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Introduction

Introduction

CompTIA A+ Certification is widely recognized as the first certification you should receive in an information technology (IT) career. Whether you are planning to specialize in PC hardware, Windows operating system management, or network management, the CompTIA A+ Certification exams measure the baseline skills you need to master to begin your journey toward greater responsibilities and achievements in IT.

CompTIA A+ Certification is designed to be a “vendor-neutral” exam that measures your knowledge of industry-standard technology.

Goals and Methods

The number one goal of this book is a simple one: to help you pass the 2011 version of the CompTIA A+ Certification Essentials Exam (number 220-701) and the Practical Application Exam (number 220-702) and thereby earn your CompTIA A+ Certification. Although the 2011 versions of these exams have the same numbers as the 2009 versions, the 2011 versions now include Windows 7-specific content.

Because CompTIA A+ Certification exams now stress problem-solving abilities and reasoning more than memorization of terms and facts, our goal is to help you master and understand the required objectives for each exam.

To aid you in mastering and understanding the A+ Certification objectives, this book uses the following methods:

  • Opening topics list— This defines the topics to be covered in the chapter; it also lists the corresponding CompTIA A+ objective numbers.

  • “Do I Know This Already Quizzes?”— At the beginning of each chapter is a quiz. The quizzes and answers/explanations (found in Appendix A, “Answers to the ‘Do I Know This Already?’ Quizzes and Troubleshooting Scenarios”), are meant to gauge your knowledge of the subjects. If the answers to the questions don’t come readily to you, be sure to read the entire chapter.

  • Foundation Topics— This is heart of the chapter that explains the topics from a hands-on and a theory-based standpoint. This includes in-depth descriptions, tables, and figures that are geared to build your knowledge so that you can pass the exam. The chapters are broken down into several topics each.

  • Key Topics— The key topics indicate important figures, tables, and lists of information that you should know for the exam. They are interspersed throughout the chapter and are listed in table format at the end of the chapter.

  • Memory Tables— These can be found on the DVD within Appendix B, “Memory Tables.” Use them to help memorize important information.

  • Key Terms— Key terms without definitions are listed at the end of each chapter. Write down the definition of each term and check your work against the complete key terms in the glossary.

  • Troubleshooting Scenarios— Most chapters conclude with a troubleshooting scenario. Imagine possible solutions and check your work in Appendix A.

For a number of years, the CompTIA A+ Certification objectives were divided into a hardware exam and an operating systems exam. Starting with the 2006 exam, the exams were restructured so that knowledge of hardware and operating systems were needed for both exams. This design continues with the current 2009 and 2011 objectives with the addition of:

  • Windows Vista has been incorporated into the 2009 objectives with Windows 7 incorporated into the 2011 objectives.

  • Older operating systems, such as Windows 95, 98, Me, and NT, have been removed.

  • Newer multicore processor technologies, such as Core 2 Duo and Phenom II, have been added.

  • Newer hard drive and memory technologies have been added.

  • The A+ troubleshooting process has been updated.

  • Increased amount of networking and security topics with increased difficulty.

We’ll cover all these changes and more within these chapters.

For more information about how the A+ certification can help your career, or to download the latest official objectives, access CompTIA’s A+ webpage at http://www.comptia.org/certifications/listed/a.aspx.

One method used by many A+ certification authors is to simply follow the objectives step by step. The problem is that because different parts of the computer—such as hard disk, display, Windows, and others—are covered in many different objectives, this approach creates a lot of overlap between chapters and does not help readers to understand exactly how a particular part of the computer fits together with the rest.

In this book, we have used a subsystem approach. Each chapter is devoted to a particular part of the computer so you understand how the components of each part work together and how each part of the computer works with other parts. To make sure you can relate the book’s contents to the CompTIA A+ Certification objectives, each chapter contains cross-references to the appropriate objectives as needed, and we provide a master cross-reference list later in this introduction.

Who Should Read This Book?

The CompTIA A+ exams measure the necessary competencies for an entry-level IT professional with the equivalent knowledge of at least 500 hours of hands-on experience in the lab or field. This book is written for people who have that amount of experience working with desktop PCs and laptops. Average readers will have attempted in the past to replace a hardware component within a PC; they should also understand how to navigate through Windows and access the Internet.

