Exam Reviews

70-272: Application Support Challenge

This exam tests your work with XP installations, gaining access to resources, hardware, the desktop and user environments and network protocols and services.

Exam 70-272 gives you the chance to prove your support knowledge of applications running on Windows XP. It is one of two tests you need to pass in order to achieve your Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician credential (the other being 70-271, reviewed here). Its questions focus on all aspects of supporting XP applications in these key areas: configuring and troubleshooting applications, resolving issues related to usability, resolving issues related to application customization, configuring and troubleshooting connectivity for applications, and configuring application security. In this article, I help you prepare by covering some of the objectives as listed in the exam preparation guide that you'll find by clicking here.

I took the exam in beta form. I received 85 questions and was given 205 minutes to complete them. The final version of the exam will probably have only 50 to 60 questions and you'll have somewhere around 90 to 120 minutes to finish. You'll be able to move forward and backward through the question set. Very often, a later question can help you answer an earlier one for which you may not have been absolutely certain of your answer. However, you should always choose an answer for each and every question before moving forward since you may run out of time, and any unanswered questions are scored incorrect. You can mark questions you're unsure of and return using the back button or by using the review screen at the end prior to scoring.

70-272: Supporting Users and Troubleshooting Applications

Supporting Users and Troubleshooting Desktop Applications on a Microsoft Windows XP Operating System.

Reviewer's rating
"This exam tests just how extensive your knowledge is of XP and the applications being run by most of your users. If you take pride in your work, prove your expertise with this test."

Who Should Take It
Core exam for MCDST. Intended for those wishing to prove their support knowledge of Windows XP, including technicians who support corporate and home users.

Preparation Guide

2261: Supporting Users Running the Microsoft Windows XP Operating System (3 days)
2262: Supporting Users Running Applications on a Microsoft Windows XP Operating System (2 days)

First Base for Study
My first recommendation for study material falls under the category of basic networking. If you're relatively new to the world of computers and networks, you'll need to have a firm grasp of the networking reference model called the OSI model. In spite of its venerable age (it was drawn up in the early '80s!), the Open System Interconnection model is known and used by anyone who supports networked computers and devices such as routers, switches and hubs. One of the best online resources I know of to study and understand the OSI model and networking in general is the "Internetworking Technology Handbook" by Cisco Systems (the leader in networking technologies). You can get it free by clicking here. Concentrate on the first seven chapters and chapter 31 (Internet Protocols (IP)).

Another resource I highly recommend is the book, Microsoft Windows XP Professional Resource Kit Documentation, from Microsoft Press. If you were to sit down, read and memorize this volume's 1,700-plus pages, you'd be ready for the exam! However, it doesn't exactly flow like a novel, so you might want to take it in pieces.

There are also many self-study guides — published by Microsoft Press, Exam Cram, Sybex, Syngress, Osborne and others — for the XP Professional exam, 70-270, that cover the same material you need to understand in order to pass 70-272.

You can also take the courses listed in the box at your local training center. You'll learn more about those at the Web page linked to each.

You might also consider starting your certification quest with CompTIA exams such as A+ and Network+. These tests will introduce you to the support role of XP, PC hardware, and basic networking.

Tip: The Microsoft exam writers love to create questions from the resource kits and study guides published on the Microsoft Web site. Keep this in mind as you decide what's worth reading during your studies. Here's a great place to start: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/itsolutions/howto/winxphow.mspx.

First Time?

If this is your first IT exam or at least your first Microsoft exam, there are some things you should know.

  • The price for Microsoft exams in the US is $125.

  • You're allowed to take any exam as many times as needed to pass.

  • You must pay the $125 for each and every attempt at the exam.

  • You'll receive an onscreen pass or fail indicator at the completion of the exam.

  • You'll also receive a printed score report upon exiting the exam booth.

  • You'll receive a certificate, wallet card, congratulations letter and MCP number after requesting the certification package from Microsoft's Web site. (Don't forget to give a valid e-mail address when registering for your exam.)

