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CompTIA ® A+ ® Certification COMPREHENSIVE, 2009 EDITION Revised Volume 1 4.9 / 5.0 rating

CompTIA ® A+ ® Certification


Revised Volume 1

4.9/5.0 rating from ProCert Labs


™ Powerful CertBlaster® pre- and post- assessment software

™ Integrated mapping of all exam objectives

™ Hundreds of activities and review questions

post- assessment software ™ Integrated mapping of all exam objectives ™ Hundreds of activities and review
post- assessment software ™ Integrated mapping of all exam objectives ™ Hundreds of activities and review

CompTIA A+ Certification:

Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Student Manual

Volume One

CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

President, Axzo Press:

Jon Winder

Vice President, Product Development:

Charles G. Blum

Vice President, Operations:

Josh Pincus

Director of Publishing Systems Development:

Dan Quackenbush


Judi Kling, Andy LaPage, Tim Poulsen


Ken Maher


Cliff Coryea

COPYRIGHT © 2010 Axzo Press. All rights reserved.

No part of this work may be reproduced, transcribed, or used in any form or by any meansgraphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, Web distribution, or information storage and retrieval systemswithout the prior written permission of the publisher. For more information, go to


ILT Series is a trademark of Axzo Press. Some of the product names and company names used in this book have been used for identification purposes only and may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective manufacturers and sellers.


We reserve the right to revise this publication and make changes from time to time in its content without notice. The logo of the CompTIA Approved Quality Content (CAQC) program and the status of this or other training material as “Authorized” under the CompTIA Approved Quality Content program signifies that, in CompTIA’s opinion, such training material covers the content of CompTIA’s related certification exam. The contents of this training material were created for the CompTIA A+ Essentials exam, 2009 Edition (220-701), and the CompTIA A+ Practical Application exam, 2009 Edition (220-702), covering CompTIA certification objectives that were current as of September 2010.

ISBN 10: 1-4260-2178-X ISBN 13: 978-1-4260-2178-7 Printed in the United States of America 1 2 3 4 5 GL 06 05 04 03




Topic A:

About the manual


Topic B:

Setting your expectations


Topic C: Re-keying the course


Troubleshooting methodology


Topic A:

Troubleshooting stages


Topic B:



Unit summary: Troubleshooting methodology


Operating systems


Topic A:

Operating system fundamentals


Topic B:

Directory management


Topic C:

File management


Topic D:

File and folder permissions


Unit summary: Operating systems


Electricity and power supplies


Topic A: Electrical safety


Topic B:

Power supplies


Topic C: Power supply troubleshooting


Unit summary: Electricity and power supplies


CPUs and motherboards


Topic A:

Central processing units


Topic B: Cooling techniques


Topic C:



Topic D: Motherboard and CPU troubleshooting


Unit summary: CPUs and motherboards


The Basic Input/Output System


Topic A:



Topic B: The POST and boot processes


Unit summary: The Basic Input/Output System


Memory systems


Topic A:



Topic B:

Memory packaging


Topic C:

Memory installation


Topic D:

Memory monitoring


Topic E:

Memory troubleshooting


Unit summary: Memory systems


Bus structures


Topic A:



Topic B: The PCI bus


Unit summary: Bus structures



CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Expansion cards


Topic A:

Video cards


Topic B: Sound cards


Topic C:

Internal modems


Topic D: Expansion card troubleshooting


Unit summary: Expansion cards


Peripheral connection types


Topic A:

Serial and parallel connections


Topic B: PS/2 connections


Topic C:

USB connections


Topic D: FireWire connections


Topic E:

Multimedia connections


Topic F:

Port, cable, and connector troubleshooting


Unit summary: Peripheral connection types


Data storage devices


Topic A: Drive adapters


Topic B: Hard drives


Topic C: Optical drives


Topic D: Removable storage devices


Topic E:

Drive maintenance


Topic F:

Storage device troubleshooting


Unit summary: Data storage devices


Video output and image input devices


Topic A:



Topic B:



Unit summary: Video output and image input devices




Topic A:

Printing technologies


Topic B: Printer installation


Topic C:

Printer optimization and maintenance


Topic D:

