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Cheat Sheet

A+ Certification All-In-One For Dummies
From CompTIA A+ Certification All-in-One For Dummies, 3rd Edition by Glen E. Clarke, Edward Tetz

Windows Recovery Tools for the A+ Certification Exams
One of the hardest tasks to perform when troubleshooting a system is fixing a system that will not
boot. The A+ Certification exams expect you to be comfortable with the different recovery tools
available in Windows. This table reviews popular recovery tools and specifies where you can find the
recovery tool — be sure to know these for the exam.




Command line interface for Boot off the Windows installation CD
troubleshooting disk issues
and boot problems

Repair Mode

Provides access to GUI
and command line
recovery tools

Boot off the Vista installation CD

Restore points A snap-shot of a system’s
configuration; used to
revert to a system’s state
before a driver or software
was installed

From the Search in the Start menu, type System
Restore. Select Restore My Computer to an Earlier
Time and click Next. Choose your desired restore point
and click Next, and then click Next again. Windows will
now boot to that restore point.
Windows 7 and Vista allow you to boot your operating
system to a restore point which allows you to revert
back to that system configuration — very useful if your
system has been hit with a virus. In order to boot to a
restore point, you boot off the Windows 7/Vista
Installation CD/DVD and choose Repair Your Computer,
then System Restore from the System Recovery dialog
You can also get to restore points through Safe Mode,
which could prove useful if you have been hit with a

Safe Mode

An advanced startup menu option (F8)

Loads the operating
system with minimal

Last Known

Loads the configuration
from the last time you
successfully booted and

An advanced startup menu option (F8)

logged on

An automated installation
and restore of Windows

Press F2 during bootup

RAID Types for the A+ Certification Exams
RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is a method of implementing redundancy (duplicated
information) on your hard drives — if one disk fails, the other disk(s) can provide the missing
information. There are many different levels of RAID, but the following are the only RAID levels
pertinent to the A+ exams:

RAID 0: Disk striping (striped volume). With RAID level 0, the data is split across drives with no
data redundancy. RAID level 0 improves read and write performance by writing to multiple
drives at the same time. You need a minimum of two drives.

RAID 1: Disk mirroring/duplexing (mirrored volume). With disk mirroring, the data is written to
both drives involved in the mirror to provide data redundancy. Windows 7 supports disk

RAID 5: Disk striping with parity (RAID 5 volume). With RAID 5 volumes, the data is written to
multiple drives along with parity information that is used to help recover data if a single drive
fails. RAID 5 volumes need a minimum of three disks.

RAID 10: Mirrored disk striping. RAID level 10 is also known as RAID 1+0 because it is disk
striping while mirroring the data written in the stripe.

Bus Architectures for the A+ Certification Exams
Another term for the expansion slots on a computer’s motherboard is bus slots. A number of different
bus architectures have been developed over time. For the A+ exams, you need to be able to identify
the differences between each of these bus architectures and know which ones are more popular
Architecture Bus Width
(In Bits)




8 MHz



8 MHz



33 MHz



66 MHz (1x), 133 MHz (2x), 266 MHz (4x), 533 MHz (8x)



33 MHz



Uses multiple lanes, with each lane carrying 250 Mbps. As an example,
a PCIe x1 slot can carry data at 250 Mbps, while a PCIe x4 slot can
carry data at 1 Gbps. PCIe version 2 doubles those transfer rates.

USB and FireWire Standards for the A+ Certification Exams
The most popular ports used today on the system are the USB and FireWire ports — which allow you
to connect devices such as flash drives, digital cameras, and digital video cameras. This table
compares features of USB and FireWire, including the transfer rate and number of devices supported.

