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A+, Network+, Security+ Exams in a Nutshell by Pawan K. Bhardwaj

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Areas of Study for the A+ Essentials Exam

Personal Computer Components

  • Identify the fundamental principles of using personal computers.

  • Identify the names, purposes and characteristics of the following storage devices:

    • FDD

    • HDD

    • CD/DVD/RW (e.g., drive speeds and media types)

    • Removable storage (e.g., tape drive and solid states such as thumb drive, flash and SD cards, USB, external CD-RW, and hard drives)

  • Identify the names, purposes, and characteristics of the following motherboards:

    • Form Factors (e.g., ATX/BTX and micro ATX/NLX)

    • Components:

      • Integrated I/Os (e.g., sound, video, USB, serial, IEEE 1394/firewire, parallel, NIC, and modem)

      • Memory slots (e.g., RIMM and DIMM)

      • Processor sockets

      • External cache memory

      • Bus architecture

      • Bus slots (e.g., PCI, AGP, PCIE, AMR, and CNR)

      • EIDE/PATA

      • SATA

      • SCSI Technology

    • Chipsets

    • BIOS/CMOS/Firmware

    • Riser card/daughter board

  • Identify the names, purposes, and characteristics of power supplies—for example, AC adapter, ATX, proprietary, and voltage.

  • Identify the names, purposes and characteristics of processor/CPUs, such as the following:

    • CPU chips (AMD and Intel)

    • CPU technologies:

      • Hyperthreading

      • Dual core

      • Throttling

      • Micro code (MMX)

      • Overlocking

      • Cache

      • VRM

      • Speed (real versus actual)

      • 32-bit versus 64-bit

  • Identify the names, purposes, and characteristics of memory, such as the following:

    • Types of memory (e.g., DRAM, SRAM, SDRAM, DDR/DDR2, and RAMBUS)

    • Operational characteristics:

      • Memory chips (8,16,32)

      • Parity versus non-parity

      • ECC versus non-ECC

      • Single-sided versus double-sided

  • Identify the names, purposes, and characteristics of display devices—for example, projectors, CRT, and LCD:

    • Connector types (e.g., VGA, DVI/HDMi, S-Video, and Component/RGB)

    • Settings (e.g., V-hold, refresh rate, and resolution)

  • Identify the names, purposes, and characteristics of input devices—for example: mouse, keyboard, bar code reader, multimedia (e.g., web and digital cameras, MIDI, and microphones), biometric devices, and touch screens.

  • Identify the names, purposes, and characteristics of adapter cards:

    • Video including PCI/PCI-E and AGP

    • Multimedia

    • I/O (SCSI, serial, USB, and Parallel)

    • Communications, including network and modem

  • Identify the names, purposes, and characteristics of ports and cables—for example, USB 1.1 and 2.0, parallel, serial, IEEE 1394/Firewire, RJ45 and RJ11, PS2/MINI-DIN, centronics (e.g., mini, and 36), multimedia (e.g., 1/8 connector, MIDSI COAX, and SPDIF).

  • Identify the names, purposes, and characteristics of cooling systems—for example: heat sinks, CPU and case fans, liquid cooling systems, and thermal compounds.

  • Install, configure, optimize, and upgrade personal computer components.

  • Add, remove and configure internal and external storage devices:

    • Drive preparation of internal and external storage devices, including format/filesystems and imaging technology

  • Install display devices.

  • Add, remove, and configure basic input and multimedia devices.

  • Identify tools, diagnostic procedures, and troubleshooting techniques for personal computer components.

  • Recognize the basic aspects of troubleshooting theory—for example:

    • Perform backups before making changes

    • Assess a problem systematically and divide large problems into smaller components to be analyzed individually

    • Verify even the obvious. Determine whether the problem is something simple or complicated, and make no assumptions

    • Research ideas and establish priorities

    • Document findings, actions, and outcomes

  • Identify and apply basic diagnostic procedures and troubleshooting techniques—for example:

    • Identify the problem using techniques such as questioning the user and identifying any user changes to the computer

    • Analyze the problem, including considering potential causes and making an initial determination of software and/or hardware problems

    • Test related components using avenues such as inspection, connections, hardware/software configurations, device managers, and consulting vendor documentation

    • Evaluate results and take additional steps if needed, such as consultation, use of alternate resources, and manuals

    • Document activities and outcomes

  • Recognize and isolate issues with display, power, basic input devices, storage, memory, thermal, and POST errors (e.g., BIOS and hardware).