  • You can take any IT exam at any testing center sponsored by Thomson Prometric or VUE.

  • You can contact Prometric at 1-800-755-EXAM or www.2test.com.

  • You can contact VUE at 1-888-837-8616 or www.vue.com.

On the Applications Front
Let's start with the topic of "Configuring and Troubleshooting Applications." Microsoft Office includes the popular applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. These applications are all "Internet ready," meaning they can access, read and save data to and from the Internet. With this in mind, you'll need to know how they're configured and repaired when a user calls with a question.

You have three methods to install and configure the Office suite of applications: manual, automated, or upgraded. During the manual method, you provide all the answers to the setup prompts. For an automated installation, you use an install script created specifically for a single PC or multiple PCs. During the upgrade method, you choose which Office components to upgrade and install. The installation source using any of these methods can be the local CDROM or a network location. There are also other Microsoft methods or sources of installation: Active Directory Group Policies and Microsoft's Systems Management Server (SMS). When applications are installed, the user or administrator must choose to make the application available to all users or just the logged-in user.

Tip: Group Policy deployment of Office requires a Windows domain running Active Directory. Microsoft's SMS deployment method of Office doesn't require a Windows domain or Active Directory.

Proper user rights are required when a user needs to install an application. By default, this is administrators and users who have been granted the right to install software such as all user accounts in XP Home Edition. If an application has been previously installed, Windows Registry changes may prevent the successful reinstallation. Many applications require large amounts of disk space for installation; even when the user or desktop technician specifies an alternate drive, the application may still need disk space on the primary drive for temporary files during installation. The Microsoft Office setup provides options for creating log files and other setup options and switches that can be extremely useful when troubleshooting failed installations.

To prepare to troubleshoot failed application installations you should start with an understanding of the application itself. And you need the ability to find the answers to problems and implement the solution! The product manual, colleagues, the Microsoft Knowledge Base, online Support and Help in the product or operating system, and finally books and white papers, can be invaluable when troubleshooting application errors.

Office 2003 requires product activation very much like XP. This can be done either via an Internet connection or over the phone. Office 2003 gives the user a "launch grace" of 50 uses before requiring activation. After 50 uses, the user is prevented from creating new documents or editing existing ones. However, he or she can still view and print existing documents.

Tip: Office 2003 Product Activation doesn't send user or computer information to Microsoft unless the user also chooses to "register" with Microsoft during the activation process.

Microsoft Office allows you the option of installing the individual components of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook to the local hard disk. Or you can specify not to install them, which means the user can add them later when needed.

Tip: The Office setup wizard prompts the user for which components of the Office suite should be installed locally. The user can always choose to add and remove components at a later time using the XP Add/Remove Programs icon or by reinserting the Office CD.

Office offers a Detect and Repair option on the Help menu in any of the Office suite of applications. This option should be attempted prior to reinstalling any Office application. The Detect and Repair option also offers the ability for a user to remove all customized settings and restore the defaults.

Tip: If the Detect and Repair option of Office doesn't solve the user's problem, have the person reinstall the Office application or applications.

Shadow Copy is a new feature of Windows Server 2003 that allows users to retrieve a previous version or versions of a file stored on a Windows server. However, the user must install or have installed the Shadow Copy client software from Microsoft.

Tip: If shadow copy is enabled on the Windows 2003 server and the Shadow Copy client software is installed on the client machine, the user will find a Previous Versions tab in the network server's deleted folder. He or she simply needs to right-click and select Properties to undelete the missing file.

Operating and File system Security
Windows XP supports the FAT, FAT32, and NTFS file systems. When configuring a PC for multiboot — that is, two different versions of Windows installed on the same PC such as Windows 98 and Windows XP — you must choose a compatible file system. Both FAT and FAT32 are common and compatible with Windows 98 and greater. But NTFS is only used and compatible with Windows NT, 2000, and XP. NTFS is the only file system that offers file-level security and Encrypting File System (EFS) security. EFS encodes files so that even if someone else obtains a copy of a file, he or she won't be able to decrypt and access the file! If a user calls and complains that he or she can't access a particular file, it may be because the file was encrypted by another user of the PC while logged in. EFS files can't be shared or copied across the network in an encrypted form. They can be copied to floppies, however. By right-clicking a file or folder on an NTFS formatted disk and selecting Properties | Advanced, you can enable, disable or view the encryption state.