Transfer Rate

Device Support

USB 1.0

12 Mbps

127 devices

USB 2.0

480 Mbps

127 devices

USB 3.0

5 Gbps

127 devices

IEEE 1394 400 Mbps; also known as FireWire

63 devices

IEEE 1394b 800 Mbps; also known as FireWire 800 63 devices

Windows XP Boot Files for the A+ Certification Exams
Windows XP requires four core files to boot the computer. You will need to understand what they are
on your A+ Certification exam. The four core files are:

ntldr: Operating system loader code

boot.ini: Builds the operating system selection menu Performs hardware detection

ntoskrnl.exe: Core kernel code responsible for tasks such as thread management

Windows 7 and Windows Vista Boot Files for the A+ Certification
Windows 7 and Windows Vista utilize four boot files, and you will need an understanding of all four of
them for the A+ Certification exams. The four boot files for Windows 7 and Vista are:

bootmgr: Operating system loader code; similar to ntldr in previous versions of Windows

Boot Configuration Database (BCD): Builds the operating system selection menu; similar to
boot.ini in Windows XP, but data resides in the BCD store. You can edit the boot configuration
data with the bcdedit utility.

winload.exe: Loads the Vista operating system if selected from the operating system selection
menu provided by BCD

winresume.exe: Resumes the Vista operating system if the system is started from a hibernate

Power-On Self-Test Error Codes Categories for the A+ Certification
Each BIOS manufacturer has its own diagnostic codes that identify specific POST errors. You need to
consult the BIOS documentation for the diagnostic codes for your BIOS, but the general breakdown
of the code categories is as follows:

100–199: Motherboard error

200–299: Memory error

300–399: Keyboard error

600–699: Floppy drive error

1400–1499: Printer error

1700–1799: Hard drive error

Windows Troubleshooting Utilities for the A+ Certification Exams
As an A+ Certified Professional you will troubleshoot a number of different problems on the system —
this table outlines some of the popular utilities you will use to support or troubleshoot a system. Be
sure to know these before taking the A+ Certification exams!




Check Disk

Check your hard drive for problems with the file system and for
bad sectors.


Registry Editor

Make changes to Registry values; can be used to make selective



Used from the command line, or graphically through the Microsoft


Management Console (MMC).

ntbackup.exe Windows NT

Back up files to tape or any writable file system.


System File

Verifies that system files have not been modified; or, if they have,
replaces them with the original.


Task Manager

See running programs and services, terminate problems, and
view rudimentary performance information about the system.



View detailed performance information

msconfig.exe System

Reconfigure the boot process for troubleshooting and diagnosing
the boot process.

drwtsn32.exe Dr. Watson

Configure the level of logging you want to do when applications


View hardware and configuration information for your computer.

Event Viewer

Logging component of the operating system; the central location
for all logging activity.

Windows Network Troubleshooting Utilities for the A+ Certification
When problems arise on a Windows network, you can use the following utilities to do your
troubleshooting. Having a clear understanding of all of them will help you on the A+ Certification

ipconfig: Display basic TCP/IP configuration, such as IP address, subnet mask, and default

ipconfig /all: Display TCP/IP settings, including your Media Access Control (MAC) address,
domain name system (DNS) server, and lease information.

ipconfig /release: Release your IP address.

ipconfig /renew: Renew your IP address.

ping <IP address> or ping <host name>: Send four test messages to the IP address or host
name you specify; verify whether the other system is up and running.

netstat: Display TCP/IP protocol statistics and connection information. Can be used to see who
is connected to your system; what ports are open.

nslookup: Troubleshoot DNS problems. For example, you can get a listing of all the records in
DNS using nslookup.

arp: Troubleshoot ARP. Shows MAC address. For example, you can use arp -a to view your
Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) cache.

Windows Security Best Practices for the A+ Certification Exams
One of the most important skills to have as an A+ Certified Professional is the capability of securing
Windows systems and networks. And even if you are not working in a networked environment, you
can apply these same skills to your customers with home Internet machines.

Harden the operating system: Uninstall any software you are not using and stop any services
not being used. The more software that is running, the more potential security holes in the

Patch the systems: Keep the operating systems and devices up to date with Service Packs
and security patches.