  • Apply basic troubleshooting techniques to check for problems (e.g., thermal issues, error codes, power, connections—including cables and/or pins—compatibility, functionality, and software/drivers) with components—for example:

    • Motherboards

    • Power supply

    • Processor/CPUs

    • Memory

    • Display devices

    • Input devices

    • Adapter cards

  • Recognize the names, purposes, characteristics, and appropriate application of tools.

  • Perform preventive maintenance on personal computer components.

  • Identify and apply basic aspects of preventive maintenance theory—for example:

    • Visual/audio inspection

    • Driver/firmware updates

    • Scheduling preventive maintenance

    • Use of appropriate tools and cleaning materials

    • Ensuring proper environment

  • Identify and apply common preventive maintenance techniques for devices such as input devices and batteries.

Laptops and Portable Devices

  • Identify the fundamental principles of using laptops and portable devices.

  • Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of laptop-specific items, such as:

    • Form Factors such as memory and hard drives

    • Peripherals (e.g., docking stations, port replicators, and media/accessory bays)

    • Expansion slots (e.g., PCMCIA I, II, and III, and card and express bus)

    • Ports (e.g., mini PCI slot)

    • Communication connections (e.g., Bluetooth, infrared, cellular WAN, and Ethernet)

    • Power and electrical input devices (e.g., auto-switching and fixed-input power supplies and batteries)

    • LCD technologies (e.g., active and passive matrix, resolution, such as XGA, SXGA+, UXGA, WUXGA, contrast radio, and native resolution)

    • Input devices (e.g., stylus/digitizer, function (Fn) keys, and pointing devices such as touch pad and point stick/track point)

  • Identify and distinguish between mobile and desktop motherboards and processors, including throttling, power management, and Wi-Fi.

  • Install, configure, optimize, and upgrade laptops and portable devices.

  • Configure power management:

    • Identify the features of BIOS-ACPI

    • Identify the difference between suspend, hibernate, and standby

  • Demonstrate safe removal of laptop-specific hardware such as peripherals, hot-swappable devices, and non-hot-swappable devices.

  • Identify tools, basic diagnostic procedures, and troubleshooting techniques for laptops and portable devices.

  • Use procedures and techniques to diagnose power conditions, video, keyboard, pointer, and wireless card issues—for example:

    • Verify AC power (e.g., LEDs and swap AC adapter)

    • Verify DC power

    • Remove unneeded peripherals

    • Plug in external monitor

    • Toggle Fn keys

    • Check LCD cutoff switch

    • Verify backlight functionality and pixilation

    • Stylus issues (e.g., digitizer problems)

    • Unique laptop keypad issues

    • Antenna wires

  • Perform preventive maintenance on laptops and portable devices.

  • Identify and apply common preventive maintenance techniques for laptops and portable devices—for example, cooling devices, hardware and video cleaning materials and operating environments, including temperature and air quality, storage, and transportation and shipping.

Operating Systems

Identify the fundamentals of using operating systems

  • Identify differences between operating systems (e.g., Mac, Windows, and Linux), and describe operating system revision levels, including GIU, system requirements and application and hardware compatibility.

  • Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of the primary operating system components, including registry, virtual memory, and filesystem.

  • Describe features of operating system interfaces—for example:

    • Windows Explorer

    • My Computer

    • Control Panel

    • Command Prompt

    • My Network Places

    • Taskbar/Systray

    • Start Menu

  • Identify the names, locations, purposes, and characteristics of operating system files—for example:

    • BOOT.INI

    • NTLDR

    • NTDETECT.COM

    • NTBOOTDD.SYS

    • Registry data files

  • Identify concepts and procedures for creating, viewing, and managing disks, directories, and files in operating systems—for example:

    • Disks (e.g., active, primary, extended, and logical partitions)

    • Filesystems (e.g., FAT 32 and NTFS)

    • Directory structures (e.g., create folders, navigate directory structures)

    • Files (e.g., creation, extensions, attributes, permissions)

  • Install, configure, optimize, and upgrade operating systems (references to upgrading from Windows 95 and NT may be made).

