Expanded memory

Expanded memory

In computing, expanded memory (commonly known as EMS memory) is a system of bank switching introduced around 1984 that provided additional memory to MS-DOS programs that required more than what was available in conventional memory. Expanded memory uses parts of the remaining 384 KB, normally dedicated to communication with peripherals, for program memory as well. The practice is outlined in the Expanded Memory Specification, which was developed jointly by Lotus Software, Intel, and Microsoft, so this specification was sometimes referred to as "LIM EMS". The use of expanded memory became common with games and business applications in the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, but its use declined as users switched from MS-DOS to 32-bit operating systems such as Microsoft Windows.


IBM PC and IBM XT use a real mode memory architecture, which allow programs to use 1 megabyte (1 MiB) of address space, of which only up to 640 KB (640 KiB) was available for conventional memory (the remainder from 640 KB to 1 megabyte being reserved for peripherals, most notably the screen memory in the display adapter and the bios code). The IBM AT, which used an Intel 80286, supported protected mode, but it also ran MS-DOS, a real mode operating system that did not use extended memory directly.

In order to fit potentially much more memory than the 384 KB of free address space would allow, a bank switching scheme was devised, where only selected portions of the additional memory would be accessible at the same time. Originally, a single 64 KB window of memory was possible; later this was made more flexible. Applications had to be written in a specific way in order to access expanded memory.


Expansion boards

This insertion of a memory window into the peripheral address space could originally be accomplished only through specific expansion boards, plugged into the ISA expansion bus of the computer. Famous 1980s expanded memory boards were AST RAMpage, IBM PS/2 80286 Memory Expansion Option, AT&T Expanded Memory Adapter and the Intel Above Board. Given the price of RAM during the period, up to several hundred dollars per megabyte, and the quality and reputation of the above brand names, an expanded memory board was very expensive.


Later, some motherboards of Intel 80286-based computers implemented an expanded memory scheme that did not require add-on boards. Typically, software switches determined how much memory should be used as "expanded memory" and how much should be used as "extended memory".

Software emulation

Beginning in 1987, the built-in memory management features of Intel 80386 processor freely modelled the address space when running legacy real mode software, making hardware solutions unnecessary. Expanded memory could be simulated in software.

The first software expanded memory "management" (emulation) program was probably CEMM, available in November 1987 with Compaq DOS 3.31. A popular and well-featured commercial solution was Quarterdeck's QEMM. A contender was Qualitas' 386MAX. Functionality was later incorporated into MS-DOS 4.01 in 1989 and into DR-DOS 5.0 in 1990, as EMM386.

Software expanded memory managers in general offered additional, but closely related functionality. Notably, they could create ordinary memory areas (Upper Memory Blocks) in unused parts of the high 384 KB of real mode address space and provided tools for loading small programs, typically TSRs inside ("loadhi" or "loadhigh").

Interaction between extended memory, expanded memory emulation and DOS extenders ended up being regulated by the XMS, VCPI and DPMI specifications.

Certain emulation programs, colloquially known as LIMulators, did not rely on motherboard or 80386 features at all. Instead, they reserved 64 KB of the base RAM for the expanded memory window, where they copied data to and from either extended memory or the hard disk when application programs requested page switches. This was programmatically easy to implement, but performance was low. This technique was offered by AboveDisk from Above Software and by several shareware programs.


An expanded memory board, being a hardware peripheral, needed a software device driver, which exported its services. Such a device driver was called "expanded memory manager". Its name was variable; the previously mentioned boards used remm.sys (AST), ps2emm.sys (IBM), aemm.sys (AT&T) and emm.sys (Intel) respectively. Later, the expression became associated with software-only solutions requiring the 80386 processor, for example Quarterdeck's QEMM.

Expanded memory was a common term for several incompatible technology variants. The "Expanded Memory Specification" (EMS) was developed jointly by Lotus, Intel, and Microsoft, so this specification was sometimes referred to as "LIM EMS". EEMS, a competing expanded memory management standard, was developed by AST Research, Quadram and Ashton-Tate. It allowed to also remap some or all of the lower 640 kB of memory, so that entire programs could be switched in and out of the extra RAM. The two standards were eventually combined as LIM EMS 4.0.

See also

* Unreal mode
* Conventional memory
* Upper Memory Area (UMA)
* High Memory Area (HMA)
* Extended memory (XMS)


* Lotus, Intel, Microsoft (October 1987). [http://docs.ruudkoot.nl/limems41.doc "Expanded Memory Specification"] . Version 4.0.
* A complete discussion of EMS and programming examples can be found in ["PC System Programming for developers", 1989, ISBN 1-55755-035-2 (Book only) and ISBN 1-55755-036-0 (Book and diskette)] .
* [http://www.borrett.id.au/computing/art-1989-01-02.htm Understanding EMS 4.0] by Lloyd Borrett, Technical Cornucopia, January–February 1989

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Expanded Memory —   [dt. Expansionsspeicher], EMS …   Universal-Lexikon

  • expanded memory —    An MS DOS mechanism by which applications can access more than the 640KB of memory normally available to them. The architecture of the early Intel processors restricted the original IBM PC to accessing 1MB of memory, 640KB of which was… …   Dictionary of networking

  • expanded memory — computer memory between 640K and 1 MB (Computers) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Expanded memory — …   Википедия

  • Expanded Memory — …   Википедия

  • Expanded Memory Manager —   [Abk. EMM, dt. »Expansionsspeicherverwalter«], Gerätetreiber unter DOS, der für die Verwaltung des EMS Speichers zuständig war (EMS) …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Expanded Memory Specification — Expanded Memory Specification,   EMS …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Expanded Memory System — Die Expanded Memory Specification (kurz: EMS genannt), ist eine Software Schnittstelle zum Zugriff auf so genanntes expanded memory (oft unglücklich zu Expansionsspeicher eingedeutscht) auf einem x86 kompatiblen PC im Real Mode. Heutzutage hat… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Expanded Memory Specification — Die Expanded Memory Specification (kurz: EMS genannt), ist eine Software Schnittstelle zum Zugriff auf so genanntes expanded memory (oft unglücklich zu „Expansionsspeicher“ eingedeutscht) auf einem x86 kompatiblen PC im Real Mode. Sie war für PC… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • expanded memory emulator — program for managing memory which emulates expanded memory (Computers) …   English contemporary dictionary

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