Each chapter of this book is devoted to one topic, and is self-contained. The first three chapters provide detailed advice on maintaining, securing, and working on your system. They describe the tools and software you'll need, explain basic procedures like installing expansion cards and first-level troubleshooting, and detail the tips and tricks we've learned during 20 years of working on PCs. These chapters include:
The second group of chapters covers the core components of your PCthe motherboard, processor, and memory. These chapters describe in detail the important characteristics of each of these components; how to choose compatible, cost-effective replacement or upgrade components; how to install and configure them; and how to troubleshoot problems. This group includes the following chapters:
The third group of chapters covers storage deviceshard disk drives, optical drives, and removable storage such as external hard drives and USB flash drives. Storage devices are more failure-prone than most PC components, so it's important to understand how to troubleshoot and replace them. Storage devices are also popular upgrade items, so we've covered how to choose, install, and configure them in great detail. This group includes the following chapters:
The fourth group of chapters covers the components that allow you to get information into and out of your PC. We describe the important characteristics of video adapters, CRT monitors and LCD displays, sound cards and speakers, and input deviceskeyboards, mice, and game controllersand explain how to choose, install, configure, and troubleshoot them. We also provide information on installing a wireless networking adapter to your PC. This group includes the following chapters:
The fifth and final group of chapters covers three componentscases, power supplies, and power protectionthat receive little attention, but are important for system reliability and usability. We detail the important characteristics of each, and provide guidelines for choosing the best case, power supply, and power protection for your system. This group includes the following chapters:
In our earlier PC hardware books, we recommended specific components by brand and model. The problem with doing that, of course, is that PC hardware changes in Internet time. Products that were leading-edge (or even preproduction engineering samples) when we wrote about them will be mainstream products by the time the book arrives in bookstores, and might be discontinued by the time you read it. So instead of focusing on ephemera in print, we instead concentrate here on important characteristics and guidelines, which don't change nearly as fast.
We recognize, though, that many people want specific advice by make and model"Which motherboard/drive/display should I buy?" is one of the most common questions we getso we maintain a web site that provides detailed recommendations, by brand name and model. Visit this site at http://forums.hardwareguys.com.
We base our recommendations on our own experience, not after using the product for a day or a week, but after extensive day-in-day-out use under realistic conditions. If we say that we found a particular DVD burner to be durable, that means that we used that DVD burner extensively and burned a bunch of DVDs with it. If we say that a particular motherboard is stable, that means we used it in one or more of our own systems over a period of weeks or months and found that it doesn't crash, even when performing stressful tasks like running a full benchmark suite or compiling a Linux kernel. If we say that a particular display is the best we've used, it's because we sat in front of it for many long hours while writing this book. And so on.