Monday, October 30, 2006

New A+ exams launch

Two of the exams offered by CompTIA(R) 1. A+ Core Hardware, and 2. A+ Operating Systems are revamped recently. The new objectives, and further details may be viewed at Comptia website,

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A+ Tutorial on Core Hardware Technologies.

A tutorial on A+ Core Hardware Technologies is available from A brief review of contents of the said tutorial are given below:
  1. Computer Mother board
  2. BIOS and CMOS Firmware
  3. PC Memory
  4. Processor/CPU
  5. Storage Devices
  6. Display Devices
  7. PCMCIA/ PC Cards
  8. IRQs, and I/O Addresses
  9. Cables, and Connectors including serial, parallel, USB, and Firewire.
  10. PC Power Supplies

Downloadable practice tests for A+ are also available from

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

PCI-X standards

PCI-X (Peripheral Component Interconnect Extended) is a computer bus technology that
increases the speed that data can move within a computer up to 133 MHz. The technology was developed jointly by IBM, HP, and Compaq. PCI-X doubles the speed and amount of data exchanged between the computer processor and peripheral devices. With the current PCI design, one 64-bit bus runs at 66 MHz. Additional buses move 32 bits at 66 MHz or 64 bits at 33 MHz. The maximum data rate between the processor and peripherals using the traditional PCI design is 532 MB per second. With PCI-X, one 64-bit bus runs at 133 MHz, allowing for a data exchange of 1.06 GB per second (133X8bytes=1.064Gbytes). PCI-X is backwards-compatible. You can use both PCI and PCI-X cards on the same bus but the bus speed will run at the speed of the slowest card. Fault torerance is built in to PCI-X.

PCI-X 2.0

PCI-X 2.0 is a higher speed version of the PCI X ( more specifically PCI-X 66 and PCI-X 133) standard. PCI X 2.0 provides for two new speed grades: PCI-X 266 and PCI-X 533, offering up to 4.3 gigabytes per second of bandwidth. PCI-X 2.0 offers enhanced system reliability. ECC support has been added, providing automatic single-bit error recovery and double-bit error detection.

PCI-X 2.0 is built upon the same architecture, protocols, signals, and connector as traditional PCI. Migration to PCI-X 266 and PCI-X 533 is simplified by retaining hardware and software compatibility with previous generations of PCI and PCI-X. As a result, new designs can immediately connect with hundreds of PCI and PCI-X products that are currently available.

Summary of PCI-X 2.0 Features

  • Up to 32 times faster than traditional PCI bus speed
  • Doubles and Quadruples PCI-X bandwidth.
  • Full hardware and software backward compatibility.
  • Uses the same form factor, pin-outs, connector, bus widths, and protocols.
  • Enables 10Gb Ethernet, 10Gb Fibre Channel, InfiniBand™ Architecture, and
    other IO technologies.
  • Full RAS support including ECC.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Online A+ Certification exams

A+ Certification exams are available online from a few vendors.
The online exams are a good alternative to off-line (download and use) exams when you have Internet connectivity, and mobile. You can access the online tests from anywhere provided that there exists Internet connectivity.
Online exam vendors provide several features for self evaluation including the following:
1. Timed tests with several question types, similar to actual exam,
2. Categorized scoring for identifying weak areas
3. Saving and recalling exam results among others.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A+ Certification Resources

Practice tests:
A+ Core tests from
A+ OS tests from
Exam cram notes:
A+ Core exam cram from
A+ OS exam cram from
Discussion forum:
Comptia A+ at
Online tests:
A+ On-line tests from

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Detailed exam objectives for A+ Core hardware exam.

