Exam Reviews

70-623: A Vista Exam for Consumer Support Techs

What's the difference between a retail and business installation of Vista? If you don't know, you're not ready to take this new-generation MCP exam for Vista.

Exam 70-623 PRO: stands alone as a Microsoft certification. The exam targets IT professionals who work within the consumer market supporting end users. Familiar with The Geek Squad? Well, that's the target audience. Exam 70-623 gives this group a way to prove their knowledge supporting users with installation, configuration and troubleshooting retail versions of Windows Vista installed on consumers' machines.

Besides this exam, Microsoft has released four other Windows Vista exams:

  • 70-620 TS: Configuring Windows Vista (reviewed here)
  • 70-624 TS: Deploying and Maintaining Windows Vista and 2007 Office System Desktops
  • 70-621 Pro: Upgrading your MCDST Certification to MCITP Enterprise Support
  • 70-622 Pro: Supporting and Troubleshooting Applications on Windows Vista for Enterprise Support Technicians (reviewed here)

The 70-621 and 70-622 exams are aimed at testing candidates' knowledge of Vista installations at business and enterprise-class environments and qualify for the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist and Microsoft Certified IT Professional certifications.

I took the 70-623 beta, which had 77 questions and was timed at 190 minutes. The final version of the exam is limited to 90-120 minutes, but has somewhere around 50 questions.

This exam was wide in scope and tested the candidate’s knowledge of all aspects of supporting users of Windows Vista in the consumer market in these key areas:

  • Install, upgrade Windows Vista
  • Post-Installation customization and configuration
  • Configuring Vista security
  • Configuring, troubleshoot, repairing networking
  • Installing, configuring, troubleshooting devices
  • Troubleshooting, repairing Vista

My first recommendation for study falls under the category of hands-on -- if you're new to Vista, you need some time at the controls, and it’s always time well spent!

Microsoft has several online and e-learning courses available for this exam (search here and here). If you'd rather take the self-study route, the official Microsoft Press publication is MCITP Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-623): Supporting and Troubleshooting Applications on a Windows Vista Client for Consumer Support Technicians by Anil Desai. For my study, I went to www.WindowsVista.com. It 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, where you’ll find all the printed study information you’ll need. I highly recommend you study the following documents available there: Windows Vista Product Guide, Deploying Vista Step by Step Guide, Windows Vista Security Guide, Understanding and Configuring User Account Control in Windows Vista, Step-By-Step Guide to Controlling Device Installation and Usage with Group Policy, and finally; Windows Vista Networking.

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 Web site for a general idea of what to expect on this exam.

Install and Upgrade Windows Vista
Minimum hardware requirements for Vista are a 800MHz CPU with 512 MB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive, and a DVD drive. You'll do better if you have at least a 1GHz or greater CPU, 1GB of RAM, and a 40GB hard drive (15GB of free disk space is required for upgrades). The Windows Aero feature requires a DirectX 9 video card that supports a Windows Display Driver Model driver, Pixel Shader 2.0, and is 32-bit pixel capable. The greater processor, memory, and video card allow you to experience all that Vista has to offer.

You can upgrade Windows XP Home or Professional with service pack 2 to one of the five versions of Windows Vista, or a Windows 2000 Professional PC via the clean install method using the Files and Settings Transfer wizard. If you're 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.

Installation issues can come up if the hardware is not at the minimum levels as stated previously, and it’s highly recommended you download and run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor to determine if your computer is hardware and software compatible.

Exam Tip: You cannot perform an upgrade to Windows Vista retaining personal files, settings and programs from Windows 2000.

70-623 Installing, Maintaining, Supporting, and Troubleshooting Applications on Windows Vista (Beta)

Reviewer's Rating
This exam is geared towards consumer support technicians in the field supporting consumer versions of Windows Vista for home or small business end users. It focuses on the most fundamental knowledge required for supporting Windows Vista.

This exam can be used for achieving the MCITP: Consumer Support Technician. There is no information as to whether or not this exam will qualify as a core or an elective for the MCSA or MCSE 2003.

Exam Title
70-623 PRO: Microsoft Desktop Support -- Consumer

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

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

Who Should Take It
Anyone wishing to prove their knowledge of supporting users of Windows Vista in the home and small business environment.