Printer troubleshooting


Unit summary: Printers


Connecting computers


Topic A:

Networking concepts


Topic B:

Wired network connections


Topic C: Basic internetworking devices


Unit summary: Connecting computers


Networking computers


Topic A:



Topic B: Client configuration


Unit summary: Networking computers


Network troubleshooting


Topic A:

Troubleshooting basics

Topic B: Troubleshooting the network Unit summary: Network troubleshooting

Topic B: Troubleshooting the network Unit summary: Network troubleshooting
Topic B: Troubleshooting the network Unit summary: Network troubleshooting





Portable computers


Topic A:

Notebook computers


Topic B:



Topic C: Component replacement


Topic D:

Notebook issues


Unit summary: Portable computers


Windows management


Topic A:

System management


Topic B: Task Scheduler


Topic C:

Resource management


Topic D:

Remote management


Unit summary: Windows management


Windows monitoring


Topic A:

System monitoring


Topic B:

System performance


Topic C: Backup and restore


Unit summary: Windows monitoring


Operating system troubleshooting


Topic A: Windows startup


Topic B:

System troubleshooting


Unit summary: Operating system troubleshooting




Topic A:

Operating system security


Topic B: Windows Encrypting File System


Topic C:

Security hardware


Topic D: Common security threats


Topic E:

The human aspects of security


Unit summary: Security


Windows installation and upgrades


Topic A: Windows installation


Topic B:



Unit summary: Windows installation and upgrades


Safety and maintenance


Topic A:

Safety and hazards


Topic B:

Computer maintenance


Topic C:

Safe work practices


Topic D:

Disposing of computer equipment


Unit summary: Safety and maintenance


The Open Systems Interconnection model

Topic A: The OSI model

System cases

Topic A: System cases

Binary and hexadecimal numbering

Topic A: Count like a computer








CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

CompTIA A+ acronyms

Topic A: List of abbreviations

Certification exam objectives map




Topic A: Essentials (2009) comprehensive exam objectives Topic B: Practical Application (2009) comprehensive exam objectives

A: Essentials (2009) comprehensive exam objectives Topic B: Practical Application (2009) comprehensive exam objectives



Course summary


Topic A:

Course summary


Topic B: Continued learning after class








After reading this introduction, you will know how to:

A Use ILT Series manuals in general.

B Use prerequisites, a target student description, course objectives, and a skills inventory to properly set your expectations for the course.

C Re-key this course after class.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Topic A: About the manual

ILT Series philosophy

Our manuals facilitate your learning by providing structured interaction with the software itself. While we provide text to explain difficult concepts, the hands-on activities are the focus of our courses. By paying close attention as your instructor leads you through these activities, you will learn the skills and concepts effectively.

We believe strongly in the instructor-led class. During class, focus on your instructor. Our manuals are designed and written to facilitate your interaction with your instructor, and not to call attention to manuals themselves.

We believe in the basic approach of setting expectations, delivering instruction, and providing summary and review afterwards. For this reason, lessons begin with objectives and end with summaries. We also provide overall course objectives and a course summary to provide both an introduction to and closure on the entire course.

Manual components

The manuals contain these major components:

Table of contents




Course summary



Each element is described below.

Table of contents

The table of contents acts as a learning roadmap.


The introduction contains information about our training philosophy and our manual components, features, and conventions. It contains target student, prerequisite, objective, and setup information for the specific course.


Units are the largest structural component of the course content. A unit begins with a title page that lists objectives for each major subdivision, or topic, within the unit. Within each topic, conceptual and explanatory information alternates with hands-on activities. Units conclude with a summary comprising one paragraph for each topic, and an independent practice activity that gives you an opportunity to practice the skills you’ve learned.

The conceptual information takes the form of text paragraphs, exhibits, lists, and tables. The activities are structured in two columns, one telling you what to do, the other providing explanations, descriptions, and graphics.




An appendix is similar to a unit in that it contains objectives and conceptual explanations. However, an appendix does not include a summary or review questions. In CompTIA courses, there are two additional appendices—one contains a list of CompTIA acronyms, and the other contains a certification exam objective map.

