Exam Reviews

What MCPs Must Know About Configuring Vista

What to expect with Microsoft's first Windows Vista exam aimed at MCTS candidates.

Exam 70-620 is one of among several exams that Microsoft will release this year that are aimed at IT admins who want to prove their knowledge of supporting and managing Windows Vista machines. (The others are 70-621 Upgrade: MCDST to MCITP Enterprise, and 70-623 Pro: Desktop Support, Consumer, which are in beta, and then 70-622 Pro: Desktop Support, Enterprise, all of which also will require some solid Vista knowledge.) Pass 70-620 and you'll earn the Microsoft Certifiied Technology Specialist: Windows Vista certification.

I took this exam while it was in beta and was given 180 minutes to complete 56 questions. The final version, which was released well after I took this exam, is fairly similar, with 90 to 120 minutes for about 50 questions.

This exam was wide in scope and tests knowledge of all aspects of supporting users with configuration needs with Windows Vista, for users both in the home network and enterprise in these key areas:

  • Installing, upgrading Windows Vista
  • Configuring, troubleshooting post-installation system settings
  • Configuring Windows security features
  • Configuring network connectivity
  • Configuring applications included with Vista
  • Maintaining and optimizing systems that run Vista
  • Configuring and troubleshooting mobile computing

My first recommendation for study material falls under the category of hands-on. If you are new to Windows Vista, you need some time at the controls. And it's always time well spent!

There will be self-study guides published, official courseware, and even practice exams, but if you want to pass this exam sooner, I recommend that you check out www.WindowsVista.com, which has links to information for consumers, developers and IT professionals like us. Click that link and you'll find yourself at the Microsoft Technet site. There you'll find all the printed study information you'll need. I highly recommend you peruse the Windows Vista Product Guide document.

Now I could just give you all the questions and answers to the exam, but what fun would there be in that!? After all it's been five long years since Microsoft last released a new desktop operating system and I'm ready to learn all the new things, aren't you?

On with the review!

The set of skills you'll need to demonstrate for this exam were noted earlier, and through the remainder of this article I will help you prepare to pass this exam by directing you to specific areas in Windows Vista. Be sure you read and study the exam objectives available from the Microsoft's MCP Web site for a general idea of what to expect on this exam.

Installing, Upgrading Vista
Vista's hardware requirements vary based on the version you plan to run. Microsoft recommends, at minimum, a 800MHz but preferably a 1GHz or greater CPU, 512MB but preferably 1GB of RAM, 128MB graphics card for Aero interface, 20GB but preferably a 40GB hard drive (15GB of free disk space is required for upgrades), and a DVD drive. The greater requirements allow you to experience all that Vista has to offer. You can upgrade Windows XP Home or Pro to one of the 5 versions of Windows Vista or a Windows 2000 Professional PC using a clean install and files and settings transfer method. If you are running any other version of Windows you must perform a clean install. Windows Vista also supports upgrading from one version to another; such as the Home versions to Ultimate.

70-620 Configuring
Windows Vista (Beta)

Reviewer's Rating
This exam is geared towards IT field and phone technicians at Tier 1 and Tier 2 levels supporting consumer or business enterprise end users. It focuses on the most fundamental knowledge required for supporting Windows Vista.

The exam can be used for achieving the MCTS, is a core client exam for MCSA or MCSE 2000 and 2003.

Exam Title
70-620, Configuring Windows Vista Client

180 minutes (beta; this differs from the live version)

Number of questions
56 (beta; this differs from the live version)

Who Should Take It
Anyone wishing to prove their knowledge of supporting users with configuring Windows Vista including those supporting home users.

Exam Objectives

Installation issues can occur if the hardware is not at the minimum levels as stated previously and if the PC is using incompatible hardware or application software. Other problems can crop up in the form of media errors (damaged DVD disc), and incompatible drivers.

Exam Tip: Windows Vista installation is started with Setup.exe found on the DVD disc.

Configuring, Troubleshooting Post-Installation System Settings
Once Windows Vista is installed on your PC, additional configuration may be necessary to get the most from this new operating system. Windows Update is now integrated in such a way that all you usually need is the Windows Update center found in Control Panel. It automatically checks for and applies all Vista updates and possible upgrades. You'll also find the Programs and Features center in Control Panel for managing installed updates and application software. Another useful one in Control Panel is Problem Reports and Solutions. Here you can find a list of incompatible applications and drivers with links to Microsoft.com and specific vendor web sites for possible updates.

Windows Aero is an entirely new desktop interface that offers you a greater visual experience, but requires more video memory than many PCs have. It also makes available Windows Sidebar and Sideshow discussed later. If Windows Aerois not available on your installed copy of Vista it could be because of reduced display colors, monitor refresh rate, desktop theme and color scheme settings that are not adjusted correctly.

Parental Controls in Windows Vista is configured in Control Panel. It allows you to configure and control how children use the computer. By limiting Web access, games that can be played and logon hours to the computer, it can be a blessing or a curse! For example, you can restrict Web downloads to only allowed or disallowed. (I can hear my kids calling me from the family room now...)

Internet Explorer configuration has changed slightly with the introduction of version 7. Many configuration options are found and accomplished the same way, but there are a couple of new features to be aware of. Protected Mode, found on the Security tab, prevents Web sites from installing or running programs without explicit permission of the logged-on user. Phishing Filter, which you can find on the Advanced tab, is used to verify all Web sites visited against a known phishing list that Microsoft maintains.

Exam Tip: The RSS Feeds button on the Toolbar of IE7 allows you to subscribe to feeds available from a visited Web site.