Readers will range from people who are attempting to attain a position in the IT field to people who want to keep their skills sharp or perhaps retain their job due to a company policy that mandates that they take the new exams.

This book is also aimed at the reader who wants to acquire additional certifications beyond the A+ certification (Network+, Security+, and so on). The book is designed in such a way to offer easy transition to future certification studies.

Strategies for Exam Preparation

Strategies for exam preparation will vary depending on your existing skills, knowledge, and equipment available. Of course, the ideal exam preparation would consist of building a PC from scratch and installing and configuring the operating systems covered including Windows 7 (Ultimate edition is recommended), Windows Vista (Ultimate edition is preferred), and Windows XP Professional. To make things easier for the reader, we recommend that you use Microsoft’s Windows Virtual PC (which works with Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise) or Virtual PC 2007 (which works with other Windows 7 editions, Windows Vista, and Windows XP). Either program allows you to run virtual operating systems from within your current operating system without the need for an additional computer, and they can be downloaded for free from Microsoft’s website. It is also recommended that the reader get access to a laptop, a laser printer, and as many peripheral PC devices as possible. This hands-on approach will really help to reinforce the ideas and concepts expressed in the book. However, not everyone has access to this equipment, so the next best step you can take is to read through the chapters in this book, jotting notes down with key concepts or configurations on a separate notepad. Each chapter begins with a “Do I Know This Already?” quiz designed to give you a good idea of the chapter’s content and your current understanding of it. In some cases, you might already know most of or all the information covered in a given chapter.

After you have read through the book, have a look at the current exam objectives for the CompTIA A+ Certification Exams listed at http://www.comptia.org/certifications/listed/a.aspx. If there are any areas shown in the certification exam outline that you would still like to study, find those sections in the book and review them.

When you feel confident in your skills, attempt the practice exam included on the DVD with this book. As you work through the practice exam, note the areas where you lack confidence and review those concepts or configurations in the book. After you have reviewed the areas, work through the practice exam a second time and rate your skills. Keep in mind that the more you work through the practice exam, the more familiar the questions will become, and the practice exam will become a less accurate judge of your skills.

After you have worked through the practice exam a second time and feel confident with your skills, schedule the real CompTIA A+ Essentials exam (220-701) and Practical Application Exam (220-702), through either Sylvan Prometric (www.2test.com) or Pearson Vue (www.vue.com). To prevent the information from evaporating out of your mind, you should typically take the exam within a week of when you consider yourself ready to take the exam.

The CompTIA A+ Certification credential for those passing the certification exams is now valid for three years (effective January 1, 2011). To renew your certification without retaking the exam, you need to participate in continuing education (CE) activities and pay an annual maintenance fee of $25.00 ($75.00 for three years). To learn more about the certification renewal policy, see http://www.comptia.org/certifications/listed/renewal.aspx.

CompTIA A+ Exam Topics

Table I-1 lists the exam topics for the CompTIA A+ exams. This table also lists the book parts in which each exam topic is covered.

