More than 2 million computer professionals, power users, students, and ordinary folks with computer problems have chosen Scott Mueller’s Upgrading & Repairing PCs since its original appearance in 1987. Now, plenty of folks listen to Britney Spears instead of Beethoven -- but in this case, the people are on to something. Mueller’s book is a simply extraordinary resource. And his new 14th Edition will be very, very hard to top.
We’ll get to Mueller’s many content updates in a moment. But first, take notice: For the first time, this book comes with a DVD-ROM, not a CD-ROM. That DVD contains more than two full hours of digital video that walk you through virtually every common PC maintenance and repair task. If you don’t have a DVD-equipped PC, or if yours is broken, no sweat: The DVD will play on any DVD player.
If a new technology has been released (or announced), it’s a good bet Mueller discusses it. For example, Mueller now covers Intel’s Northwood Pentium 4s, starting at 2 GHz and already approaching 3 GHz as this is written. (Northwood gives Intel loads of new running room. It’s smaller, uses less power, and has twice the L2 cache -- leading to cheaper, faster, more stable chips, and presumably a more profitable Intel Corporation).
Into servers and high-performance workstations? Mueller introduces the Itanium 2 -- the processor that may finally make Intel and HP’s multibillion-dollar investment begin to pay off. Want to achieve the most performance per penny? Mueller briefs you on AMD’s widely anticipated Athlon XP processors.
With all these processor choices, it’s tough to keep track of the motherboards all these babies fit into; Mueller responds with updated coverage of processor slots, mobo form factors, chipsets, even cases and power connectors (including the recently introduced ATX12V).
Equally tricky, in an era of DDR, CAS 2 DIMMS, and RDRAM: matching memory to processors. So Upgrading & Repairing PCs contains up-to-the-minute guidance on choosing the right memory for your processor. Simply put, if you want to build your own, or do a major brain transplant on your aging PC, everything you need to know is here. (And don’t forget about all that do-it-yourself video on DVD.)
Mueller is equally strong on the “almost new” technologies now coming into widespread use. For example, as part of a detailed chapter on optical storage, he demystifies the bewildering menagerie of DVD standards (DVD+RW, DVD-RAM, DVD-R, DVD-RW), covering drive compatibility, copyright protection, and more.
Other recent introductions covered here: serial-ATA drives; flat-panel LCD displays, and nVidia’s GeForce4 video card technology, which has raised the bar on affordable high-performance video. You’ll also find detailed, up-to-date coverage of broadband Internet connectivity; and of LANs -- including 802.11b Wi-Fi wireless LANs and even newer alternatives.
Most computers that need repair or upgrading aren’t brand new, so Mueller presents systematic coverage of mainstream technologies, including every significant PC component -- old and new. You’ll find entire chapters dedicated to your PC’s BIOS; to hard drives; to audio hardware; to I/O devices ranging from first-generation RS-232 serial ports to the latest USB 2.0 standard. A full chapter on removable storage covers everything from flash memory cards to Zip, Jaz, tape storage -- even where to get ancient Syquest cartridges. (If you’re repairing really old systems, check out the DVD-ROM for an extensive resource library drawn from older editions of Upgrading & Repairing PCs.)
In 1,600 pages, Mueller has plenty of room for those critical tidbits that’ll keep you from getting burned -- literally. For instance, Mueller shows you which Dell computers have those notorious non-standard power connectors. (Plug your Dell power supply into that standard motherboard you’ve just installed, and as Mueller asks, “How do you like your fried chips: medium or well-done?”)
Perhaps best of all, you’ll find an updated troubleshooting index that identifies 250-plus common PC hardware problems and points you directly to the solutions. Which, after all, is the real point of Upgrading & Repairing PCs: understanding the technologies so you can keep them from driving you nuts. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.