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Windows Internals, mandatory reading for all Microsoft admins

Published: 09/12/2009

There are a lot of how-to books out there for learning Windows. Everything from the Dummies books to the so-called "bibles" that advertise themselves as the one-stop, everything-you-want-to-know guides which claim that attaining your MCSE will be a breeze after you skim through them.

To date, I've gone through a number of these and there's only been a handful that I can recommend. Windows Internals, by Mark Russinovich, David Solomon, and Alex Ionescu is quite practically the best publication that I've seen that delves into the inner workings of Windows. There's none of that fluffy, "Here's how you configure Outlook" crap that seems to take up a chapter in a lot of other first-grade books. Windows® Internals: Including Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista, Fifth Edition

I first picked this up when it was in its fourth edition and boy did it open my eyes. Now that the fifth edition is out, understanding the internal fundamentals of Vista, Server 2008, and 7 is right at your fingertips, although it's not exactly what one would call light reading. It's a great complement to Mark Minasi's Administering Windows Vista Security: The Big Surprises, which in my opinion was undeniably the best Vista-related book when Vista was first RTMed back in November of 2006.

(By the way, if you're one of those Windows admins who's still stuck in the XP era because you heard that Vista is a huge pain that no one will adopt, you'd better pick up Minasi's book because you're getting left behind. Now. You know who you are.)

Most introductory or even "become an MCSE" books cover the general feature list and configuration methods for our favorite enterprise client operating system. Setting permissions, restore points, domain logons, policy editing, firewall configuration, image deployments, etc.. Windows Internals, however, goes far deeper than that. Architecture design, memory structures, and other goodies that augment your understanding of system behavior far beyond simply looking under the hood and changing the occasional spark plug. Although it doesn't get into every possible nook-and-cranny of the platform, it dives an extra mile deep beyond what they teach you in an MCSE bootcamp.

For a lot of folks, this is admittedly something to pick up and read while you're trying to fall asleep on a restless night before a major network migration in the morning, but there will come a time when you think to yourself, "A-ha! So that's why Windows does that!" after you read this 1200-page book. That epiphany is well worth it.

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