Tip: Encrypted files are displayed in green text in Windows Explorer.

Application Security
Let's look through some of the areas of study for "Configuring Application Security." A macro is a form of programming that allows the user or application developer to "automate" various processes or functions in Word and Excel, for example. Office applications are susceptible to macro viruses. A macro virus can attempt to exploit this "automation" process and change or even destroy user data. Office offers three levels of macro virus protection: High, Medium, and Low. The default level is High and should only be changed after careful consideration.

Tip: Antivirus software installed on a user's PC will detect macro-type viruses and many others before a user accesses and opens a file.

Security updates aren't only for operating systems! Microsoft also offers updates for Office, Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. You should direct users to the Microsoft Office Web site to scan their PC for installed applications and available updates. The operating system update Web site is http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com and the Office site is http://office.microsoft.com.

Supporting Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer is, of course, the Web browser included with XP. For this exam, you should be intimately familiar with all user configurable options and technician- or administrator-defined security options. For instance, have you ever seen your browser's home page change without "approval" or your intervention? This is a common change that Web developers can initiate when you visit their Web sites. Do you know how to reset the home page option in IE? From the Tools drop-down menu, select Options | General tab and then click one of the buttons to reset the home page to current, default or blank. Or you can simply type in the preferred home page location. I actually prefer to use the blank option. How many times a day do you see a user open his or her browser and wait for the page to load before navigating somewhere else?

Tip: In some cases, users may be unable to change their browser's home page location. This is usually the case when the user is connected to the corporate network and using Windows Server Group Policies and Active Directory. The administrator has prevented users from being able to make the change.

Temporary Internet files available in IE allow a Web developer to store files in a cache (temporary storage) location on a user's hard disk. These can speed the process of loading the Web site the next time the user visits the Web site. But it can also eat up precious disk space! Become familiar with where and how to set the temporary Internet files location and what the options, "Every visit to the page," "Every time you start IE," "Automatically" and "Never" mean. You can find these configurable options behind the Settings button of the General tab in the same location where the home page is set.

Using the Security and Privacy tabs of IE, you can define trusted Web sites using Web content zones, cookie settings and ActiveX controls and signatures. Make sure you understand where these options are located and what the purpose is for each. Web content zones allow for security configuration based on internal (intranet) or external (Internet) Web sites. By default, each zone defines the type of controls and signature checking allowed by the user's browser. Constantly displayed in the bottom right corner of the Web browser window, the current zone type indicates a level of security. Very often in the corporate network environment administrators predefine the zone level of each user's browser with custom settings controlled by Windows 2000 domain group policies. A user may call the helpdesk because he or she is unable to connect to a particular site or view the full functionality of a Web page because corporate or security guidelines are in place. Before visiting the user's desktop or assuming IE application issues exist, take a minute to access the same Web site or page using your own PC to note any restrictions that may be different.

The Content Advisor is another component of IE that allows you to define particular or types of Web sites as safe or unsafe and unavailable. After configuring Content Advisor, a password can be set to restrict further unauthorized changes by users of the PC.

Tip: Know where and how to reset a user's auto-complete and saved password options in IE.

Another tab you should know of is the Advanced tab in IE. There are many options found within here: accessibility, user preferences, and security. Understanding these different options and how they affect the user's WWW experience is a must!

Tip: Using the Advanced tab in IE options, you can enable or disable the "use inline AutoComplete to control the caching of user information or any browser-typed input.

Do you use the Favorites and History options in Internet Explorer? You should. They can really save loads of time and store a "record" of what you like to visit online. For this exam, you'll need to understand how they work, where they're configured and how to clear them. You'll find the History configuration options in the same location as noted earlier by selecting the Tools drop-down menu in IE. Favorites has its own drop-down menu, where you'll find the options to add, delete, and organize.

