Find fast answers

Need answers to hardware questions fast? Despite the wealth of information online, you should keep a few good reference books on hand. But one look at the computer section of your local bookstore can make your head swim. You'll see aisle after aisle of books on PC hardware and Windows 98, many costing $60 or more. Here's our list of the best.

Windows 98 Unleashed by Paul McFedries (Sams, 1998, $80, www.mcp.com). Every power user should have both a good hardware text and a good Windows text. But if you have room for only one book alongside your collection of PC World back issues, pick this well-written, well-organised volume. Windows 98 Unleashed covers basic and advanced Windows topics, and it includes brief but useful sections on hard disks, modems, graphics cards, and other hardware basics. It's all there, under one cover.

Bulletproofing Windows 98 by Glenn Weadock and Gerald Routledge (McGraw-Hill, 1998, $75, www.pbg.mcgraw-hill.com). Set up as a troubleshooting guide, this book packs a generous load of lucid explanations, solutions, and useful data. Highly recommended for power users who like to tweak hardware and software settings to obtain optimum performance.

Windows 98 Resource Kit by Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft Press, 1998, $160, www.mspress.microsoft.com). Larger than a metropolitan phone book, this is the official party line on Windows 98. It's stuffed with optimisation and troubleshooting details right from the horse's mouth. And best of all, you probably own it already: the Windows 98 CD includes the entire text in HTML format. To access it, run setup.exe in the \tools\reskit folder.

Upgrading and Repairing PCs by Scott Mueller (Que, 1998, $80, www.mpc.com). Comprehensive and clearly written, this is one of the most useful hardware references available. Novices and experienced users alike will find tons of practical information, comprehensible descriptions of hardware components, and reliable maintenance and troubleshooting tips.

Tom's Hardware Guide by Thomas Pabst (Que, 1998, $80, www.mpc.com). This survey of the latest PC hardware tells you what you need to know about your components. You get cogent descriptions of hardware, explanations of how the various pieces work (and don't work), and advice on how to maintain and repair them.

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