I would up the memory to a minimum of 3 gig, you will get a bigger bang for your buck with this approach, rather than a Graphics card.
If you can go to 4 gig of memory, that's even better.
With XP and the fact that's it's a 32 bit OS, a Max of 4 gig is the limit of what can be utilized.
A max of 4 gig would leave you with 1 gig for the OS, and 3 gig for applications and device/memory mapping...
I would agree with you that 4 GB is the maximum for installed RAM (physical memory) for the 32 bit system. With the available RAM being less than 4 GB, probably 3.
However, when it comes to the 32 bit system and addressable memory space (4 GB) related to virtual memory, not physical memory RAM, it will be 2 GB application and 2 GB OS unless you use something like the 3 GB/Switch. With the 3 GB/Switch, then you should be able to get 3 GB application and 1 GB OS with regard to addressable memory space.
I believe there is a possible alternative to the 3 GB/Switch called Large File Aware which should get you the 3 GB application and 1 GB OS with regard to this addressable memory space business.
If necessary, I will cite my sources of information.
I have earlier in my work (not video/photo related line of business) I used the so called 3GB switch on a couple of our 32 bit WIN 2003 servers. It turned out that few SW could actually use the extra GB. So on all these servers, but one, I turned the switch back. So my question to you is, do you know if elements SW support the extra GB ?
My computer operating system is Windows XP Professional, SP3, and I have never used the 3 GB Switch.
I frequent another forum where one of the users, cyberioten, commented in one of the thread that he has used the 3 GB switch in Vista and recommends it in that case, but not in Windows 7. He said that he had been using Vista Home Premium. His comment can be found in post #39 in the following link:
Current versions of Premiere (all flavors) do NOT use the video card for processing, so your onboard video should be just fine
The next CS5 version of Premiere PRO may use the GPU on the video card for processing... if you have an nVidia 285 or higher
The capability has been announced, but the timeline of when it will happen has not been announced
I don't know if future PElements will have that GPU co-processing module
With physical memory being on the cheap lately, I usually tell folks to go with a mimimum of 4 gig, regardless of System setup, OS, or how it eventualy gets split between the OS, Apps, and some hardware devices.
Another grey area is how many physical devices are attached to your system and what is their approach for transfering data (I/O). As an example, Devices using DMA (Direct Memory Access) or in the case of large Memory Graphics cards, the way they map and transfer data to the system can chew up additional physical memory.
Again, with Memory pricing so cheap, the decision to go with a minimum of 4 gig should be an easy choice.
On my workstation, XP-Pro SP-3, I have 4GB RAM and use the +3GB Switch. PS, PrPro, AI, AfterEffects and InDesign all use the extra RAM. I also have a statically managed 10GB Page File, split between my C:\ and D:\, tested with various locations.
Even with 10 hour Projects in PrPro, I have never had one resource/memory error, or warning. I do not have PrE on that machine, so cannot comment on how well, or poorly, it might function in that environment. I do have it on my laptop, which is not running the +3GB Switch, with approximately the same RAM and Page File, and have never had one resource/memory error, or message there either, though I have to also admit that I use PrPro for my larger Projects, so there are some differences.
Just some observations,
Even going from 2GB to 3GB of RAM I noticed a bit of a difference in PrE 8, but then again, I'm starting with video files of up to 8GB in size, though normally in the 2GB - 4GB range.
Dual P4's? as in a dual core P4 or a pair of socketed CPU's? If the latter, then you're kind of near the lower end for both CPU & RAM, especially if your working with large video clips.
I can't belive all these answers and no one asked the question how large are the files you're working with? Assuming that you ment Pr Elements (Premeier Elements) & not PS Elements (photoshop elements)... If you're working with small clips, say 300MB or less, then more RAM won't make very much difference unless your doing some extensive editing with effects & annotations. If you're doing much larger clips in the 1GB plus range, then yes you will see a noticeable difference with more RAM.
Now if you really meant PS Elements & just posted in the wrong section... then you could simply do a smaller batch of photos at a time & save that money for a new system!