Tip: The Languages button on the General tab of IE's options can be used to load different languages for Web sites.

One last set of options for IE you should be familiar with is dial-up and VPN connection settings. Your networking experience will help you here. The Network Connections setting in Control Panel (or from the Start Menu of XP) lets you define the type and number of connections available to a user's PC. Configuring a dial-up or VPN connection requires you to know the account information to authenticate to the network or server and the phone number or IP address. You should also know how to configure IE's LAN settings properties found in Tools | Options | Connections tab. From there you can configure proxy server settings if required. A proxy server is a server on the LAN that can be used by administrators to define users' access to the Internet and Internet content including HTTP (WWW) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol). When typing an IP address supplied by the administrator or Internet Service Provider (ISP), never include leading zeros in any field. For instance, the IP address shouldn't be entered as

Tip: Often the Proxy server name or IP address is entered into the settings window along with a port number of 8080. This is chosen by the network administrator and sometimes it can be unique or different.

Supporting Outlook Express
Outlook Express is the free e-mail client and newsreader included with IE. Configuring e-mail and newsgroup settings and troubleshooting OE is required knowledge for this test! If you've never used OE's e-mail client or visited a newsgroup with OE, it's about time you did.

There are three different types of e-mail servers users may want to retrieve e-mail from: HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), Internet Messaging Application Protocol (IMAP), and Post Office Protocol version 3 (POP3). Understanding how these different servers handle e-mail and user connections is crucial. HTTP servers such as Hotmail.com or Yahoo.com allow for convenience and portability by only requiring an Internet connection and browser. Learn the ins and outs of setting up OE to connect to these Web-based e-mail servers and create and manage e-mail locally for the full functionality of an e-mail client application. IMAP e-mail servers offer a "richer" user experience as well as portability by holding a copy of the user's e-mail, address book and folders on the server -- when so configured. A POP3 e-mail server and account is one you might receive as a part of your ISP service. It doesn't normally offer the "rich" and portability options that HTTP and IMAP do, but it's still a type many users have and love.

Tip: IE's connection settings and options as noted earlier apply to any connection attempts made by the user when using OE's e-mail client or newsreader.

Microsoft Outlook is a full-version e-mail client application. Its settings and configuration for connecting to a Microsoft Exchange e-mail server or an ISP's server are controlled by the connection settings noted above; but there are also e-mail account options configured with the Mail icon in Control Panel or in Outlook using the Tools | E-mail Accounts option.

Tip: Know where and how to configure Outlook's e-mail account settings.

Another area of focus for this exam will be the Import/Export process using IE or OE for favorites, cookies, e-mail accounts, newsgroup accounts and address books. Don't be blindsided by these on the exam, take time to explore and understand them today!

Troubleshooting Network Connectivity
As I mentioned in the 70-271 MCDST exam review (click here), a good understanding of basic networking and Windows networking will go a long way. It all starts with the OSI model! Understanding how computer networks operate and how to troubleshoot them is invaluable knowledge and experience. Troubleshooting network connectivity issues begin with the OSI Physical layer where connections and cabling are defined. This really is the weakest link. From there the desktop technician should become intimately familiar with the TCP/IP troubleshooting tools IPconfig and ping. IPconfig /all allows you to view the TCP/IP configuration of a user's PC and discover many common configuration problems or errors. Hostname, IP address, DNS server addresses and DHCP address assignment are the critical settings that very often can be the source of network connectivity. If everything is configured as expected and you can ping a remote network computer, most other issues are related to network-based application configurations as noted earlier in this article. Read the chapters I recommend earlier in this article before tackling either MCDST exam.

That wraps it up for this exam review. Remember, nothing beats hands-on experience when taking a Microsoft test. Divide your study time among reading, reviewing and practicing what you've read. There are no real shortcuts to success. Good luck!


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