Exam Reviews

XPedition

Although it’s not the toughest in Microsoft’s pocket, this exam thoroughly tests your knowledge of the company’s latest product.

For the first time in the history of Microsoft’s certification efforts, it released an exam—on Windows XP—nearly simultaneously with the release of the product upon which the test is based. Exam 70-270 is true to the Microsoft nature of certification exams: tricky but fair. Even though this test isn’t nearly as difficult as some of the others I’ve faced, it certainly warrants a reasonable amount of preparation to pass. Don’t assume because you know Windows 2000 Professional inside and out that you’ll get through this ordeal on that knowledge alone. Consider it much more a test of new features than tried-and-true, client-side concepts.

The Quest Begins with Installation
Our trek through Windows XP starts at installation. Before you venture into the tense world of Windows administration, you have to install the software. What are the absolute minimum requirements for XP? Also, what’s involved in upgrading an existing machine to XP? Part of this task is knowing which operating systems can be upgraded and which can’t.

Study up on the ins and outs of installation. For example, do you truly understand licensing and activation for XP Professional? Be certain you can perform unattended installations by using any of the methods available in Win2K Professional, such as sysprep and RIS.

Tip: Look into the command-line methods for running installs. It’s probably a good idea to examine exactly what’s different between installs of Win2K Professional and XP Professional.

The Journey Continues with Permissions
Once you’ve successfully installed XP Professional, you can look forward to having all sorts of fun at your next stop—permissions. File permissions are tremendously important for securing your machines. Make sure you understand the difference between share-level and NTFS permissions, and remember the “most restrictive” rule.

Also know how to configure and troubleshoot printers. Remember that a printer is the software that’s installed on the machine, and the print device is the actual printer. Make sure you understand the different levels of permissions on printers.

XP Professional (70-270)

Reviewer’s Rating
“This exam covers everything you’d need to know about Windows XP administration. But don’t take this one until you’ve had some solid server experience.”

Exam Title
Installing, Configuring, and Administering Microsoft Windows XP Professional

Current Status
Live as of October 2001

Who Should Take It
Core credit for MCSE and MCSA

What Courses Prepare You?
2520: Deploying Microsoft Windows XP Professional. One day.
2272: Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Windows XP Professional. Five days.

You should also have a basic understanding of how to manage IIS. Know how to create Web folders to be shared on an intranet and how to enable the different mechanisms of authentication. Anybody with knowledge and experience with Win2K Server should likewise have expertise with IIS.

It’s also imperative that you understand the file systems. Remember, FAT32 doesn’t have file-system-level permissions and is used for backward compatibility with Windows 95 and 98. In almost all circumstances, you’re probably going to want to use NTFS. Know how to use the convert command in case you need to do a file system conversion.

In addition to regular file systems, you need to understand how to configure and administer Offline Files. Offline Files allow users to synchronize with the network, then disconnect and go about their business. When they connect back to the network, voila! The files are “automagically” synchronized with the ones on the server.

Tip: Know the nitty-gritty details of file system conversions. Make sure you can handle dual boot situations as well.

Climbing Higher with Hardware
The next stop on your journey involves hardware installation and configuration. Of course, being a network or support professional, you already know how to install and configure a sound card. Learn how to handle the really nifty devices like USB root hubs, infrared devices and digital cameras. Make sure you understand how to recognize any problems that may occur and take the appropriate action. For instance, you should study up on the differences between Last Known Good Configuration, Safe Mode, and the new Driver Rollback feature. Driver Rollback is used to replace an upgraded driver with its previous version.

Just like in Win2K, it’s important to understand how driver signing works. Be certain you can modify security settings on the machine or domain to implement a policy that allows or disallows a user to install signed drivers. In some cases, it may be convenient to allow users to install customized unsigned drivers; on the other hand, it may provide myriad disasters.

Also, take a look at video issues. Be sure you can detect whether there’s a problem with the refresh rate of the monitor or whether the driver is corrupted. And if you do detect the problem, make sure you know the appropriate solution.

Along with expert administration and support ability comes the skill of performance tuning and optimization. This particular task involves monitoring the processor, memory, disk and other components that are used on the system and ensuring they run efficiently and effectively. Make sure you know how to use System Monitor and can identify when a particular section of the machine is performing acceptably (and when it’s not).

Tip: Just because the processor runs at a high utilization rate doesn’t mean that the processor is the item that needs to be upgraded or replaced. Insufficient memory or a slow hard drive may cause the problem.

Getting Closer to Users
If you work for a large organization, it’s possible that you have users who travel internationally or speak multiple languages. That’s why you need to have a firm understanding of multinational settings. Be sure you can configure XP Professional to give users access to different languages. Learn how to instruct users to implement this functionality.

While we’re on the topic of user settings, make sure you understand user profiles and how to implement both varieties: local and roaming. Know how to enable accessibility settings for any users with physical impairments. Also, review Windows Installer settings for application installation and deployment. Remember, Windows Installer packages are usually installed by a group policy that’s implemented on a Win2K Server.

