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Five must-read Windows administrator books

With plenty of titles on the market, it's tough to whittle down a reading list. Our expert has made a list of required reading.

No matter how you slice it, there are a lot of books about Windows out there bidding for attention and for space...

on Windows admins’ bookshelves. But the number of really good books on Windows topics of interest to admins is much smaller, and I plan to present the cream of that crop right here, right now.

Ed’s Picks for Top 5

  1. Windows Internals, Parts 1and 2, 6th Edition, by Mark Russinovich, David Solomon and Alex Ionescu. Microsoft Press, 2012, 1,400-plus pages. Russinovich is now a Microsoft Fellow, and a technical leader on the Azure efforts. Before joining MS in the early 2000s, he wrote awesome admin utilities for a company called SysInternals. Those utilities are still available online for free, and are sometimes a necessary companion to these books, which take readers through the inner workings of Windows like no other resource available. This version of these tomes covers Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2; a 7th edition is scheduled for late 2015, but this pair of books remains very much worth buying and reading in the meanwhile.
  2. The Practice of System and Network Administration, 2nd Edition, by Thomas A. Limoncelli, Christina J. Hogan and Strata R. Chalup. Addison-Wesley Professional, 2007, 1,000-plus pages. While this is not strictly a Windows book per se, it takes top marks as the best system and network administration tome of all time, and provides important insights on how and why to implement best practices in the care, feeding and troubleshooting of systems and networks of all kinds. A real gem.
  3. PowerShell in Depth: An Administrator’s Guide, by Don Jones, Richard Siddaway and Jeffrey Hicks. Manning Publications, 2013, 632 pages. Don Jones is "the man" when it comes to teaching PowerShell, which is becoming the go-to scripting tool for Windows administration tasks of all kinds (I even used it to replicate the old Windows Experience Index tool on Windows 8 myself, though Sergey Tkachenko’s implementation beats the pants off mine). You can do just about anything you want with -- or to -- Windows using PowerShell, and this book shows you how. Other Don Jones books on PowerShell are pretty good, too, including Learn Windows PowerShell 3 in a Month of Lunches (2nd Ed, Manning Pub, 2012).
  4. Windows 8.1: The Missing Manual, by David Pogue. O’Reilly Media, 2013, 950 pages. Pogue is perhaps best known as former technology columnist for the New York Times, and as a technology correspondent for CBS News. This is more of a power user’s or end user’s book, but definitely worth owning and reading (as are his other Windows-focused titles in the same series). If you want something a little more hard-boiled and technically focused instead, Don Poulton’s MCSA 70-687 Cert Guide: Configuring Microsoft Windows 8.1 is probably more your speed. It’s a little less approachable, but chock-full of useful details for building images, installation and deployment, GPOs, and tweaking and tuning the current MS desktop flagship OS (Pearson IT Certification, 2014, 1024 pages).
  5. Mastering Windows Server 2012 R2, by Mark Minasi, et al. Sybex, 2013, 1670 pages. Minasi’s been writing about Windows more or less since the beginning, and his books remain a valuable go-to reference as each new version comes out the door. This one brings you up to speed with the version that shipped at the same time as Windows 8.1, including the much-vaunted updates that accrued to Hyper-V, Active Directory, shared storage and so forth. A terrific resource for learning, and a great reference for refreshing one’s memory on necessary details.

About the author:
Ed Tittel has been working in IT for over 30 years. He’s the author of over 100 computing books, including the Exam Cramseries of certification prep titles. He also blogs regularly for the IT Knowledge Exchange ("
Windows Enterprise Desktop"), PearsonITCertification, GoCertify, and Tom’s IT Pro. For more info about Ed, please visit his website at www.edtittel.com.

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This was last published in March 2015

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