Good overall book on the PC?
March 31, 2010 3:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a book, site or online course notes that explain PC architecture in a moderate amount of detail. Details inside.

I often find that while I know about the major components in the x86 architecture, I lack information on details. For example, I know that the north and southbridge chipsets are essential for connecting peripherals and RAM but I don't know much else. Similarly, I know the PCI-express architecture exists and is used to connect peripherals to the CPU but have no notion of how it actually does this.

I'm looking for a book that explains the entire space (e.g. PCI-E, USB, CPU, BIOS, different RAM densities, etc..) in enough detail that I have a fundamental overview of how the technologies work and interact together but without bogging me down in detail.

There is plenty of information out there on the level I'm looking for but one has to spend a lot of time actively seeking it, and I always feel like there are holes in my education because it's not linear, comprehensive coverage.

Ideally, I'd like a source I can study over a weekend or 4-5 days so I end up with a broad technical overview of the marvel that is a modern PC - enough to allow me to delve into more detailed texts with confidence.

If it helps, I'm doing this to move down in the kernel stack. I currently am quite comfortable with the layers up until the hardware, and there, while my knowledge is not fuzzy, it is patchy

Any pointers gratefully received.
posted by gadha to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not quite sure, but I think Tanenbaum's Structured Computer Organization covers what you're looking for. It's used in undergrad courses and in my opinion he's a very readable yet comprehensive author.
posted by jacalata at 5:41 PM on March 31, 2010

PC Architecture is an excellent online book by Michael Karbo, which seems to cover most of what you want.
Just as an FYI, PCI-express and USB are two standards of bus. A bus is a data channel that connects the central processing unit (CPU) to short-term storage (RAM), long-term storage (hard drives) and external peripheral ports. The difference is that PCI-Express is used mainly to connect the motherboard to internal input/output components of the PC (i.e. component cards that drive output or input devices such as the monitor or a network connection), while SCSI, USB, and Firewire are standards which define bus-connections that are used to connect to external storage devices. Different RAM technologies are covered in the book as well.
For specific technologies not covered in this type of book, I tend to use Wikipedia, which is always helpful for this type of explanation, even if it does tell you more detail than you ever wanted to know ...:-)
posted by Susurration at 5:57 PM on March 31, 2010

A lot of PC architecture is required knowledge for the Comp TIA A+ certification. Sybex publishes some good study guides.
There's also Scott Mueller's Upgrading and Repairing PCs, which is very thorough.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:40 PM on April 1, 2010

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