Area 1:
Installation, configuration, and upgrading
I. The exam objectives include identifying the names, purpose, and characteristics of systems, and modules. Example of concepts and modules are:

  • Motherboard
  • Firmware and hardware
  • PC power supplies
  • Processors including mmx, pII, pIII, Xeon, and other latest processors
  • Memory, including SDRAMs, DRAMs, Cache memory
  • Storage devices, including Hard disks (both internal and external), Floppy disks, and Flash dirve
  • Display devices, including VGA, SVGA monitors, and Flat panel displays
  • Adapter cards, including NICs, PCI, and others
  • Ports,
  • Riser cards
II. Identifying basic procedures for adding and removing field rplaceable modules for desktop systems. The replaceable desktop components include:
Copmputer motherboard
storage devices like hard disk, floppy disk, CD read/write, Tape drives, and others
Power supplies including AT and ATX
Cooling Systems for Fans, Heat sinks, and Liquid cooling
Display devices
Input devices including keyboard, mouse, pointer deviices, and touch screen.
Adapters, including network cards, sound cards, video cards, modem, scsi devices, IEEE 1384 FireWire, USB and others.
III. Identify typical IRQs, DMAs, and I/O address. Acquire skills to change these settings according to a given requirement. The devices may include the following:

  • ISA devices (legacy)
  • Special devices like CAK/CAM
  • Internal modems
  • Floppy drive controllers
  • Hard drive controllers
  • Multimedia devices
  • NIC cards
  • IO ports including serial, parallel, USB ports, IEEE 1394 Firewire, Infrared

IV. Identifying the names, purposes, and characteristics of of peripheral ports, and associated cables including the following:

Serial, parallel, USB, IEEE 1394/Firewire, and Infrared ports

Serial-straight, serial-cross, null modem, parallel, and USB cable types,

DB-9, DB-25, RJ-11, RJ-45, DB-25, and Centronics (mini 36) connector types

PS2, Mini-Din, USB, IEEE1394 connector types

VI. Acquire skills to install and configure common IDE devices. These include the following:

  • IDE interface types: EIDE, ATA/ATAPI, Serial ATA, PIO
  • RAID (0,1, and 5)
  • Master/Slave/cable select
  • Devices per channel
  • Primary/Secondary
  • Cable orientation/requirements

VII. Identify proper procedure for installing and configuring SCSI devices and cables. These include the following:

  • SCSI Interface Types: Narrow, Fast, Wide, Ultra-wide, LVD, HVD
  • Internal and External
  • SCSI IDs: Jumber block/DIP switch settings, resolving ID conflicts
  • RAID (0, 1 and 5)
  • Cabling: Length, type, and termination requirements.

VIII. Acquire skills for installing and configuring common peripheral devices. The devices include the following:

  • Dial-up, DSL, ISDN modems, and tranceivers
  • External storage devices
  • Digital cameras, pdas, wireless access points, infrared devices, ups, and monitors

IX. PC operations optimixation. This may include the following:

  • Liquid, air, and heatsink cooling. Applying thermal compound, and its role in cooling.
  • Disk subsystems enhancements for hard drives, controller cards, and cables
  • NICs
  • Specialized video cards
  • memory, and additional processors.

X. Issues to be considered while upgrading a PC:

Drivers for legacy devices,

Bus types and characteristics,

Cache, memory capacity requirements

Processor compatibility,

Hard drive compatibility,

System/firmware compatibility/upgradability

Power supply connectors, and output voltages and capacity requirements.

Check for compatibility of the following components:

Motherboards, Memory, Hard drives, cpu, adaptyer cards, bios, pcmcia cards, and power sources.

Area 2:

Diagnosing and Troubleshooting

2.1 Identification of common PC problems, and arriving at appropriate steps to be taken for fixing the same. Given a problem situation, identify the most likely cause. The content may include the following:

  • I/O ports and cables: serial, parallel, USB ports, IEEE 1394 Firewire, Infrared, and SCSI
  • Motherboards: CMOS BIOS setting, POST visual and/or audible error codes.
  • Troubleshooting peripherals like printers, scanners
  • Computer case: Power supplies, Slot covers, and Front cover alignment
  • Storage devices and cables including FDD, HDD, CD R/W, DVD, DVDRW, tape drive, and removable storage
  • Cooling systems including fans, heat sinks, temperature sensors, and liquid cooling
  • Processor, memory, and display devices.
  • Input devices including keyboard, mouse, and touch screen
  • Adapters including NIC, sound card, video card, modem, scsi, ieee 1394, and usb.
  • Portable systems include pcmcia, batteries, docking stations, port replicators, and portale unique storage.

