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I am looking for a server, and when I look at the specs some of the servers can only handle 4GB. Other can handle 8GB or 16GB, and others 64GB.

Can that really be true?

Is this really a hardware limitation, or are they disabling it in the BIOS, so there is no way to use 16GB on a 4GB supported server?

An example is the Dell PowerEdge SC 440. Only 4GB supported, they say.

Would 64bit Linux allow me to use 16GB on a 4GB server?

Sandra

Update:

In case we can trust that Dell haven't written these reviews them self, then one reports that he have put 4x2GB of ram in it.

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-1. Poster has outdated hardware that was actually low end at the time it was sold - and not will not understand that some years ago 4x1gb or 2x2gb were the max memory use that low end servers had. –  TomTom Mar 22 '10 at 22:07
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4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The chipset (and, to a lesser extent processor) capabilities normally dictate maximum memory limitations. I'm sure that some of the limitations are a result of "market segmentation" efforts, but in general the higher-end chipsets that support more memory are more expensive. More memory sockets on the board can also mean a larger board, which translates into lower production line yields and more cost per part.

Your operating system isn't going to matter re: hardware capabilities.

I bought a Dell PowerEdge T310 in December 2009 with 8GB of RAM (and a 24GB maximum capacity) for $800.00 w/ a 3 year on-site warranty. There are definitely server-class machines that can support more than 4GB of RAM out ther for sub-$1,000.00.

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Some models may also quote the maximum memory the server can handle given currently available options. For instance, if the server only holds two sticks of memory, and the largest memory available for those slots is 2GB, then they may quote the maximum as being 4GB. –  Chris S Mar 22 '10 at 19:09
    
That what really puzzled me. It have 4 memory slots, so it is just begging to get 4x4GB =) I just heard that Linux doesn't use the BIOS is initialize the hardware, so I thought if it was something they had disabled in the BIOS, 64bit Linux wouldn't even know of the limit? Thank for the T310 tip. –  Sandra Mar 22 '10 at 19:14
    
Well, given the age of the system it is more like 4x1gb that you have now. Like some old servers I have that were bought 3 years ago - looks like same generation. I throw mine out now. –  TomTom Mar 22 '10 at 20:26
    
That SC440 very likely won't have a processor that supports 64-bit operation, and certainly won't have virtualization extensions. The machine isn't a boat anchor, but it's not up to any heavy lifting either. –  Evan Anderson Mar 22 '10 at 20:42
    
@Evan: I am running 64bit Red Hat on it now with KVM which means it have hardware virtualization. –  Sandra Mar 22 '10 at 20:49
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There are two different limits that you have to be aware of.

There is a physical limit that the server will support.

There is also the limit the operating system will support. 32-bit versions of Windows Server will support up to 4 GB, and 64-bit versions of Windows Server will support at least 8 GB (and much more depending the version of Windows).

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Thanks for pointing that out. I am using 64bit Linux. –  Sandra Mar 22 '10 at 19:17
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This is a super super cheap low-end server. So it's not surprising that the hardware is limited. Looking online says it's currently worth $200-$400. If you just bought this from someone for over $1000, you probably got cheated.

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I bought it when Dell sold them on their site. But at that time I paid ~$1000 for it. –  Sandra Mar 22 '10 at 19:15
    
How long ago was that? –  Broam Mar 22 '10 at 19:57
    
I bet 2-3 years. –  TomTom Mar 22 '10 at 20:27
    
I believe the last SC440 I installed was in October 2006, and I don't think the model was new at that time. –  Evan Anderson Mar 22 '10 at 20:36
    
That would match. I have servers of the same timeframe here - AMD 64 dual cores, 3800+ on nforce chips. 4x1gb - that was common for lower end (server) stuff at this timeframe. –  TomTom Mar 22 '10 at 22:04
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How would linux do that if the hardware can only support 4gb?

Looks like an oudated system like I have some lying around. THat simple. Modern boards can handle 16gb in end user chips, and 64+ gb per socket server side.

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In case it isn't a hardware limit, but they just say it is, so make me pay more so they can unlock it. From what I have heard, Linux doesn't use the BIOS to initialize hardware, so maybe 64bit Linux would allow me to use 16GB? –  Sandra Mar 22 '10 at 19:16
    
No, sorry, it IS the hardware. Bascally the chip does not support more. It is a dated product. You don't find the S440 in the current server list at dell. You get them way blow 1000 USD. Nothing with "pay more so they can unlock". More like "pay more so you get more powerfull hardware". –  TomTom Mar 22 '10 at 19:43
    
Do you have the serial number for the chip? I would really like to see the specs . It most be the worst chipset ever. =) –  Sandra Mar 22 '10 at 20:53
    
Hardly. At that times it was normal - especially for a lower end server. You buy outdated low end equipment, shut up if it is not no par with new high end one. In my case I paid about 2000 USD new. AMD 64 x2 dual core 3800+ on an nvidia nforce chip - low end board, I got 5, still use 3 servers. They can not handle more ram, as it was normal. Worst chip ever? How arrogant is this. Chips and computers evolve. 3 years ago that was a decent low end server. Today... it is not. But 3 years are 1-2 generations. –  TomTom Mar 22 '10 at 22:03
    
For my new server I have 64gb RAM, 2x4 cores Opterons and space for 24 hard disc. Bad news - it was also more expensive. You bought cheap, now be a man and live with what you bought. –  TomTom Mar 22 '10 at 22:03
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