Use a firewall: Ensure that there is a firewall between your system and the Internet. A firewall
prevents hackers from connecting to your system

Use strong passwords: Ensure that all user accounts use a strong password (at least eight
characters, and uses a mix of uppercase and lowercase characters, numbers, and symbols).

Enable auditing: Log any suspicious activity on the system so you are aware of it.

Secure your wireless routers: If you have no need for wireless, disable this functionality on
your wireless router. If you are using wireless, secure it by changing the SSID, disabling SSID
broadcasting, and encrypting traffic with WEP, WPA, or WPA2 (best option). You should also
secure the wireless router by setting a strong password for the admin account and disable
DHCP on the router. You will then need to configure all your clients with static IP addresses.

Use antivirus software: Install antivirus software on all servers and client machines to help
protect your systems from a virus. Make sure that your virus definition database is frequently

10 or So Things You Might Have Forgotten for the A+ Certification
With the massive amount of information you’re required to know for the A+ Certification exams, there
are bound to be a few things that might slip past you. Here’s a quick list of some things you’ll need to
know for the A+ Certification exams that you might have easily forgotten or overlooked.

Contrast ratio: A value measuring the brightness of different colors such as white versus black.
The larger the ratio, the better the picture quality on the display.

Native Resolution: The actual resolution of a monitor, as opposed to the display resolution
which may be set lower which scales the image to the display area of the monitor.

Creation of files: You can create a file in any folder on your hard drive by right-clicking in an
empty area and choosing a document type from the New menu. Files can also be created from
applications by choosing the application’s save feature.

Grayware: A term used to describe software that performs unwanted actions. Grayware
encompasses malicious software such as adware and spyware. Be sure to have malware
protection software loaded on your system to protect against forms of grayware.

Spam: An unsolicited e-mail message. Today’s e-mail servers are being hit with a wealth of
unsolicited e-mail messages a day from companies that are trying to sell services or products.
Be sure to configure spam filters on your e-mail servers and e-mail clients.

KVM switch: A device that allows you share a keyboard, video device (monitor), and mouse
between several computers while being able to quickly switch between them.

Reset page count: A troubleshooting tip for printers — if you find the printer reports low toner
and you know there is more than enough toner available then it could be that the printer is
gauging the toner level by the number of pages printed. Find out how to reset the page count on
your printer to get rid of the low toner error.

Avoid trip hazards: You may create trip hazards when doing things like testing a replacement
network cable by using a network jack which is further away or laying out tools and computer
components in a walkway by a desk. Always ensure that you are not needlessly risking the
safety of yourself or others.

Heavy devices: Most computer equipment is light enough for a single person to handle while
many servers and UPSs will require two people to move or place in a server rack. Always
ensure that you have help for these and other heavy items and bend with your knees to prevent

Hot components: As equipment is used, many components will build up heat, which can injure
you. This is especially true of both computer and printer components. When servicing
equipment, ensure that you exercise proper care when hot components are present.

Odors: When troubleshooting system components be aware of unexpected odors or smells that
may lead you to the source of the problem or signal an immediate danger. For example, burned
smells could identify overheating components or melted connectors.

Taskbar: The bar at bottom of the Windows desktop which displays the Start menu, all open
applications and documents, and contains the system tray (systray).

Systray: The systray (or system tray) is on the right side of the taskbar and displays many
running processes, known as background processes that run in the background but do not have
a visual interface until you click on the icon in the system tray. Most of these processes are
accessed by clicking or right-clicking on the icon in the system tray so that you can change the
settings of the running program or terminate the process by choosing quit or exit from the menu
that appears. If there are too many items to display, they can be shown by clicking on an arrow
on the left of the systray.

Removal of peripherals: One of the processes in the systray is the Safely Remove Hardware
tool. When you insert devices such as a USB flash drive an icon appears in the systray for the
removable hardware. By clicking on this icon you will see a list of devices that can be stopped
and safely removed when you are ready to unplug the drive.