2.2 Identify basic troubleshooting procedures and tools. Enquire problem symptoms from customers. Content include the following:

  • troubleshooting, isolation, and problem determination procedures,
  • Determining whether a hardware or software problem,
  • Collecting information from user regarding customer environment, symptoms/error codes, and situation when the problem occured.

Area 3:

PC Preventive Maintenance, Safety, and Environmental issues

Identification of various types of preventive maintenance measures, products, and procedures. When, and how to use them. Content may include the following:

Liquid cleaning compounds

Types of materials to clean contacts, and connections

  • Non-static vacuums (chassis, power supplies, and fans)
  • Cleaning monitors,
  • Cleaning removable media devices,
  • Ventilation, dust and moisture control on PC hardware interior,
  • Hard disk maintenance including defragging, scan disk, CHKDSK
  • verifying UPS, and spike suppressors

3.2 Identify various safety measures and procedures and when/how to use them. Content may include the following:

  • ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) precautions, and procedures. This contains 1. The damage that ESD can inflict on electronic components, both hidden and apparent, 2. Common ESD protection devices, 3. Situations that could present a hazard.
  • Potential hazards, and proper safety procedures relating to 1. high voltage equipment, power supply, and CRTs

3.3 Identify environmental protection measures and procedures. Know when and how to use them. Content may include the following:

Special disposal procedures that comply with environmental guidelines for batteries, CRTs, chemical solvents and cans, and MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet)

Area 4


4.1 Distinguish between the popular CPU chips using their basic charageristics. Content may include the following:

Popular CPU chips (Pentium class compatible)


Speeds (actual vs. advertised)

Cache level 1, level ii, level iii



4.2 Identify the types of RAM, form factors, and operational characteristics. Banking and speed requirements determination for a given scenarios. Content may include the following:

  • Memory types include the following: EDO RAM,. DRAM, SRAM, VRAM, SDRAM, DDR, RAMBUS.
  • Form factors include the following: SIMM, DIMM, SoDIMM, MicroDIMM, RIMM
  • Operation characteristics may include memory chips (8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit) - 1. Parity chips vs. non-parity chips, 2. ECC vs. non-EC 3. Single-sided vs. double sided

4.3 Identify the popular types of motherboards, their components, and thier architecture (bus structures). COntent may include the following:

AT, ATX motherboards


  • Communication pors: Serial, USB, Parallel, IEEE 1394 Firewire, Infrared
  • Memory: SIMM, DIMM, RIMM, SoDIMM, MicroDIMM
  • Processor sockets: Slot 1, Slot 2, Slot A, Socket A, Socket 7, Socket 8, Socket 423, Socket 478, Socket 370
  • External cache memory (level 2)
  • Bus architectures: ISA, PCI-32 bit, PCI-64bit, AGP (2X, 4X, and 8X Pro), USB, AMR (Audio Modem Riser) slots, CNR (Communication network riser) slots, basic compatibility guidelines, IDE (include ATA, ATAPI, ULTRA-DMA, EIDE), SCSI (include Narrow, Wide, Fast, Ulra, HVD, and LVD), and chipsets.

4.4 Identify the purpose of CMOS memory. The significance of changing the paramenters of a CMOS. Topics may include the following:

CMOS Settings:

  • Default settings,
  • CPU settings,
  • Printer parallel port -uni, bi-directional, diable/enable, ECP, EPP
  • CMOS/Serial port - memory address, interrupt request, disable
  • Floppy drive - enable/disable drive or boot, speed, density
  • Hard drive- size and drive type
  • Memory - speed, parity, non-parity
  • Boot sequence
  • Date/Time
  • Passwords
  • Plug and Play BIOS,
  • Disabling on-board devices
  • Disabling virus protection
  • Power management
  • Infrared

Area 5


5.1 Identify printer technologies, interfaces, and options/upgrades

  • Technologies include Laser, Ink dispersion, dot matrix, solid ink, thermal, dye sublimation.
  • Interfaces include parallel, network, scsi, usb, infrared, serial, ieee 1394 firewire, and wireless.
  • Options/upgrade include memory, hard drives, nics, trays and feeders, finishers (like stapling), and scanners/fax/copier

5.2 Common printer problems and techniques to fix the same. Topics include the following:

Printer drivers, firmware updates, paper feed and output, calibrations, printing test pages, errors, memory, configuration, network connections, connections, paper jam, print quality, safety precautions, preventive maintenance, consumables, and environment.