Table I-1. CompTIA A+ Exam Topics
ChapterTopicsCompTIA A+ Exam Objectives Covered
1PC Tools; Preventing Electrostatic Discharge; The Six-Step CompTIA Troubleshooting Process; Numbering Systems Used in Computers; Measuring Data Transfer and Frequency; Important Websitesn/a
2The Essential Parts of Any Computer; Points of Failure; Hardware, Software, and Firmware; Working Inside Your PC; Hardware ResourcesCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 1.1 and 1.2 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 1.1 and 1.2
3Motherboards and Their Components; Processors and CPUs; Installing Adapter CardsCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 1.2, 1.4, and 1.5 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 1.1 and 1.2
4Understanding BIOS, CMOS, and Firmware; Configuring the System BIOS; Power-On Self-Test and Error Reporting; BIOS UpgradesCompTIA A+ 220-701 objective 1.2 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objective 1.2.
5Power Supplies; Power Protection Types; Troubleshooting Power ProblemsCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 1.3 and 2.5 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 1.1, 1.2, and 1.4
6RAM Basics; RAM Types; Operational Characteristics; Installing Memory Modules; Troubleshooting Memory; Preventative Maintenance for MemoryCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 1.2 and 1.6 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 1.1 and 1.2
7Understanding I/O Ports; Understanding Input Devices; Understanding Multimedia Devices; Installing Input and Multimedia Devices; Troubleshooting Input and Multimedia Devices; Troubleshooting I/O Ports; Maintaining Input DevicesCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 1.1, 1.2, 1.8, and 1.9 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 1.1 and 1.2
8Video (Graphics) Cards Types; Installing a Video Card; Display Types; Video Connector Types; Display Settings; Installing a Monitor; Troubleshooting Displays and Video Cards; Preventative Maintenance for DisplaysCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 1.7 and 1.9 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 1.1 and 1.2
9Fundamental Features of Laptops and Portable Devices; Configuring Power Management; Applications for Portable and Laptop Hardware; Safe Removal of Laptop-Specific Hardware; Portable and Laptop Diagnostics; Preventative Maintenance for Laptops and Portable DevicesCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 1.10 and 2.4 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objective 1.3
10Security Fundamentals; Securing Wireless Networks; Data and Physical Security; Access Control Purposes and Principles; Installing, Configuring, and Troubleshooting; Security FeaturesCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 5.1, and 5.2 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 4.1 and 4.2
11Printing Fundamentals; Printer and Scanner Control; Print Processes; Interface Types; Printer and Scanner Installation; Optimizing Printer Performance; Optimizing Scanner Performance; Installing and Configuring Printer Upgrades; Printer and Scanner Troubleshooting Tools and TechniquesCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 1.11 and 2.3 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objective 1.5
12Floppy Disk Drives; Hard Disk Drives; CD and DVD Optical Drives; Removable Storage; Tape Drives; Flash Memory and Card Readers; USB Flash Memory Drives; External Hard Disks; Troubleshooting StorageCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 1.1, 1.2, and 2.5 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 1.1 and 1.2
13Differences in Windows Versions; Primary Windows Components; Windows Interfaces; Essential Operating System Files; Disk Partition, File and Folder Management; Command-Line Functions; Optimizing WindowsCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 3.2 and 3.3 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 2.2 and 2.3
14Installing Operating Systems; Upgrading Operating SystemsCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 3.1 and 3.3
15Troubleshooting Windows; Maintaining WindowsCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 2.2, 2.5, and 3.4 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 2.1, 2.3, and 2.4
16Network Models; Internet Connectivity Technologies; Network Protocols; TCP/IP Applications and Technologies; Network Topologies; Network Types; Cable and Connector Types; Installing Network Interface Cards; Switches and Hubs; Beyond LANs; Networking Configuration; Setting Up Shared Resources; Setting Up the Network Client; Using Shared Resources; Browser Installation and Configuration; Using Network Command-Line Tools; Network and Internet TroubleshootingCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3 and CompTIA A+ 220-702 objectives 3.1 and 3.2
17Recycling and Disposal Issues; Using an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet); Electrostatic Discharge; Hazards; Environmental and Accident HandlingCompTIA A+ 220-701 objective 6.1
18Troubleshooting Methods Overview; Determining Whether a Problem Is Caused by Hardware or Software; Where to Go for More Information; Useful Hardware and Software Tools; Professional BehaviorCompTIA A+ 220-701 objectives 2.1, 2.2, and 6.2


How This Book Is Organized

Although this book could be read cover-to-cover, it is designed to be flexible and allow you to easily move between chapters and sections of chapters to cover just the material that you need more work with. If you do intend to read all the chapters, the order in the book is an excellent sequence to use.

Chapter 1, “PC Technician Essentials,” is an introductory chapter that is designed to ease readers that are new to computers into this book. It covers foundation concepts such as PC tools, ESD, basic troubleshooting, and numbering systems. The experienced computer technician might opt to skip this chapter and start with Chapter 2, “PC Anatomy,” but it is not recommended for most readers.

The core chapters, Chapters 2 through 18, cover the following topics:

  • Chapter 2, “PC Anatomy 101”— This chapter focuses on the components of a computer, inside and outside, and describes the common points of failure in a computer. It also describes how to work inside a desktop PC and defines the hardware resources that the reader should know.

