AutoCAD 2000 and Memory usage

We are using A2K with patches on W2K sp3. The computers have 1Gig of RAM. We
work with large 3D models with many XREFs attached. Total of 70Meg. When the
user opens the file the status shows 670Mb or so of free physical memory.
After they work in the drawing for a few minutes, the status command shows
under 100 meg left and later still their looking at snake eyes (0.0).
Where did the memory go (rhetorical question)? Why is acad not freeing it up
after certain operations, such as plotting? Anyone found a trick to freeing
this memory without closing the session? How is 2004 in handling memory. let
me guess, worse?
The users tell me they need to have the xrefs loaded so they don't hit
anything when routing pipe. Whatever, I'm a computer geek. I don't get
involved in their projects. I still argue that their models are too damn big
and AutoCAD is a memory hog.
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One item to check is that the xrefs are loaded as overlays, not attachments,,,,
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