I know that many of you, like me, have been struggling with "Low System Memory" warnings in Premiere Elements (and probably in other applications as well). I finally got tired and decided to do something about it. I started reading everything I could in the Adobe forums, Microsoft Windows forums, and anything else I could get my hands on. I had to learn all about the Windows memory model and do some testing but I finally figured it out and solved the problem. Hopefully, some of you can also use this solution.
Low System Memory warnings in PE (I'm using PE 8.0 but I used to get these warnings in PE 7 as well) have little or nothing to do with how much physical memory you have in your computer (although the more the better and I would encourage you to max out your computers RAM). These warnings have everything to do with Virtual Memory which is memory that is allocated to each Windows Application, even if it isn't actually resident in physical memory. Windows uses the Pagefile on your hard drive to hold images of memory that are not "mapped" into physical memory. It then swaps memory images in and out of physical memory as needed. Windows, by default, allocates 2GB of Virtual Memory to each application. The amount of physical memory given to each application is non-deterministic.
Although it appears that Premiere Elements is very memory hungry, its actually us that are memory hungry. We want to download hours of high definition video along with high res photos and combine all that with special effects and all the tricks that PE can muster up (and it can muster up a LOT). PE 8.0 is so feature rich it's mind boggling, however you can't access all those featuers when PE is starving for memory. So give it more!
If you are running Windows Vista or Window 7 as I am, the solution is fairly simple. Windows provides a boot-time switch that will give applications an extra GB of memory, albeit at the expense of the OS. It's called LARGE_ADDRES_AWARE.
In order to enable LARGE_ADDRESS_AWARE applications, perform the following steps (you can also visit usa.autodesk.com and search for the /3GB switch - they have essentially the same instructions as I have presented here). Click the Start Orb and find the Accessories Program Group. Click to expand and right click on Command Prompt. Select Run as Administrator. At the command prompt, enter:
BCDEDIT /SET INCREASEUSERVA ####. Where #### refers to the amount of memory to give to each application.
I started with 3072 and it seemed to work well. That gives 3 GB to each application and only 1GB to the OS. Since I enabled additional memory, PE performs faster, doesn't crash or hang up and never gives me the dreaded Low System Memory messages. I'm sure that as I continue to overload PE's VM, I will eventually reach a point where I start having problems again, but I now realize that under the 32 bit environment, only so much is possible. Let's hope Adobe brings out a 64 bit PE soon!
Enabling more memory to applications could lead to problems if you have software that utilize many drivers. You are essentially starving the OS of memory in order to give it to PE. If the performance of other applications suffers after you enable more application memory you can easily turn it off.
BCDEDIT /DELETEVALUE INCREASEUSERVA
I believe Windows XP also supports LARGE_ADDRESS_AWARE, but I'm not sure how to enable it. I believe it's different than Vista or W7.
Hope this helps some of you, I know I am much more productive at this point.