  • Chapter 3, “Motherboards, Processors, and Adapter Cards”— This chapter discusses some of the core components of the computer, including the motherboard, processor, and adapter cards. Everything connects to the motherboard, so it stands to reason that proper planning and design of a PC, to a certain degree, starts with this component.

  • Chapter 4, “BIOS”— This chapter explains the motherboard’s firmware, known as the BIOS. It also describes the relationship between the CMOS and the BIOS and demonstrates how to configure and update the BIOS.

  • Chapter 5, “Power Supplies and System Cooling”— This chapter describes the device that transforms AC power from the wall outlet into DC power that a computer can use. The chapter also walks through how to troubleshoot power problems and describes the various power protection types.

  • Chapter 6, “RAM”— This chapter examines random access memory (RAM), delving into the RAM types and operational characteristics. It also demonstrates how to install and troubleshoot RAM and how to prevent memory issues from occurring.

  • Chapter 7, “I/O and Multimedia Ports and Devices”— Input/output (I/O) devices allow a user to control the computer and display information. This chapter focuses on the many types of input devices, I/O ports, and multimedia devices that a technician sees in the field.

  • Chapter 8, “Video Displays and Graphics Cards”— This chapter describes the different types of video cards including PCI, AGP, and PCIe, and the various methods of cooling video cards. It also delves into the different types of displays including LCD, CRT, and projectors.

  • Chapter 9, “Laptops and Portable Devices”— This chapter dives into the components of a laptop and their locations and what makes a laptop different from a PC. Within these pages are techniques for the safe removal of hardware and diagnostic procedures.

  • Chapter 10, “Security”— This chapter discusses security from personal computer and basic networking standpoints. The chapter also describes how to secure basic wireless networks and how to control access to data.

  • Chapter 11, “Printers”— This chapter focuses on laser, inkjet, thermal, and impact printers, as well as image scanners. From printing and scanning fundamentals to installation to troubleshooting, this chapter covers everything a technician needs to know for the exam and for the field.

  • Chapter 12, “Storage Devices”— This chapter discusses magnetic disks such as hard drives and floppy drives, optical discs such as CD and DVD, and solid state media such as USB flash drives.

  • Chapter 13, “Using and Managing Windows”— This chapter demonstrates how to configure and manage Windows 7, Vista, and XP. It discusses how to use the graphical user interface (GUI) and the command-line effectively to have an efficient operating system.

  • Chapter 14, “Installing and Upgrading Windows Operating Systems”— This chapter discusses how to install Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. It also demonstrates how to upgrade a system from Windows 2000/XP to Vista, how to upgrade to Windows 7, and how to upgrade from 2000 to XP.

  • Chapter 15, “Troubleshooting and Maintaining Windows”— This chapter demonstrates how to troubleshoot Windows effectively. It covers common problems you might encounter in Windows: how to troubleshoot boot up errors, how to fix application issues, and how to decipher error codes and messages. Finally, it shows how to maintain and update a Windows system.

  • Chapter 16, “Networking”— This chapter discusses network models, Internet connectivity, TCP/IP, topologies, cabling, networking devices, and much more. It also delves into how to troubleshoot a malfunctioning network connection.

  • Chapter 17, “Safety and Environmental Issues”— This chapter explains how to properly recycle and dispose of computer components. It also discusses material safety data sheets (MSDS) and describes how to avoid and manage hazards in the workplace.

  • Chapter 18, “Troubleshooting and Communications Methods and Professional Behavior”— This chapter discusses the two factors that make for a successful troubleshooter: extensive computer knowledge and an understanding of human psychology. The chapter delves into how to troubleshoot a computer or other device. It also covers the proper way to treat customers.

In addition to the 18 main chapters, this book includes tools to help you verify that you are prepared to take the exam. The DVD includes the glossary, practice test, and memory tables that you can work through to verify your knowledge of the subject matter. The DVD also contains sample videos from CompTIA A+ Video Mentor, which is available as part of the CompTIA A+ Cert Kit (ISBN-13: 9780789742438).

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