both video memory configurations and application memory usage for many years.

Independent software vendors (ISVs) are strongly encouraged to port their games to native 64-bit applications. All graphics independent hardware vendors (IHVs) already make WDDM drivers available for 64-bit platforms at the same time as x86. Microsoft provides several tools that enable ISVs and IHVs to port their applications and drivers to the 64-bit platform. The Windows Logo Program requires that all third-part device drivers that are logo'd for Windows Vista comply with the 64-bit requirements.

Testing the KB940105 Hotfix
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  • initialised - Thursday, February 14, 2008 - link

    After installing Vista SP1 on a Maximus/QX9650/4GB system it showed a full complement of 4GB under Vista Ultimate 32mb Reply
  • Ichinisan - Tuesday, August 14, 2007 - link

    Can we take a look at how SLI is affected by this? With two 1GB video cards, could you hit the addressing limit in XP (or two 768MB GTXs or 640MB GTSs for that matter)? I remember that you had trouble doing that. Reply
  • leexgx - Tuesday, August 14, 2007 - link

    SLI systems have the same work space as one card an 7900 GTX 512 in SLI does not turn it into an 1GB video SLI system the frame buffer is still 512mb (last time i checked as Both cards Need the same Textures as both cards render half of the video thats why its was Daft calling an 7950 GX2 with 1gb of video ram (basicy 2x7900 GT cards running off 1 PCI-E) when it can only Use 512MB of it)
    Reply
  • Blacklash - Tuesday, August 14, 2007 - link

    MS was gutless and decided not to push it. Instead of trying to create demand by instilling desire, which can easily be done through effective marketing, they took the lazy "there's no demand" approach. What makes me angry is they have the money to create a hell of a marketing blitz if they so desire, and could even eaten the possible initial loss of attempting to force a move to x64 if they had to. Get a spine MS. Go for it. Reply
  • MadAd - Tuesday, August 14, 2007 - link

    of course they didnt push it. The natural time to swap to x64 was the recent vista launch, but A. Intel were still playing catchup with x64 on c2d and B. After all that time in development they had to get some return, so they fobbed us off with the x32 as the mainstream product, which is really at the end of its life now.


    So what next? Well M$ know damn well that half the rest of the world are waiting for SP1 before touching vista with a bargepole so that'll be hurried out the door and dressed up in more BS marketing..and then what?

    Filling the marketing void between SP1 and whatever next will be the 'transition to 64' era. Yes yes lots of chubbly money to be made giving people what they want, not when they need it like now, but when its best to make the most money from it.
    Reply
  • BikeDude - Thursday, August 16, 2007 - link

    They recently announced that Windows Server 2008 is the last server product to support 32-bit CPUs. It is not known at this time if the next client version of Windows will also drop 32-bit CPUs.

    But the writing is on the wall. Sort of.

    However... A lot of users will not benefit from a 64-bit OS, but can still use 32-bit Vista just fine. Many will see the increased memory usage of 64-bit Vista as a problem (despite the cheap memory prices) performance-wise. For the vast majority of users, it makes little sense. Some of them may even be using some 16-bit Windows software for all we know... Why force them into problems they don't need? 32-bit Vista is a great stepping stone to 64-bit Vista. There is a choice, and I think most of us needs it.

    If you look at the forums (and the article we are commenting), many punters advocate sticking with 32-bit Vista for the foreseeable future. It is a cowardly stance in my opinion, but they present some valid concerns.
    Reply
  • poohbear - Tuesday, August 14, 2007 - link

    very informative article! dont mean to be nit picky, but u guys use words in some wierd contexts: a program taking "sovereign control" of memory? "assumingly"? lol interesting usage. cheers for a great article nonetheless! Reply
  • Tristesse27 - Tuesday, August 14, 2007 - link

    Ryan, with all respect, you seriously need to learn how to use commas. Reply
  • Larso - Tuesday, August 14, 2007 - link

    As long as you are running 32 bit, with 32 bit addressing, the ultimate barrier will always be 4 GB. So isn't this 2 GB barrier problem a bit acedemic, as we are only one bit short of spending all 32 bits of addressing anyways? We are already hitting the roof and a factor of two is not significant in the long run.

    But hitting roofs seems to make people paranoid, which is understandable with the otherwise unlimited resources of a modern PC. But everybody seems to have forgotten how it was in the old days. How hardware limitations forced developers to be creative and ingenious with great results. You don't see that today, it seems more like developers are acting like spoiled kids.

    Perhaps its healthy to face a hard resource limitation again, so developers will be forced to make efficient use of the resources. Its not that 2 GB is a tiny amount of memory, it's actually a huge amount. And when there is a justified case for using more, there is always 64-bit.
    Reply
  • MadBoris - Tuesday, August 14, 2007 - link

    quote:

    Perhaps its healthy to face a hard resource limitation again, so developers will be forced to make efficient use of the resources. Its not that 2 GB is a tiny amount of memory, it's actually a huge amount. And when there is a justified case for using more, there is always 64-bit.


    It's by no means huge for games, which have always pushed hardware to it's fullest.

    The problem is that those that set the limits, are the most guilty of waste (MS). Try using managed .NET and see RAM usage climb exorbitantly in applications. Vista itself claims extensive amounts of RAM as applications open up on the PC (w/ superfetch off). Also Vista uses more CPU cycles compared to XP for a game (maybe only certain games, maybe not). I also didn't ask MS to commit 20+- percent of a CPU core to sound as they think I should do now in Vista w/ software.

    As we get more hardware resources MS is right there to "waste" it, not really using it efficiently or gaining performance from more HW resources, which should be the obvious result. Cutting out hardware sound best suited their needs (I really think it had more to do with pushing xact and moving devs to 360 consoles). Furthermore, tighter control on GPU makers with restricted WDDM helped their needs with a prettier desktop to compete with MAC (maybe wddm2 will bring more to the table). DX10+ API's also now further limit the individual 3D features that GPU companies can expose in their hardware, they have to have the API support first to expose features and WDDM support to expose how resources are managed.

    I'm not into MS bashing or conspiracy theories, but their comes a point that "Sovereign" control becomes better for the king and worse for the people, it inhibits creativity. Maybe it will take an "upheavel" but that sure won't come from any outspoken hardware MFR's or IHV's because they have to maintain best relations, regardless how poorly and yet dominantly, MS steers the ship.

    Devs will have to become smarter with resources, but as this article clearly shows, that needs to begin with Microsoft first, they are most guilty in the OS and dev languages and runtimes. So I am not exactly filled with confidence when they remove hardware sound and take tighter control of the future of 3D features with their API support and hardware functionality with their driver models.

    It's not an MS rant, but if MS is going to take tighter control of all the reins, and everyone else has to adapt to them, then they should be the ones to answer for things. Since they made it their responsibility, they should be held accountable not the companies like Creative and Nvidia that have to struggle with the difficulty of adapting to the stringent choices MS makes (for their competitive reasons).
    Reply

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