Area 6.

Basic Networking:

6.1 Identify common types of network cables, their properties, and connectors:

  • Cable types include Co-axial (RG6, RG8, RG58, RG59), Plenum/PVC, UTP (CAT3, CAT 5e, CAT 6), STP, Fiber (Single mode, multi mode).
  • Connector types include BNC, RJ-45, AUI, SC/ST, IDC/UDC

6.2 Identify basic networking concepts including working concepts. The topics incldue the following:

  • Installing and configuring network cards, addressing, bandwidth, status indicators.
  • Protocols including tcp/ip, ipx/spx, appletalk, netbeui/netbios
  • full-duplex, half-duplex communicaiton,
  • Cabling include twisted pair, coaxial, fiber optic, and rs-232
  • Networking models include peer-to-peer and client-server.
  • Infrared, and wireless networking

6.3 Identify common technologies available for establishing Internet connectiveity and their characteristics.

  • The topics may include lan, dsl, cable, isdn, dial-up, satellite, and wireless.
  • The characteristics to study include definition, speed, and connections.

A+ certification exam sectionwise scoring

Exam Details: 220-301 A+ Core Hardware Exam:

Number of questions: 80 (approximate, may vary slightly)
Time allowed: 90 minutes
Passing Score: Minimum score os 515 on a scale of 100-900
Exam format: Linear

Domain areas covered by A+ Core Hardware exam:

1.0 Installation, Configuration and Upgrading 35% Weightage
2.0 Diagnosing and Troubleshooting 21% Weightage
3.0 Preventive Maintenance 5% Weightage
4.0 Motherboard/Processors/Memory 11% Weightage
5.0 Printers 9% Weightage
6.0 Basic Networking 19% Weightage
Total Weigtage:35+21+5+11+9+19 or 100%

Note that as of now, the latest exam objectives correspond to Nov. 2003. CompTIA has not yet revised the exam since Nov. 2003. Comptia may revise the exam objectives from time to time.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A+ Certification Books

Given below are among the most widely used books and resources:

A+ Certification All-In-One Exam Guide by Michael Meyers

The A+ Certification by Michael Meyers is widely used. This book covers both A+ Core Hardware exam, and A+ Operating Systems exam.

A+ Certification Training Guide, Fourth Edition

About A+ Certification.

About A+ Certification:
A+ Certification is offered by CompTIA ®. A+ exam is targeted for computer service technicians with at least 6 months on-the-job experience. It is the most widely recognized certification in the field of computer hardware and Windows Operating Systems.
To get A+ certified, one need to pass 1. A+ Core Hardware Technologies exam, 220-301 and 2. A+ OS (Operating Systems) exam, 220-302. The certification does not have any expiry date like Microsoft or Cisco certifications. According to Comptia, the certification is vendor neutral.
The exam specifics are as below:

Exam: 220-301, A+ Core Hardware Technologies
Number of questions: 80 approximately;
Exam type: Linear
Time allowed: 90 minutes
Passing score: Minimum score required is 515 on a scale of 100-900.
Exam objectives: Click here to visit official exam site
Register for exams at: NCS/VUE ( (

Exam:220-302, A+ Operating Systems Exam

Number of questions: 80 approximately; exam type: Linear
Time allowed: 90 minutes
Passing score: Minimum score required is 505 on a 100-900 score range.
Exam objectives: Click here to visit official exam site
Exam Format: Adaptive
Register for exams at: NCS/VUE ( (

There are several online resources that offer exam notes, and practice tests. A few of these include the following: that provides various exam vendors

Saturday, April 22, 2006