Course summary

This section provides a text summary of the entire course. It is useful for providing closure at the end of the course. The course summary also indicates the next course in this series, if there is one, and lists additional resources you might find useful as you continue to learn about the software.


The glossary provides definitions for all of the key terms used in this course.


The index at the end of this manual makes it easy for you to find information about a particular software component, feature, or concept.

Manual conventions

We’ve tried to keep the number of elements and the types of formatting to a minimum in the manuals. This aids in clarity and makes the manuals more classically elegant looking. But there are some conventions and icons you should know about.



Italic text

In conceptual text, indicates a new term or feature.

Bold text

In unit summaries, indicates a key term or concept. In an independent practice activity, indicates an explicit item that you select, choose, or type.

Code font

Indicates code or syntax.

Longer strings of code will look like this.

In the hands-on activities, any code that’s too long to fit on a single line is divided into segments by one or more continuation characters (). This code should be entered as a continuous string of text.

Select bold item

In the left column of hands-on activities, bold sans-serif text indicates an explicit item that you select, choose, or type.

Keycaps like e

Indicate a key on the keyboard you must press.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Hands-on activities

The hands-on activities are the most important parts of our manuals. They are divided into two primary columns. The “Here’s how” column gives short instructions to you about what to do. The “Here’s why” column provides explanations, graphics, and clarifications. Here’s a sample:

Do it!


Creating a commission formula

Here’s how

Here’s why

1 Open Sales

This is an oversimplified sales compensation worksheet. It shows sales totals, commissions, and incentives for five sales reps.

2 Observe the contents of cell F4

2 Observe the contents of cell F4

The commission rate formulas use the name “C_Rate” instead of a value for the commission rate.

For these activities, we have provided a collection of data files designed to help you learn each skill in a real-world business context. As you work through the activities, you will modify and update these files. Of course, you might make a mistake and therefore want to re-key the activity starting from scratch. To make it easy to start over, you will rename each data file at the end of the first activity in which the file is modified. Our convention for renaming files is to add the word “My” to the beginning of the file name. In the above activity, for example, a file called “Sales” is being used for the first time. At the end of this activity, you would save the file as “My sales,” thus leaving the “Sales” file unchanged. If you make a mistake, you can start over using the original “Sales” file.

In some activities, however, it might not be practical to rename the data file. If you want to retry one of these activities, ask your instructor for a fresh copy of the original data file.



Topic B: Setting your expectations

Properly setting your expectations is essential to your success. This topic will help you do that by providing:

Prerequisites for this course

A description of the target student

A list of the objectives for the course

A skills assessment for the course

Course prerequisites

This is a fast-paced, comprehensive course designed to present the knowledge and skills needed for both CompTIA A+ (2009 Edition) certification exams. Before taking this course, you should be highly proficient with personal computers. Furthermore, this course assumes that you have advanced user-level skills in Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, or Windows 2000 Professional. These skills and knowledge can be obtained by completing the following courses:

Windows 7: Basic and Windows 7: Advanced

Windows Vista: Basic and Windows Vista: Advanced

Windows XP SP2: Basic and Windows XP SP2: Advanced

Target student

This course will prepare you for the CompTIA A+ Essentials certification exam (2009 objectives, version 2.0) and the CompTIA A+ Practical Application certification exam (2009 objectives, version 2.0). It is designed for students seeking to become entry-level IT professionals. You will gain the skills and knowledge necessary to perform the following tasks on personal computer hardware and operating systems:

Identify PC components

Configure PC network connections

Provide IT support for portable computers

Monitor and manage Windows operating systems

Diagnose basic hardware problems by using a troubleshooting methodology

Install and upgrade Windows operating systems

Complete preventative maintenance tasks

Install, maintain, troubleshoot, and replace computer hardware and peripherals

Maintain and troubleshoot the Windows operating system

Install a small-office/home-office network, and troubleshoot network connections

Secure personal computers


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Course objectives

These overall course objectives will give you an idea about what to expect from the course. It is also possible that they will help you see that this course is not the right one for you. If you think you either lack the prerequisite knowledge or already know most of the subject matter to be covered, you should let your instructor know that you think you are misplaced in the class.

