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Enable Expanded Memory in Some Windows 2000 and XP Computers

Read this first! | Changing BIOS settings to enable EMS | Lenovo/IBM ThinkPad models that do not enable EMS | Enable EMS through softwareHome page

Read this first!

A small percentage of Windows 2000-based and XP-based computers (including some popular Dell models, and models with advanced gaming-level graphics hardware) do not support Expanded (EMS) Memory even after you follow the procedures for enabling EMS described elsewhere on this site. On such machines, abbreviation-expander software such as Smartype and PRD+ will not load and function correctly, and WPDOS 5.1 may display a "Not enough memory" error message when performing memory-intensive operations such as spelling, hyphenation, printing, printing graphics, generating cross-references and indexes, equation-editing, and running complex macros.

With some (probably not all) of these computers, you can enable EMS by making changes in the BIOS ("firmware") of your computer. The BIOS (Basic Input-Output System) settings are the hardware settings that control the way Windows works with your machine; the settings cannot be changed from inside Windows, but must be accessed, in the few seconds your system is first starting up, by pressing a key that opens up a special BIOS menu.

If your computer is an Lenovo or IBM ThinkPad with a similar problem, go directly to the instructions for Lenovo or IBM ThinkPads only, on a different section of this page.

If, and only if, this BIOS-setting method fails, you may use another method that enables EMS memory through software, at the cost of slightly slower performance, more awkward and time-consuming setup, and reduced DOS memory.

Do not attempt this method until you have studied your computer's manual and read the instructions for accessing the BIOS. Some computers display a message during startup that looks something like, "Press F2 [or some other key] to access setup." This message tells you which key to press to access the BIOS settings. Different computers use different keystrokes to access BIOS settings. Some use the Del key, some use F1, some use F2, some use something else entirely. I cannot help you access the BIOS on your machine; you must figure out how to do this by yourself.

Before using this method, make sure that you know how to access and navigate the BIOS settings, and that you know how to exit the BIOS menus and restart your machine. The menus will display prompts that will tell you which keystrokes to use.

Note: You will find vast amounts of misinformation on the Internet about this problem, some of it disseminated by people who have passed Microsoft certification programs that allow them to add the abbreviation MS-MVP after their name. Where there is any contradiction between the information that you find elsewhere and the information that you find on this page, you may be certain that the information on this page is correct, no matter how knowledgeable or confident the other source may seem to be.

Changing BIOS settings to enable EMS

If you are unable to create expanded memory (EMS) on your Windows XP using the procedures for enabling EMS described elsewhere on this site, and if you have performed the procedure three or four times without success, then shut down your computer, turn it on again, and access the BIOS menus. First attempt procedure (1) below; if it does not solve the problem, try procedure (2) and then (3) instead; then try different combinations of (1), (2), and (3).

Warning: These procedures may or may not work on your machine. (It is possible, for example, that they may not work if you are using a RAID system on SATA hard disks; but if you do not understand what those abbreviations mean, then you do not need to worry about the problem.) If these procedures do not work, then the only solution is to return the machine to the seller and buy another one instead.

(1) Disable "USB Legacy Support". Look somewhere on the BIOS menus, perhaps under "Advanced" or "Peripheral" or "Integrated Peripherals" or "Peripheral Configuration" or perhaps under some other menu entirely; you may need to go to a submenu with a name like "VIA OnChip PCI Device". You are looking for an entry that reads "USB Legacy Support" or "Legacy USB Support" or something closely similar. Highlight the entry; press Enter, or use whatever other keystroke is recommended to open the options. Select Disable (not Auto or Enable). Save your settings and exit the BIOS settings.

The effect of this setting is as follows: If you have a USB keyboard, and if Windows is not on your system, and you boot directly and only to DOS, then you may need to buy an inexpensive adapter that lets you plug your USB keyboard into a conventional PS/2-style keyboard port (the PS/2 port uses a cylindrical plug instead of the flat rectangular plug used by a USB keyboard). If you have any recent version of Windows, and you use a USB keyboard, you may not be able to press F8 or Ctrl during bootup to interrupt the process in which Windows loads, but you will suffer no other ill effect.  See this page on Microsoft's web site for full technical details of USB Legacy Support. One effect of disabling USB Legacy Support may be that you will be unable to boot your computer from a USB "thumb drive"; but you probably never want to do that anyway.

(2) If the preceding change does not solve the problem, you may to use the BIOS setting that disables either the built-in network controller or only the Read-Only Memory (ROM) on a built-in network controller. You may find this on a menu named something like "Peripherals," and the item itself may be "System Board Ethernet"; or it may on a menu called "Network Settings," and the items itself might be named "Internal Network Option ROM"; look around in the BIOS until you find a setting similar to these, and choose the option to Disable the setting. Save your settings and exit the BIOS setup utility.