  • Identify procedures for installing operating systems, including:

    • Verification of hardware compatibility and minimum requirements

    • Installation methods (e.g., boot media—such as CD, floppy, or USB—network installation, and drive imaging)

    • Operating system installation options (e.g., attended/unattended, filesystem type, and network configuration)

    • Disk preparation order (e.g., start installation, partition, and format drive)

    • Device driver configuration (e.g., install and upload device drivers)

    • Verification of installation

  • Identify procedures for upgrading operating systems, including:

    • Upgrade considerations (e.g., hardware and application and/or network compatibility)

    • Implementation (e.g., back up data and install additional Windows components)

  • Install/add a device, including loading and adding device drivers and required software, and perform the following actions, such as:

    • Determine whether permissions are adequate for performing the task

    • Device driver installation (e.g., automated and/or manual search and installation of device drivers)

    • Using unsigned drivers (e.g., driver signing)

    • Verify installation of the driver (e.g., device manager and functionality)

  • Identify procedures and utilities used to optimize operating systems—for example, virtual memory, hard drives, temporary files, services, startup, and applications.

  • Identify tools, diagnostic procedures, and troubleshooting techniques for operating systems.

  • Identify basic boot sequences, methods, and utilities for recovering operating systems:

    • Boot methods (e.g., safe mode, recovery console, and boot to restore point)

    • Automated System Recovery, aka ASR (e.g., Emergency Repair Disk [ERD])

  • Identify and apply diagnostic procedures and troubleshooting techniques—for example:

    • Identify the problem by questioning the user and identifying user changes to the computer

    • Analyze the problem, including identifying potential causes and making an initial determination of a software and/or hardware problem

    • Test related components, including connections, hardware/software configurations, and device managers by consulting vendor documentation

    • Evaluate results and take additional steps if needed, such as consultation and using alternate resources and manuals

    • Document activities and outcomes

  • Recognize and resolve common operational issues such as blue screen, system lock-up, input/output devices, application installs, start or load, and Windows-specific printing problems (e.g., a device/service failed to start or a device/program in registry is not found).

  • Explain common error messages and codes—for example:

    • Boot (e.g., invalid boot disk, inaccessible boot drive, and missing NTLDR)

    • Startup (e.g., a device/service failed to start, a device/program in registry is not found)

    • Event Viewer

    • Registry

    • Windows reporting

  • Identify the names, locations, purposes, and characteristics of operating system utilities—for example:

    • Disk management tools (e.g., DEFRAG, NTBACKUP, CHKDSK, and Format)

    • System management tools (e.g., device and task manager, and MSCONFIG.EXE)

    • File management tools (e.g., Windows Explorer and ATTRIB.EXE)

  • Perform preventive maintenance on operating systems.

  • Describe common utilities for performing preventive maintenance on operating systems—for example, software and Windows updates (e.g., service packs), scheduled backups/restores, and restore points.

Printers and Scanners

  • Identify the fundamental principles of using printers and scanners.

  • Identify the differences between types of printer and scanner technologies (e.g., laser, inkjet, thermal, solid ink, and impact).

  • Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of printer and scanner components (e.g., memory, driver, and firmware) and consumables (e.g., toner, ink cartridge, and paper).

  • Identify the names, purposes, and characteristics of interfaces used by printers and scanners, including port and cable types—for example:

    • Parallel

    • Network (e.g., NIC and print servers)

    • USB

    • Serial

    • IEEE 1394/firewire

    • Wireless (e.g., Bluetooth, 802.11, and Infrared)

    • SCSI

  • Identify basic concepts of installing, configuring, optimizing, and upgrading printers and scanners.

  • Install and configure printers and scanners:

    • Power and connect the device using a local or network port

    • Install and update the device driver and calibrate the device

    • Configure options and default settings

    • Print a test page

  • Optimize printer performance—for example, printer settings, such as tray switching, print spool settings, device calibration, media types, and paper orientation.

  • Identify tools, basic diagnostic procedures, and troubleshooting techniques for printers and scanners.

  • Gather information about printer/scanner problems:

    • Identify the symptom

    • Review device error codes, computer error messages, and history (e.g., event log and user reports)

    • Print or scan test page

    • Use appropriate generic or vendor-specific diagnostic tools, including web-based utilities

  • Review and analyze collected data:

    • Establish probable causes

    • Review the service documentation

    • Review the knowledge base and define and isolate the problem (e.g., software versus hardware, the driver, connectivity, or the printer)

  • Identify solutions to identified printer/scanner problems:

    • Define the specific cause and apply a fix

    • Replace consumables as needed

    • Verify functionality and get user acceptance of the problem fix

Networks

  • Identify the fundamental principles of networks.

