May 11, 2012

Windows Internals, 6th Edition Part 1

6th editionMuch like a blockbuster movie, the Windows Internals team decided to split their latest tome, Windows Internals 6th Edition (WI6), covering Windows 7 into two chunks to ensure it arrived before Windows 8 was released. The first part of the series arrived earlier this month, and is a comprehensive look at the inside of the Windows platform.

Alex Ionescu, Mark Russinovich and David A. Solomon have all contributed to the rich tapestry of Windows Internals in the past, and their work is, as usual, top-notch. The decision to split the book into two sections was a good one, as it has been almost 3 years since Windows 7 was released, as well as the last Windows Internals volume, which covered Vista and Server 2008. Though it’s not their fault, with Server 2012 and Windows 8 due out later this year, the only frustrating part of reading WI6 was the realization that within a year, many design decisions will be out of date.

With that frustration out of the way, the book is quite comprehensive, much like its predecessors. Because it covers both Window 7 and Server 2008R2, which are evolutionary updates from the kernel present in Vista and 2008, the content is mostly deeper, rather than wider, in nature. Many of the key concepts will not have to be completely relearned if one was already familiar with the underlying architectural decisions. Over the past three years, the tools used in the book have also been updated greatly, and revisiting them is a key improvement. Having the tools documented in a previous work resulted in a quicker learning process as well, which wasn’t possible with earlier editions.

From how processes work, to the internal functions of the kernel to power management implications in multi-processor architectures, WI6 lays out every concept in readable detail. Because this isn’t designed for the casual systems administrator, or even the mid-level developer, the concepts can get extremely technical in a hurry. As a reference book, WI6 is perfect, but it falls a little flat from a narrative perspective, simply because many of the concepts are interlocking in a way that prevents a serial approach to learning. On the plus side, this ensures that every chapter stands on its own. For fans of the Sysinternals Administrator’s Reference, this work is far drier and academic, but no less useful.

For serious developers and system administrators, the tools and methods detailed in WI6 are without equal. As such, it definitely belongs on your wall (or in your Kindle) for advanced troubleshooting. Even when Windows 8 and Server 2012 are released, Windows 7 and Server 2008R2 will continue to be deployed at many enterprises, making this reference work invaluable. Hopefully the second half of the book will be released before those products!


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