Friday, January 28, 2011

Technical Book Review: Building the Perfect PC (III Edition)

This is a review of this excellent book on building PC's. Here is the book's publication page. (Disclaimer: I received this book as part of a blogger review program at O'Reilly Books).

Building a PC has always been fun and though it hasn't remained quite like how Woz built it and probably become a
mere assembly according to some, it is still fun. The characteristics of building the right machine (if you are a casual user, programmer, house-wife, music enthusiast, serious gamer) have become very important though. And guess what, this book provides just the right kind of suggestions when building a PC to suit your needs. I wish I had reviewed this book before I embarked on building my home server PC.

My overall rating

4.3 stars (out of 5)

Summary

The book starts with the basics and guides you through various kinds of computers you want to build (assemble, install software on) in 7 easy-to-read chapters. After providing enough guidance to overcome the jargons through initial chapters, one chapter is dedicated to each kind of system (as a computer has now come to be called as). The introductory chapter is really good because it not only sets the tone, but also makes you aware of the fact that it pays to be organized if you want to build your PC in a stress-free, hassle-free manner. This chapter is full of common sense advice and believe me, unless you are organized and keep a check-list of these things, it is easy to mess it up. This chapter has several little nuggets narrated in a good style. Since Murphy's law (Whatever can go wrong, will) applies to PC building, this chapter also has extensive troubleshooting tips.

The chapter on "Choosing the Components" makes sure you have the correct approach while choosing a component like power supply. All the websites (including Amazon) spend a lot of energy on doing the
ratings. But somewhere deep within, you know that choosing a product based on the number of stars it receives from various people is not too reliable. This chapter reiterates that point and introduces you to the websites (e.g. tom's hardware) that carry classified information and (reliable) expert reviews.

I wish that I had read at least these two chapters before I built my last PC. It would have set a correct perspective.

The chapter 3 onward are dedicated to a building a PC with a particular primary purpose e.g. gaming computer. One chapter each is for budget PC, mainstream PC, extreme system, media system, appliance or nettop system and finally a home server. Each chapter considers functional requirements, hardware design criteria, component consideration, software installation and actual building details. They are extremely well written, thorough and full of insight.

Note that unlike many other resources, this book gives due consideration to Linux operating system (which all of us know is free to use (with a caveat)) and does not only describe Windows.

I really highly recommend this book. I'd never go back to Ad-hoc way of building PC's.

Quotes from the Book

You can buy special antistatic wrist straps and similar devices,
but they’re really not necessary. All you need do is touch a metal object
like the chassis or power supply before you handle components.

Keep track of the screws and other small parts


Leave the cover off until you’re sure everything works



Use force when necessary, but use it cautiously


As any marketing executive will tell you, when someone loves a product, he’ll tell a friend; when someone hates a product, he’ll tell the whole Internet.





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