Important note: If you can only get EMS memory by disabling the "System Board Ethernet," and you use a network (or a broadband internet connection that requires a network card) you will need to buy an add-in network adapter for your computer; these typically cost US$20 or less. On the other hand, the setting to disable "Internal Network Option ROM" will not disable the network hardware built into your motherboard; this only disables the ability to make your computer turn on remotely through the network by using the "Wake on LAN" feature. (If you don't understand what this means, you do not need to worry about it.)

(3) If your motherboard has built-in video (in other words, it does not have a separate graphics card), you may need to install a separate graphics card in the computer and disable the on-board video in the BIOS. But only do this if the first two solutions fail to work.

Return to this site's Windows page or Windows XP page.

ThinkPad laptop computers that do not enable EMS under Windows XP

Warning: The following advice applies to IBM or Lenovo laptop computers sold under the ThinkPad brand name only. Lenovo also makes laptop computers sold under the Lenovo brand name only, and that are not called ThinkPads); you may find it impossible to enable EMS on Lenovo laptops that are not ThinkPads.

Some models of ThinkPad computers manufactured by IBM or Lenovo (starting with the A21, R32, and T30 series, and perhaps earlier) prevent you from enabling EMS memory in their default out-of-the-box configuration. To enable EMS, you must use the pre-installed BIOS Setup Utility or ThinkPad Configuration Program (or some similar name) to change one or both of two BIOS option settings.

Access the BIOS settings by powering off your computer; then hold down the F1 key and switch it on again. The two option settings you may need to change are these: under Config, then under Network, disable Internal Network Option ROM; and under Config, then under USB, disable USB BIOS Support. You may be able to enable EMS by disabling one or the other, not both; on a ThinkPad T61, for example, I got expanded memory after disabling Internal Network Option ROM only. On some machines, however (such as my old ThinkPad T42), you will need to disable both.

Before you can access these options on some A21, R32, T30 and perhaps other ThinkPads, you must first update your computer's BIOS. This is very easy to do. Go to the ThinkPad Driver Matrix page on Lenovo's web site; find your exact model; go to the linked page; click on BIOS in the table near the top, and find the BIOS file for your model. Follow the instructions for downloading and installing the new BIOS. You may also need to download and install other files as instructed on the page with instructions for the BIOS. Recent models include a Software Installer or System Update application which can update the BIOS automatically.

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Enable EMS memory through the EMS Magic utility

If, and only if, the methods described elsewhere on this page fail to enable EMS memory on your Windows XP computer, then you may use the free utility software EMS Magic to create expanded (EMS) memory on Windows XP (and Vista) systems that do not otherwise support EMS memory.

Warning: Do not use this method unless you absolutely need EMS memory and your system will not provide it through any other method. EMS Magic reduces the memory available to DOS programs by as much as 80 KB; it is complicated to set up and use; and it forces your programs to run more slowly than they would with conventional EMS memory (although perhaps not noticeably slower).

The following instructions apply to EMS Magic version 2.1 and presumably to later versions also. You should not attempt to use any version of EMS Magic that has a lower version number than 2.1.

Begin by visiting the EMS Magic web page to read about the program. Download the Windows Installer version from the download link on the program's web page, and run the installer. From the Start Menu, go to Programs (or All Programs) and find EMS Magic; choose the menu item named "Command Prompt with XMS + EMS" (or, preferably, right-click it and drag a shortcut to your desktop). Run this menu item (or shortcut) to open a command prompt that supplies expanded memory. Within this prompt, navigate to your WPDOS directory and run WPDOS.

If you have installed Tame, it will not be available in this EMS-enabled command prompt until you perform some further steps. First, open a command prompt and enter the following line exactly as it appears here (with the quotation marks and spaces):

Notepad "%ProgramFiles%\EMS Magic\shortcuts\Autoexec.nt"

When the file opens in Notepad, move the cursor to the foot of the file and press Enter to create a new line. Leave the file open in Notepad.

Next, download this EditAutoexec.nt shortcut file (right-click the link and choose Save Target As... or Save Link As...) and save the file to your desktop. Run the file; when the Autoexec.nt file opens in another copy of Notepad, find the line that runs tame-nt.com (probably the last line), and copy the entire line to the Windows clipboard by highlighting the whole line and pressing Ctrl-C. Close this copy of Notepad without making any change to the file. Now switch to the other copy of Notepad that you opened earlier and left open; be certain that the cursor is at the foot of the file, and press Ctrl-V to paste in the the line that runs Tame. Close the file, and respond Yes when prompted to save the changed contents. Tame will now operate in the EMS Magic command prompt named "Command Prompt with XMS + EMS".

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