Exam Objectives

Another option -- rather than upgrade or a clean install -- is to configure your computer with the old version of Windows along with Windows Vista. Often referred to as a multi-boot or dual-boot configuration, this approach allows you to resort to your old version if you change your mind, if things go wrong or you simply need time to migrate your files and settings. Microsoft provides a step-by-step article here showing the way.

Post-Installation: Customize and Configure Settings
Windows Sidebar provides a method of organizing the information you want to access quickly on the desktop. Sidebar is located on the desktop and contains gadgets, which are customizable mini-programs that display continuously updated information, with some that allow you to perform common tasks without opening a window. You can find more gadgets on the Microsoft Gadgets site here. To uninstall a gadget, click the plus sign at the top of the sidebar, right-click the gadget and click uninstall.

To support and configure the newest display option in Windows Vista, Aero, your system must meet the video card requirements as stated earlier. Be certain and make sure that the color is set to 32 bit and the monitor refresh rate is set higher than 10 hertz. The theme should then be set to Windows Vista, color scheme set to Windows Aero, and window frame transparency set on.

With many versions of Windows including Vista, each account type gives a user a different level of control over the computer. The standard user account is the account to use for all users. The administrator account provides the most control over the computer, and should only be used when necessary. The guest account is primarily for people who need temporary access to the computer. Windows Vista includes a new technology and security level called User Account Control -- more on this later.

When you use a standard user account, you can use most programs that are installed on the computer, but you can't install or uninstall software or hardware, delete files that are required for the computer to work, or change settings on the computer that affect other users. If you're using a standard user account, some programs might require you to provide an administrator password before you can perform certain tasks.

The Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor from Microsoft can help determine if all your installed hardware and software is compatible with Windows Vista prior to upgrading. Another method to verify whether or not your program software is compatible with Windows Vista is to download the Microsoft Application Compatibility Toolkit. It's an advanced tool, but it can provide very valuable information regarding thousands of software programs and versions and their compatibility with Windows Vista. ACT includes real-time reporting for many applications from the user community of Windows Vista and possible workarounds or show-stoppers with program software.

There are many ways to improve your computer’s performance and some of them are new to Windows Vista. The Performance Information and Tools lists found in Control Panel, has tasks that can help improve the performance of your computer, and it also shows information about your computer's performance capabilities. One way to speed up your system is to manage the startup programs that start themselves automatically when you start Windows. Too many of these programs opening at the same time can slow down your computer. This can be done with the new application from Microsoft, Windows Defender. Turning off unnecessary visual effects like Aero, disk defragmenting and adjusting disk and file indexing options (found in Control Panel) can help improve performance.

Configure Windows Vista Security
The Windows Security Center found in Control Panel is the main entry point for configuring, maintaining and troubleshooting security settings for consumer desktop users. Windows Security Center can help enhance your computer's security by checking the status of several security essentials on your computer, including firewall settings, Windows automatic updating, anti-malware software settings, Internet security settings and User Account Control settings.

If Windows detects a problem with any of these security essentials -- for example, if your antivirus software is out of date -- Security Center displays a notification and places a Security Center shield icon in the notification area. Click the notification or double-click the Security Center icon to open Security Center and get information about how to fix the problem.

Exam Tip: Windows Vista can’t detect all types and versions of antivirus software and it may be necessary to configure Vista not to monitor for installed antivirus software if you've already installed and configured correctly.

A firewall can help prevent hackers or malicious software such as worms from gaining access to your computer through a network or the Internet. A firewall can also help stop your computer from sending malicious software to other computers. Windows checks if your computer is protected by a software firewall. If the firewall is off, Security Center will display a notification and put a Security Center shield icon in the notification area.

Windows can routinely check for updates for your computer and install them automatically. You can use Security Center to make sure Automatic updating is turned on. If updating is turned off, Security Center will display a notification and put a Security Center shield icon in the notification area.

It's important to run anti-spyware software whenever you're using your computer. Spyware and other potentially unwanted software can try to install itself on your computer any time you connect to the Internet. Potentially unwanted or malicious software can also be programmed to run at unexpected times, not just when it is downloaded or installed. Windows Defender protects against most spyware with its default configuration and automatic updates.

Windows Vista Parental Controls is a new feature that adds control over standard user accounts, such as children who might be using a consumer computer. It provides for control and monitoring of software programs, such as games with ratings, Internet Web sites, and can even control and monitor hours of computer usage. Age ratings for games group content into levels appropriate for different ages, from young children through mature teens and an adults-only category.