After completing this course, you will know how to:

Describe the CompTIA A+ troubleshooting methodology.

Provide professional customer service when providing IT support.

Use basic Windows interface tools.

Examine power supplies and connectors, install and troubleshoot power supplies while following procedures for working safely with electrical components.

Identify, install and troubleshoot various motherboards and CPUs.

Configure the PC’s BIOS and boot the computer.

Identify, install and troubleshoot various types of memory, and monitor memory usage in Windows.

Examine the settings for buses.

Identify, install and troubleshoot various types of expansion cards.

Attach peripheral devices.

Install, use and troubleshoot data storage devices.

Connect video output and image input devices.

Install, configure, maintain and troubleshoot printers.

Identify various network connection types, and implement a SOHO network.

Configure a TCP/IP client.

Troubleshoot client-side connectivity.

Provide IT support for portable computers.

Manage the Windows operating system.

Monitor the Windows operating system.

Troubleshoot system startup problems and the Windows operating system.

Apply various measures to keep computer systems secure and prevent unauthorized access.

Install and upgrade Windows operating systems.

Maintain a safe computing environment.



How to become CompTIA certified

To achieve CompTIA A+ certification, a student must register for and pass the CompTIA A+ Essentials (2009 Edition) exam and the CompTIA A+ Practical Application (2009 Edition) exam.

In order to become CompTIA certified, students must:

1 Select a certification exam provider. For more information, students should visit

2 Register for and schedule a time to take the CompTIA certification exam(s) at a convenient location.

3 Read and sign the Candidate Agreement, which will be presented at the time of the exam. The complete text of the Candidate Agreement can be found at

4 Take and pass the CompTIA certification exam(s).

For more information about CompTIA’s certifications, such as its industry acceptance, benefits, or program news, students should visit

CompTIA is a not-for-profit information technology (IT) trade association. CompTIA’s certifications are designed by subject matter experts from across the IT industry. Each CompTIA certification is vendor-neutral, covers multiple technologies, and requires demonstration of skills and knowledge widely sought after by the IT industry.

To contact CompTIA with any questions or comments, please call (630) 678-8300 or e-mail


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Skills inventory

Use the following form to gauge your skill level entering the class. For each skill listed, rate your familiarity from 1 to 5, with five being the most familiar. This is not a test. Rather, it is intended to provide you with an idea of where you’re starting from at the beginning of class. If you’re wholly unfamiliar with all the skills, you might not be ready for the class. If you think you already understand all of the skills, you might need to move on to the next course in the series. In either case, you should let your instructor know as soon as possible.







Describing the CompTIA A+ troubleshooting model


Interacting professionally with users and achieving customer satisfaction


Identifying operating system fundamentals


Managing directories and files on a Microsoft Windows computer


Controlling access to files and folders on a Windows computer


Identifying electrostatic discharge and following ESD safe practices while working with computer components


Describing the purpose and features of PC power supplies


Installing power supplies


Troubleshooting power supplies


Describing the function and features of CPUs, identifying a CPU, and classifying CPUs according to their specifications


Describing CPU packaging options and related slot and socket technologies, and describing the techniques used to cool CPUs and other components in a PC


Installing a CPU


Replacing a cooling fan


Describing motherboards, their components, and their form factors


Installing a motherboard


Accessing the BIOS setup utility, modifying hardware configuration values, and researching BIOS updates


Explaining the POST and boot processes


Describing the function of memory and differentiating among various types of memory chips




Skill 1 2 3 4 5 Differentiating among the various memory packages Installing memory Monitoring
Differentiating among the various memory packages
Installing memory
Monitoring memory usage
Troubleshooting memory
Describing the primary types of buses and defining the terms
interrupt, IRQ, I/O address, DMA, and base memory address
Describing the features and functions of the PCI bus
Describing the features and functions of the various graphic
Describing video adapters and standards
Installing an expansion card
Defining sound cards and identifying the components of a sound
Describing modem standards and identifying the components of a
Troubleshooting expansion cards
Identifying and connecting serial and parallel ports, cables, and
Identifying and connecting USB ports, cables, and connectors
Identifying and connecting FireWire (IEEE 1394) ports, cables,
and connectors
Identifying and connecting multimedia ports
Troubleshooting ports, cables, and connectors
Defining the common drive interfaces
Describing hard drives, partitions, and file systems
Installing a hard drive
Describing optical data storage
Installing an optical drive and using optical drives and discs
Installing removable media drives
Using removable drives


