Does Windows 10 require the CPU to support PAE?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Michael E. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

Do you know if Windows 10 (including Windows 10 Technical Preview) requires Physical Address Extension (PAE) support for the processor? "

My response:

That's an interesting question. The short answer is that yes, Windows 10 requires that your processor supports PAE. The good news is that the PAE feature has been available in most processors since 2003, so if your computer is 12 years old or newer, it's a safe bet that you don't have anything to worry about.

Windows 8 and Windows 10 PAE Support

In general, Windows 10 runs on all computers that are compatible with Windows 8.1. Therefore, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 hardware requirements include CPUs that support PAE (physical address extension), SSE2 (supplementary instruction sets), and NX (no execute bit).

If you're not sure, then you can download a program called CPU-Z which will tell you all the instruction sets your processor supports.

What is PAE, NX, and SSE2?

PAE, or Physical Address Extension allows 32-bit operating systems the ability to use more than 4 GB of RAM. Currently the only supported editions of Windows that run on 32-bit OS with PAE and more than 4GB of RAM are Windows Server Editions (2000, 2003, and 2008). If you want access to more than 4GB of RAM and you don't run Windows Server, PAE isn't necessary and you simply need to run Windows 64-bit (Vista, 7, 8, 10, for example).

NX, or the no execute bit is a feature helps the CPU guard the PC from attacks by malicious software. The NX bit has been around since 2004 but wasn't widely adopted until AMD came out with 64 bit processors (around the same time).

SSE2 has been around for a long time (since 2003) and is an instruction set used on processors as well as third-party applications and drivers.

"Your PC's CPU isn't compatible with Windows 8" (and Windows 10) Error

It's worth noting that the NX mode of a processor can be disabled or enabled in the computer's BIOS, so if you encounter an error message during installing that says "Your Computer isn't compatible with this edtion of Windows", you may need to enable NX.

The NX (no execute bit) can have multiple names in a BIOS, including EDB (Execute Disabled Bit), Execute Disabled Memory Protection, EVP (Enhanced Virus Protection), and No Execute Memory Protect. You can enter the computer's BIOS by pressing DEL, F2, F12. Most likely the option for the NX setting is available via the Advanced Configuration menu, though every BIOS is different.

Other Questions Related to Windows 10 Upgrade

We've recently answered more questions related to Windows 10, including in-place upgrades and clean installs. Feel free to read more:

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About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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