Internet Explorer 7 includes new security and privacy features that allow you to safely browse the Web:

  • Phishing Filter can help protect you from phishing attacks, online fraud and spoofed Web sites.
  • Protected mode can help protect your computer from Web sites that try to install malicious software or to save files on your computer without your consent.
  • Higher security levels can help protect you from hackers and Web attacks.
  • The Security Status bar displays the identity of secure Web sites to help you make informed decisions when using online banking or merchants.
  • Internet Explorer's add-on disabled mode lets you start Internet Explorer without toolbars, ActiveX controls or other add-ons that might slow down your computer or prevent you from getting online.

Windows Vista includes User Account Control for added security and control; it wasn't originally included with previous versions of Windows. UAC gives standard users the ability to run most programs but not change most system settings. When elevated permissions are required, users are automatically prompted to provide administrator credentials: username and password. UAC can also prevent malicious software or malware and spyware from installing or making changes to your computer without permission.

Exam Tip: Know which level of permission is required for standard users or administrators to manage other user accounts and for a user to change their own password.

Windows Vista includes many data security options available in previous versions of Windows and a few new ones. Encrypting File System is used to encrypt files on a computer’s hard disk. Vista also includes a new file encryption for data on the hard disk called BitLocker. It can be used to secure the entire hard disk contents, commonly used with portable computers.

Configure, Troubleshoot, and Repair Networking
It's a good idea to find out what kind of network adapters your computer has -- wired or wireless. You might decide to go with a certain technology because you already have most of the hardware, or you might decide to upgrade your hardware. Most people find that a combination works best for their environment. If both types are present and configured in Windows Vista, one or more can be disabled using their respective icon in the Network and Sharing Center found in Control Panel, or by using the Windows Device Manager. The symbol next to a device in Device Manager with the arrow pointing down signifies the device has been disabled.

Exam Tip: A computer with the IP address of 169.254.x.x may need to be assigned an address by the user for the network, or it won't receive an address from the network’s router.

When configuring Windows Vista and other Windows versions to communicate for file and printer sharing on a network, each computer must have the Client for Microsoft Networks and File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks enabled. This can be found in the properties of the network card, or simply from the Network and Sharing Center under the heading Sharing and Discovery.

Wireless networks use radio waves to send information between computers. There are three types; 802.11g offers a greater signal range than 802.11b and 802.11a networks. Wireless can be affected by interference from things such as walls, large metal objects and pipes. Also, many cordless phones and microwave ovens can interfere with wireless networks when they're in use.

Exam Tip: Manual configuration of a wireless network connection may be required if the wireless access point is not broadcasting a SSID.

You can share files and folders in several different ways. The most common way in Windows is to share them directly from your computer. Windows Vista provides two methods for sharing files in this way: share files from any folder on your computer or from a Public folder. Which method you use depends on where you want to store the shared folders, who you want to share them with and how much control you want to have over the files. Either method allows you to share files or folders with someone using your computer or another computer on the same network.

If your computer is in a workgroup, you have the option of toggling password protection. If password protection is turned on, the person you are sharing with must have a user account and password on your computer in order to access the shared files and folders. You can turn password protection on or off in the Network and Sharing Center. If you turn on file sharing for the Public folder, anyone with a user account and password on your computer, as well as everyone on your network, will be able to see all the files in your Public folder and subfolders. You cannot restrict people to just seeing some files in the Public folder. However, you can set permissions that either restricts people from accessing the Public folder or that restricts them from changing files or creating new ones.

Only available with Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate: With Windows Media Center you can play audio and data CDs, as well as video and data DVDs. To play DVDs, you must have a DVD drive and a compatible DVD decoder installed on your computer. A compatible DVD decoder is already installed on computers that include Windows Media Center. You can watch pictures in a slide show and play videos using Windows Media Center. Windows Media Center also allows you to specify a search criteria to find digital media files such as movies, videos, music, pictures, or recorded TV shows. These files are stored in libraries on your Windows Media Center PC.

You can connect a Media Center Extender device using a wired or wireless connection to connect the Extender device to your home network. When connecting to a wireless network, the Extender tries to connect silently without any action on your part. However, if the wireless network has security protocols enabled, such as a Wired Equivalent Privacy key or a Wi-Fi Protected Access password, you must provide this security information manually to the Extender. Once the network has been established, during the final configuration of Windows Media Center and Media Center Extender, you must enter the 8-digit set-up key that is displayed on the TV that's connected to the MCE.