Configuring Windows Security Features
One of the key areas and additional configurations you'll find in Windows Vista centers around security. The most obvious is User Account Control (UAC). It's enabled by default and limits even a logged-on administrator account's ability to change system configuration and settings without explicit permission, or by clicking Continue in the warning window. It prevents unauthorized changes to your PC such as those made by spyware or malicious software. It can be turned off using the User Accounts center in Control Panel. If it's enabled and administrator credentials are needed to perform an action or run application software, the PC administrator must provide the logged-on user with this information. The user can either provide them when prompted or right-click a configuration settings center and select Run as.

Windows Defender is a real-time spyware detection and removal application available for download and use on Windows XP, but it's included with Windows Vista. It does require Windows Genuine Advantage validation for download, as do many of the Vista upgrades and add-ons.

The Windows Firewall in Vista has been totally rewritten and enhanced. It allows you to configure ports, services, and application access to and from local, wireless, and public networks defined in the domain, private and public profiles. Most advanced configuration takes place in the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security center. Inbound, Outbound, and Connection Security Rules (for IPSec) can be used to create the most network secure version of Windows ever!

Exam Tip: IE7 includes Web site phishing protection, as well as integration of Windows Defender to protect against spyware and phishing Web sites.

Configuring Network Connectivity
Windows Vista includes a new configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting center in Control Panel: Network and Sharing Center. From here you can create connections, manage them and even see a list of shares and printers available from your PC while you are connected to a particular network. The new dynamic network map feature in the full map view can sure make troubleshooting remote access connectivity easier. Keep in mind that both IPv4 and IPv6 are enabled by default in Windows Vista.

Incorrectly configured IP gateways can lead to network connectivity errors. Most network administrators will configure the first IP address such as as the gateway or router for the network. If a PC's address is within the range of and everything should work.

Exam Tip: An example of an IPv6 address is 2001:0:4136:e37a:c3f:3277:bbf1:256b.

Configuring Applications included with Vista
Windows Vista Media Center edition is included with Vista Home Premium and Ultimate. It allows you to control all of your home entertainment devices from your PC. It includes Media Center Extender technology that can be configured through the Tasks, Settings menu to connect to your Xbox 360.

Windows Mail is the replacement for Outlook Express. It includes both an e-mail and newsgroup client. The latter allows you to connect with other Windows Vista PC users using Microsoft Communities. You can subscribe to a particular newsgroup and just read or post requests for help. You can also use it to access the new Windows Calendar -- a welcome application which allows you to keep your personal schedule even on a shared PC. It can be shared with other Vista users locally or through a published network share.

Windows Meeting Space allows you to share and jointly edit files and share desktop meeting space with up to 10 other Vista users -- even without a server. Windows Fax and Scan allows you to scan a document and fax it using Windows Vista, instead of e-mailing it as an attachment. The Windows Sidebar is another useful feature allowing you to display clocks, stocks, calendars and weather right from the desktop. These are all referred to as gadgets and can easily be added and removed.

Exam Tip: Using Windows Vista Sidebar and Sideshow and a laptop equipped with an external lid display, you can quickly view e-mail, phone numbers and addresses, and even your calendar.

Maintaining, Optimizing Systems that Run Vista
Windows Vista performance issues are similar to those found in previous versions of Windows, with one exception; Vista includes a utility called Windows Experience Index. Found in the Performance Information and Tools center of Control Panel, it reports on your PC's core hardware devices and gives a base score. The item, such as Graphics, with the lowest base score is used as the Index base score. Upgrading your graphics card would be the recommendation. The greater values, with the maximum being 5, identifies a device's ability to fully support Vista and allows you to experience everything it has to offer.

Task Manager, System Information and a version of Disk Defragmenter with a scheduler are all included in Windows Vista. These utilities allow you to view and end processes, view hardware including problem devices and optimize your disk file storage.

Many data protection options and features have been added to Vista. There is IPSec to secure network data, BitLocker drive encryption, TPM 1.2 support for data encryption, Windows Defender to protect against spyware and malware, the Parental Controls I mentioned earlier, and the new firewall, to name a few. However, there's no built-in virus detection software. Antivirus software, Windows updates and a firewall are all required for PC's accessing the Internet today. Be sure yours has these!

Exam Tip: Windows Update in Vista is integrated and can notify, download and install updates from Microsoft including operating system upgrade features.

Configuring and Troubleshooting Mobile Computing
The Windows Mobility Center offers a one-stop shop for managing and configuring laptop sound cards, batteries, wireless cards, external displays, file synchronization and presentation settings. You can also configure power settings for your PC, such as the hard disk, display and CPU and power-saving states, such as hibernation and sleep.

Must-Know Tips Before Taking an Exam

If this is your very 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 are 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. (For first-time exam takers, Microsoft usually provides incentive offers; you'll find these on the Microsoft MCP Web site.)
  • You will receive an onscreen pass or fail indicator at the completion of the exam.
  • You will also receive a printed score report upon exiting the exam booth.
  • You will receive a certificate, wallet card, congratulations letter and Microsoft Certification number after you have requested the certification package from Microsoft's web site. (Don't forget to give a valid email address when registering for your exam.)
  • You can take any IT exam at any testing center sponsored by Thomson Prometric or Pearson VUE.

One more tip while you're taking the exam: You will be able to move forward and backward through the exam 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. You should, however, 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 as incorrect.

You can mark questions you are unsure of and return using the back button or by using the review screen at the end prior to scoring.

Windows Vista Tablet PC edition offers even more for tablet PCs. Using the Pen and Input Devices center in Control Panel you can configure the response and actions based on your input style.

Exam Tip: The Power Options center of Control Panel allows you to select between three predefined power plans; balanced, power saver, and high performance. These can also be customized by using Advanced Power Settings.

That wraps it up for this exam review. Remember, nothing beats hands-on experience when preparing for an exam. Divide your time preparing for this exam by practicing, reviewing, and reading everything you can find. Good luck!

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