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I am regularly asked about technical books that I recommend for Active Directory or other Windows technologies, below please find my most common recommendations.

If you are interested in non-technical book recommendations, I keep them here


best active directory book

Active Directory 4th Edition

Brian Desmond, Joe Richards, Robbie, Allen, and Alistair G. Lowe-Norris

Of course I need to recommend this book. I wrote the third edition of it and was primary technical reviewer for the fourth edition. If I list it later, you will think I am just trying to sneak it in. I am proud of the book and I think it is a good addition to the library of anyone doing any kind of work with Active Directory.

Brian took what I did and updated it for Windows Server 2008 and Exchange 2007 as well as convincing Joe Kaplan to rewrite the .NET chapter and Brandon Shell to produce some PowerShell stuff.

other active directory books

Active Directory Cookbook 3rd Edition

Laura Hunter and Robbie Allen

This is the refresh of the hugely popular Active Directory Cookbook. It was refreshed by a fellow MVP, Laura Hunter. Laura borrowed a couple of chapters from some of my works and got some help with an MIIS chapter but she herself added a whole boatload of other material. She added a considerable number of recipes utilizing several of my free Active Directory utilities.

If you aren't familiar with the Cookbook series of books from O'Reilly, they take tasks you may be called upon to perform and gives you multiple methods to accomplish that task. The common methods are GUI, command line, and script. It really is an excellent idea and handled well in this series.

I can easily say hands down that this is the best task oriented book available for Active Directory. I was a technical reviewer on this edition as well as the first edition and proud to be associated with it. While it isn't perfect it is very good. Odds are, my book combined with this book will take care of the needs of 98% of the Active Directory administrators out there.

Inside Active Directory 2nd Edition

Sakari Kouti and Mika Seitsonen

This is the an excellent refresh of an already great book. I recall reading chapter four which was the chapter on security in the first edition and getting stuck there for several days as I read and reread, it was one of the best chapters on Windows security I have seen.

This book is also outstanding for the Schema chapters.

If you are looking for a text book on Active Directory, this book fits the bill. I have to admit that it is a little dry to read cover to cover and it will challenge you if you try, but it is worth it if you make it all the way through. More than once I stumbled upon items that I was not aware of.

I need to fess up and disclose that I was a technical reviewer for this edition of the book



The .NET Developer's Guide to Directory Services

Joe Kaplan and Ryan Dunn

Looking for a book on writing code with the Microsoft .NET Framework against Active Directory or ADAM? This is the book that you want. Joe and Ryan are fellow MVPs and are extremely active and popular in the Directory Service and .NET Programming communities.

I admit I am not a .NET programmer and don't intend to become one any time soon and in all honesty I am not really a huge fan of the whole .NET framework but, seemingly oddly, I was a reviewer on this book. That was simply because JoeK and Ryan wanted my input from a strictly Directory Service standpoint which I thought was a great idea and very much respected that they thought of that. At first I didn't think I would give much feedback but ended up giving considerable feedback.

  If you have any desire to work with AD with the .NET framework with C# or VB.NET, then you must put this book on your bookshelf.

Active Directory Programming

Gil Kirkpatrick

This is the book that I initially learned Active Directory C/C++ LDAP programming from. The book is now out of print but is still available through various sources. However, you will end up spending well over $100 for it.

While there are quite a few errors in the book, it is the best book I have seen to date (still) for giving the basics of Active Directory programming with ADSI and with the LDAP API. The first half of the book is dedicated to ADSI programming against Active Directory, the second half is dedicated to the LDAP API.

If you need .NET programming info, this isn't your book (see above), but if you want Active Directory ADSI or LDAP API C/C++ programming guidance, then you should get this book.

Managing Enterprise Active Directory Services

Robbie Allen and Richard Puckett

This is the first book Robbie Allen wrote, it didn't do very well in the market but is one of the more technically deep books he has written. This book explained how to do things like generating sites and subnets programmatically way before anyone else had documented it. I think this book failed in the market simply because it was too far over the heads of most of the administrators running Active Directory at the time. 

other technical books

microsoft exchange

Exchange Server 2003 Cookbook

Devin Ganger, Missy Koslosky, and Paul Robichaux

This book is similar to the Active Directory Cookbook but is Exchange specific. As with the AD Cookbook, you don't really read the book, you go to the specific tasks you need to accomplish. They aren't quite as good about giving three different methods for every task but that has a lot to do with Exchange, Exchange traditionally is a GUI Admin based application.

You may know of Paul, he is pretty well known in the Exchange community and has written articles for Windows IT Pro magazine, etc. Missy is one of my good friends I met through the MVP program, we tend to debate Exchange topics which is always good fun for me. I was also a technical reviewer for this book.

windows server security

Securing Windows Server 2003

Mike Danseglio

Decent little security book on Windows Server 2003, very readable. Mike is a very good professional writer. I was technical reviewer for this book and with the exception of the chapter on Active Directory security which was NOT written by Mike, it was one of the tightest most well written books I have reviewed for O'Reilly though there were times I wish he got a little more in depth. The Active Directory security chapter was a train wreck when I reviewed it. My recommendation to O'Reilly was to get a different author for it, I don't think they had enough time though so Robbie Allen stepped up and helped it out.

Microsoft Windows Security Fundamentals: For Windows 2003 SP1 and R2

Jan De Clercq and Guido Grillenmeier

I actually haven't fully read this book yet and I wasn't a technical reviewer for it. I have however paged through the book on the return flight from the Directory Experts Conference. I thought I would be able to read through it all until I actually started reading it and saw how deep and detailed the information is.

I have to say there is at least one thing I wish wasn't mentioned as it shows maybe a little too much detail in how to compromise an AD forest but overall the book looks outstanding. I can add I know both authors very well and have experience with their writings and security knowledge. These are two guys with strong Windows Security experience. Guido, especially, I know very well and I know the quality of work that he requires from himself. As soon as I get a chance I plan on reading this book cover to cover.



Microsoft Windows Server(TM) 2003 PKI and Certificate Security

Brian Komar

Doing something with PKI or Certificate Authorities in a Microsoft Environment, you should have this book.



Writing Secure Code for Windows Vista(TM) (Pro - Step By Step Developer)

Michael Howard and David LeBlanc

If you are a Windows Admin or Windows Developer doing anything with Vista, get and read this book, it will help you understand what is going on.


Learning Perl on Win32 Systems

Randal L. Schwartz, Tom Christiansen, and Erik Olsen

I initially learned how to write perl with this book (The Gecko book) back in the late 90's. It gives a great overview but you need to be aware that the perl on Windows world has changed significantly since this book was produced. However this still is a good primer to get you going.

Learning Perl 4th Edition

Randal L. Schwartz, Tom Phoenix, and Brian d Foy

This book is still in the process of being updated which is good and is an excellent book for learning perl as well. However it does have a UNIX bent to it. This isn't a problem for a lot of perl because a lot of what makes perl cool isn't platform specific. You just need to keep it in mind when depending on low level system functionality that there could be functional differences.

Win32 Perl Programming: The Standard Extensions 2nd Edition

Dave Roth

Dave Roth is known as THE perl on Windows guy. This isn't the book to learn perl with but if you really want to dig into perl on Windows, this is the place to go. Again the book is dated but better than anything else out there for this topic.


Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software

Charles Petzold

This is one of the few MUST-HAVE books on the topic of computers that exists. This book should be required reading in every CS/CIS/MIS curriculum in every school every where.

Mr. Petzold walks through technology in an infinitely readable manner and explains the technology in a way that any relatively intelligent person could identify with and understand even if they weren't into computers or computer technology.