Install, Configure, and Troubleshoot Devices
When connecting a device to a USB port on a USB hub, monitor or other device that's plugged into your computer, ensure that the USB port has enough power to support your device. Smaller devices, such as USB flash drives and mice, and devices with their own power cords, such as printers, typically work properly when connected to an unpowered USB hub. Some devices that use more power, such as USB-powered scanners and Web cameras, require a hub that has its own power cord to function properly. If a device doesn't work properly when connected to a hub, try connecting it directly to one of the computer's USB ports.

The new Microsoft Windows Mobile Device Center available in Windows Vista enables you to set up new partnerships, synchronize content and manage music, pictures and video with Windows Mobile-powered devices such as Windows Mobile 6 cell phones.

Exam Tip: Windows Mobile Device Center supports Windows Mobile 2003 and newer devices.

If the Import Pictures and Videos does not work for your camera, or if your camera uses an unusual cable, then Windows can’t get pictures from your camera automatically. You need to install software provided by the camera manufacturer. Check the manufacturer Web site for the latest driver software.

To import high-quality video using Import Video, you can connect your digital video camera to your computer in one of two ways. The first method is to use an IEEE 1394 connection: connect one end of the IEEE 1394 cable to the DV port on the camera and the other end into the IEEE 1394 port on your computer. This connection method is more popular (and often faster) than the second connection type, which uses USB 2.0.

If your computer has a built-in fax modem, Windows will automatically detect it during the set-up process. If you're not sure whether your computer has a built-in fax modem, check the hardware information that came with your computer. To set up your computer to send faxes only, click "I'll choose later; I want to create a fax now" in the Fax Setup Wizard. Keep in mind that by choosing this option, you will be able to send faxes, but you won't be able to receive them. If you want to change settings for sending and receiving faxes with a fax modem so that you can receive faxes, you need to provide an administrator password or permission. Users with administrator privileges can change the setting at any time. Before you try receiving a fax, however, make sure that your computer is connected to a fax modem.

If you can't change printer properties, you might not have permission to manage the printer. Permissions are required because changing the printer properties can affect everyone who uses the printer. When a printer is installed, members of the administrators group on the computer have permission to manage the printer by default. If you have an administrator account, you can probably change the printer properties.

Permissions can be assigned to each person who uses the printer or to a group of users who have the same type of user account. Windows offers these types of printer permissions:

  • Print. By default, each user can print and cancel, pause, or restart documents or files that they send to a printer.
  • Manage documents. If you have this permission, you can manage all jobs for a printer that are waiting in the print queue, including documents or files that are being printed by other users.
  • Manage printers. This permission allows you to rename, delete, share, and choose preferences for the printer. It also allows you to choose printer permissions for other users and to manage all jobs for the printer. Members of the administrator group for a computer have permission to manage printers by default.
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 e-mail address when registering for your exam.)
  • You can take any IT exam at any Thomson Prometric testing center.

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.

Troubleshoot and Repair Windows Vista
System Restore uses restore points to return your system files and settings to an earlier point in time, without affecting personal files. System Restore affects Windows system files, programs and registry settings. It also can make changes to scripts, batch files and other types of executable files on your computer. It does not affect personal files, such as e-mail, documents or photos, so it cannot help you restore a deleted file. If you have backups of your files, you can restore the files from a backup.

Startup Repair is a Windows recovery tool that can fix certain problems, such as missing or damaged system files which might prevent Windows from starting correctly. When you run Startup Repair, it scans your computer for the problem and then tries to fix it so your computer can start correctly. Startup Repair is located on the System Recovery Options menu, which is on the Windows installation disc. Startup Repair might prompt you to make choices as it tries to fix the problem, and if necessary, it might restart your computer as it makes repairs.

Using Software Explorer in Windows Defender, you can view detailed information about software that is currently running on your computer that can affect your privacy or the security of your computer. You can see which programs run automatically when you start Windows and information about how these programs interact with important Windows programs and services.

Software Explorer helps you monitor the following items:

  • Startup programs, which are programs that run automatically with or without your knowledge when you start Windows.
  • Currently running programs, which are programs that are currently running on the screen or in the background.
  • Network-connected programs, which are programs or processes that can connect to the Internet or to your home or office network.

That wraps it up for this exam review. Remember that 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. And don't forget to check out those links to the guides on the www.WindowsVista.com site. Good luck!

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