Also critical to any kind of environment are network settings, especially TCP/IP. If you don’t know about name resolution methodds like DNS and WINS, I’d recommend getting some knowledge on them. Make sure you understand the basics of troubleshooting, like how a subnet mask operates and what a default gateway is. Can you understand a network diagram and troubleshoot a given problem?

In addition to local area network settings, you need to be able to configure remote access networks. For instance, if your computer uses a smart card to log on, you’ll need to use the EAP protocol. Study the different levels of encryption supported by XP as well as other operating systems.

Tip: Be able to configure a client to use a VPN that’s Win2K-based.

Additional Information
Read the official preparation guide on Microsoft’s Web site. It provides a detailed list of exam topics. You’ll find it at www.microsoft.com/traincert/exams/70-270.asp.

Also, I recommend Microsoft Press’ Microsoft Windows XP Professional Administrator’s Pocket Consultant, by William R. Stanek, ISBN 0-7356-1381-8, a smart $29.99 investment.

At the same time, the Microsoft Windows XP Professional Resource Kit Documentation will also prove useful in your preparation. You can purchase that for $59.99 or find it on TechNet. You can also read it online by going to www.microsoft.com/technet and choosing Products and Technologies | Windows XP Professional | Resource Kits | Microsoft Windows XP Professional Resource Kit Documentation.

Almost There with ICF and EFS
One of the most prominent features to be added to XP is the Internet Connection Firewall (ICF, for short). The ICF is part of Microsoft’s new security strategy and serves as a personal firewall for clients. Know how to configure and troubleshoot the ICF on a machine. You should be familiar with the common ports used for Internet protocols. Ports 80, 443, 21, and 389 should all ring a bell—in order, HTTP, SSL, FTP, and LDAP.

XP Professional also has some of the tried-and-true functionality of Win2K, such as Encrypting File System, or EFS. EFS allows users to encrypt files that nobody else can use. By default, not even the administrator can use them unless he or she is acting as the Recovery Agent! You should have a basic understanding of EFS and know the best way to implement it for a given situation. For example, it might not be necessary to encrypt an entire directory when only one encrypted file is needed. Everything should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Make sure you know how to recover from a disaster and access encrypted files from users who have left your company.

Tip: Make sure you look over Internet Explorer security settings as well. Know the difference between the levels that are offered.

Additional Information
  1. Perform an attended installation of Windows XP. Note the differences between the Windows 2000 Professional installation and this one. Once installed, take notice of the activation process.
  2. Install a Win2K Server with DHCP, DNS and Active Directory. Install XP by using RIS.
  3. Run an upgrade from Win2K Professional to XP. Note which settings are migrated and which aren’t.
  4. Create a series of shared folders on an NTFS partition. Assign different share permissions to a group as well as different NTFS permissions and note the interaction between the two.
  5. Install and configure fax support for both an internal modem and an external fax machine, if available. Configure XP to answer incoming calls on both devices.
  6. Install a Win2K Server and write a group policy to allow Offline Files.
  7. Install XP Professional and configure it to receive Windows Update packages from a local network share instead of the Microsoft Web site.
  8. Install multiple USB devices using a USB root hub.
  9. Install an invalid video or other driver. Use the Driver Rollback function to restore the system to its original state.
  10. Back up an existing copy of XP Professional. Format the hard drive and restore the backup to return the system to its previous state.
  11. Create a standard profile to be displayed to all users of the workstation. Create the profile in mandatory and non-mandatory form.
  12. Configure a Win2K Routing and Remote Access Server. Create a VPN connection on the XP machine to connect to the server. If possible, do this with several operating systems and experiment with different types of security.
  13. Install and configure Internet Connection Sharing on an XP Professional machine. Then configure another machine to access the Internet with the shared connection.
  14. Install and configure Internet Connection Firewall on an XP Professional machine to allow only HTTP traffic in (port 80). Then configure a Web site on that machine and attempt to connect to that site from another machine.
  15. Configure Encrypting File System (EFS) on the system. Attempt to open encrypted files with a normal user account different from the file’s owner and the administrator account.
  16. Apply different security policies to an XP Professional machine, such as BASICWKS and HISECWKS. Note the differences between the policies.
  17. Configure Internet Explorer to use different security settings. Attempt to view Web pages with different items, such as ActiveX controls, Java applets, and pages that allow cookies.
  18. Install and configure a printer on an XP Professional machine. Experiment with the Full Control, Manage Documents and Print permissions.
  19. Install and configure XP Professional to use multiple languages for different users. Enable multiple users to switch between languages while they’re logged in.
  20. Install and configure Remote Assistance on an XP Professional machine. Connect to it with another PC.

The Pinnacle
At last—you’ve reached your goal! You have all the tips and tools to attack the Windows XP Professional exam head on! I’ve taken a slew of exams, and I enjoyed this one. There’s plenty to understand and plenty to learn. Your efforts to prepare can keep you on top of your game. Good luck!

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