As Microsoft has grown larger the Windows operating system has become much more complex, secure and transparent. One of the principal people behind that increased transparency is Mark Russinovich, who launched a company which would end up exposing many of the key features “under the hood” of Windows. His work didn’t go unnoticed, and Microsoft acquried Mark’s company.
Since then, Mark has been the driving force behind the “Windows Internals” book series, which goes into greater depth than any work about how Windows works from an operating system perspective. Last June “Windows Internals, Fifth Edition” was released. This book covers both Vista and Server 2008, was released. Co-authored by David Solomon and with assistance from Alex Ionescu this is the ultimate Windows reference book for both software developers and system architects alike.
At over 1,264 pages, it’s impossible to cover every aspect of the book in a single review. It is certainly easy to state that the book is the definitive tome covering all aspects of the Windows kernel: memory addressing, error mechanisms, object management, security architecture, storage, networking, and I/O problems.
The key architectural differences between Vista/2008 and XP/2003 are the areas that really stand out over the course of reading the book. It’s clear that Microsoft’s internal team took a long look at almost every aspect of the operating system to perform three key tasks:
- increase security;
- increase performance; and
- increase scalability.
The last item seems like a small difference, but it becomes key, especially now that Windows 7 has been released. Microsoft has, over the last few years, increasingly focused on x64 computing and the advances in both hardware and software that additional memory makes possible. Coupled with the addition of solid state drives, the desktops of the next five years will soon not be limited by storage space or access speed to information.
The authors of the book break down the internal mechanisms that enable this increase in performance, while still covering the x86 world and the limitations associated with it. Best of all, throughout the book the tools required to troubleshoot problems (memory errors, interrupt locks, etc) are referenced and used in real-world examples. Although one can’t go from a basic knowledge of a computer to a master debugger in the time it takes to read the book, the tools provide a strong foundation for additional learning to take place.
This then, is the continued strength of the Windows Internals series, and something that has been kept up in the Fifth Edition. The overall focus has always been on exploration, on testing and troubleshooting and learning how the system works overall. “Windows Internals, Fifth Edition” isn’t a book for someone who explains “my computer is tired” or “I don’t know why this application always starts up so slowly”. It’s for the tinkerers who wish to get to the bottom of a problem, or tune their system to maximum effect. It will be a great reference book for a long time to come on the New Signature bookshelf. We are looking forward to the the Sixth Edition which will cover Windows 7 and 2008R2.