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Skill 1 2 3 4 5 Maintaining and troubleshooting hard drives, optical drives, and removable
Maintaining and troubleshooting hard drives, optical drives, and
removable media drives
Explaining how CRT and LCD monitors produce images
Installing and configuring cameras
Comparing and contrasting printing technologies
Installing, configuring, and managing printers
Performing routine printer maintenance tasks
Troubleshooting printers
Describing the basic components of a network
Comparing wired network connections
Differentiating between basic internetworking devices
Describing how various types of addresses are used to identify
devices on a network
Installing and configuring a SOHO network
Creating client network connections through wired, wireless, and
dial-up methods
Troubleshooting client-side connectivity issues
Identifying and installing notebook components
Troubleshooting and maintaining notebook components
Managing the operating system
Scheduling tasks
Participating in a Remote Assistance session
Connecting to another computer via Remote Desktop
Monitoring the operating system
Monitoring system performance
Backing up and restoring your computer
Identifying the stages of the Windows startup process









Identifying operating system problems


Configuring basic Windows user authentication


Using Windows file encryption


Discussing biometric and other security devices


Recognizing and mitigating common security threats


Managing the human aspects of computer security


Installing a Windows operating system


Upgrading from one version of Windows to another


Examining safety issues and hazards in the computing environment


Identifying preventative maintenance tasks for personal computers


Identifying ways to avoid injury and strain when working with computers


Examining proper methods for disposing of computer equipment



CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Topic C: Re-keying the course

If you have the proper hardware and software, you can re-key this course after class. This section explains what you’ll need in order to do so, and how to do it.

Hardware requirements

Your personal desktop computer should have:

A keyboard and a pointing device such as a mouse

1 GHz or higher 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor

1 GB or higher RAM on 32-bit processor computers or 2 GB or higher RAM on 64-bit processor computers

At least 40 GB of free hard disk space on 32-bit processor computers or at least 50 GB of free hard disk space on 64-bit processor computers

DVD-R ROM drive

Monitor with DirectX 9 graphics support; Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) 1.0 or higher

Wired NIC


A video card with two monitor ports for the independent practice activity in the “Video output ad image input devices” unit. If the video adapter cards in your computers have only one monitor port, students can do all other activities in the course, but will not be able to complete this independent practice activity.

Activity hardware requirements

In addition to the hardware requirements for your personal desktop computer, you will need the following hardware to complete various course activities.

Unit 3 (Electricity and power supplies):


Variety of batteries for testing

Extra power supply (If you don’t have an extra power supply for students to install in their computers, you can have them remove and the reinstall the existing power supply)

Unit 4 (CPUs and motherboards):

Extra CPU (This is for an optional activity. If you don’t have an extra CPU for each computer, you can either skip the activity or have students remove and reinstall the existing CPU.)

Chip puller

Extra system fan (If you don’t have an extra system fan for students to install in their computers, you can have them remove and the reinstall the existing system fan)

Extra motherboard (This is for an optional activity. If you don’t have an extra motherboard for each computer, you can either skip the activity or have students remove and reinstall the existing motherboard.)



Unit 5 (The Basic Input/Output System):

Extra CMOS battery

Floppy drive for the unit IPA

Bootable floppy or bootable CD/DVD for the unit IPA

Unit 6 (Memory systems):

A variety memory chips or photos of memory chips

Extra memory chip for each desktop computer

A notebook computer with extra memory chip

Handheld device, such as a PDA, with extra memory chip

Unit 7 (Bus structures):

A variety of adapter cards or photos of adapter cards for the unit IPA

A variety of motherboards or photos of motherboards for the unit IPA

Unit 8 (Expansion cards):

A variety of video cards or photos of video cards

Extra video adapter

Sound card and external speakers

RJ-11 connector

Network interface card, TV or video capture card, or media reader for the unit IPA

Unit 9 (Peripheral connection types):

Serial cable and device

Parallel cable and device

PS/2 keyboard and mouse

KVM switch

USB 1.1 and 2.0 Type A and B cable, hub, and device

IEEE 1394 a and b (FireWire) cable and device

External speakers (same as Unit 8)


Multimedia device (coax, composite, component, S/PDIF)

Various types of connectors or photos of connectors


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Unit 10 (Data storage devices):

A variety ATA and SATA drives or photos

Extra internal hard drive (If you don’t have an extra internal hard drive for each computer, you can have students remove and reinstall the existing hard drive.)