  • Describe basic networking concepts:

    • Addressing

    • Bandwidth

    • Status indicators

    • Protocols (e.g., TCP/IP [including IP], classful subnet, and IPX/SPX [including NWLINK and NETBWUI/NETBIOS])

    • Full-duplex or half-duplex

    • Cabling (e.g., twisted pair, coaxial cable, fiber optic, and RS-232)

    • Networking models, including peer-to-peer and client/server

  • Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of the common network cables:

    • Plenum/PVC

    • UTP (e.g., CAT3, CAT5/5e, and CAT6)

    • STP

    • Fiber (e.g., single-mode and multimode)

  • Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of network connectors (e.g., RJ45 and RJ11, ST/SC/LC, USB, and IEEE 1394/firewire).

  • Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of technologies for establishing connectivity—for example:

    • LAN/WAN

    • ISDN

    • Broadband (e.g., DSL, cable, and satellite)

    • Dial-up

    • Wireless (all 802.11)

    • Infrared

    • Bluetooth

    • Cellular

    • VoIP

  • Install, configure, optimize, and upgrade networks.

  • Install and configure network cards.

  • Install, identify, and obtain wired and wireless connection.

  • Identify tools, diagnostic procedures, and troubleshooting techniques for networks.

  • Explain status indicators—for example, speed, connection and activity lights, and wireless signal strength.

Security

  • Identify the fundamental principles of security.

  • Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of hardware and software security—for example:

    • Hardware deconstruction/recycling

    • Smart cards/biometrics (e.g., key fobs, cards, chips, and scans)

    • Authentication technologies (e.g., username, password, biometrics, and smart cards)

    • Malicious software protection (e.g., viruses, Trojans, worms, spam, spyware, adware, and grayware)

    • Software firewalls

    • File system security (e.g., FAT32 and NTFS)

  • Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of wireless security—for example:

    • Wireless encryption (e.g., WEP.x and WPA.x) and client configuration

    • Access points (e.g., disable DHCP/use static IP, change SSID from the default, disable SSID broadcast, use MAC filtering, change the default username and password, update firmware, and firewall)

  • Identify names, purposes, and characteristics of data and physical security—for example:

    • Data access (basic local security policy)

    • Encryption technologies

    • Backups

    • Data migration

    • Data/remnant removal

    • Password management

    • Locking workstation (e.g., hardware and operating system)

  • Describe importance and process of incidence reporting.

  • Recognize and respond appropriately to social engineering situations.

  • Install, configure, upgrade, and optimize security.

  • Install, configure, upgrade, and optimize hardware, software, and data security—for example:

    • BIOS

    • Smart cards

    • Authentication technologies

    • Malicious software protection

    • Data access (basic local security policy)

    • Backup procedures and access to backups

    • Data migration

    • Data/remnant removal

  • Identify tools, diagnostic procedures, and troubleshooting techniques for security.

  • Diagnose and troubleshoot hardware, software, and data security issues—for example:

    • BIOS

    • Smart cards and biometrics

    • Authentication technologies

    • Malicious software

    • File system (e.g., FAT32 and NTFS)

    • Data access (e.g., basic local security policy)

    • Backup

    • Data migration

  • Perform preventive maintenance for computer security.

  • Implement software security preventive maintenance techniques such as installing service packs and patches and training users about malicious software prevention technologies.

Safety and Environmental Issues

  • Describe the aspects and importance of safety and environmental issues.

  • Identify potential safety hazards and take preventive action.

  • Use Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) or equivalent documentation as well as appropriate equipment documentation.

  • Use appropriate repair tools.

  • Describe methods to handle environmental and human accidents, including incident reporting.

  • Identify potential hazards and implement proper safety procedures, including ESD precautions and procedures, a safe work environment, and equipment handling.

  • Identify proper disposal procedures for batteries, display devices, and chemical solvents and cans.

Communication and Professionalism

  • Use good communication skills—including listening and tact/discretion—when communicating with customers and colleagues.

  • Use job-related professional behavior, including notation of privacy, confidentiality, and respect for the customer and customers’ property.

  • Behavior:

    • Use clear, concise, and direct statements.

    • Allow the customer to complete statements—avoid interrupting.

    • Clarify customer statements—ask pertinent questions.

    • Avoid using jargon, abbreviations, and acronyms.

    • Listen to customers.

  • Property:

    • Telephone, laptop, desktop computer, printer, monitor, etc.

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