Extra optical drive (If you don’t have an extra internal optical drive for each computer, you can have students remove and reinstall the existing optical drive.)

Audio CD

Blank CD-R or CD-RW disc

USB flash drive

3.5” floppy disk

Floppy disk drive

DVD-R or DVD-RW disc for the unit IPA

DVD codex for the unit IPA

Unit 11 (Video output and image input devices):

CRT monitor

LCD monitor

Digital camera

Web camera

Second monitor for the unit IPA

Unit 12 (Printers):

Local Windows 7-compatible printer

Printer paper

Printer add-on

Printer cleaning supplies

Unit 13 (Connecting computers):

Twisted-pair cable with a clear RJ-45 connector on the end

RG-6 or RG-59 cable and RG-58 coax cable with attached connector

Unit 14 (Networking computers):

Wireless access point for instructor demonstration activity

Wireless client for instructor demonstration activity

Unit 15 (Network troubleshooting)

Basic cable tester

Network analyzer



Unit 16: (Portable computers):

Notebook computer

Hot-swappable device, such as a USB device

Internal component

Peripheral device

Docking station

Cleaning products for notebook

Packaging materials for the notebook

External monitor for the unit IPA

Unit 18 (Windows monitoring):

A backup location: CD/DVD-R, network share, or space on the second partition

Unit 22 (Safety and maintenance):

Cleaning supplies for desktop computer and peripherals

Software requirements

You will need the following software:

Windows 7 Professional installation files and product keys for both classroom setup and an activity in Unit 21, “Windows installation and upgrades.”

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, which can be downloaded from Microsoft’s Downloads Web site.

Windows 7 Ultimate installation files and product keys for an activity in Unit 21.

Windows Vista Business installation files and product keys for the independent practice activity in Unit 21.

Any Windows 7 and Windows Vista drivers needed for the independent practice activity in Unit 21.

Any Windows XP application software for an activity in Unit 21.

Note: Because you will need to conduct multiple operating system installations in the “Windows installation and upgrades” unit, operating system discs should be slipstreamed with the latest service packs, if at all possible.

In addition, you will need to install the following software:

Latest service pack for Windows

Sound card drivers

A copy of the avast! antivirus software. An evaluation copy is suitable and is available at

Optional software:

DVD decoder software


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Network requirements

The following network components and connectivity are also required for rekeying this course:

Internet access, for the following purposes:

– Downloading the latest critical updates and service packs from

– Completing activities within the units.

– Downloading the Student Data files from (if necessary)

Your computer needs to be connected to the network through TCP/IP and receiving IP addressing information from a DHCP server.

You will need a valid IP address and additional TCP/IP addressing information so that you can switch to manual configuration in an activity in Unit 14, “Networking computers.”

Setup instructions to re-key the course

Before you re-key the course, you will need to perform the following steps.

1 Use a third-party disk management utility or the Windows 7 Professional installation program to configure the hard disk as follows:

A 30 GB NTFS partition for the installation of Windows 7 Professional 32- bit or 40 GB NTFS partition for the installation of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, with drive letter C:

A 6 GB NTFS partition, with drive letter D:

Leave the remaining as free space

If you use the Windows 7 Professional installation program to configure the hard disk, you will be prompted to select your country or region, time and currency, and keyboard layout as indicated in step 2, prior to the hard disk configuration screen.

2 Install Windows 7 Professional on the C: drive on an NTFS partition according to the software manufacturer’s instructions.

Select your country or region, time and currency, and keyboard layout.

Enter a user account: COMPADMIN## (where ## is a unique number.)

Enter a computer name of COMPWin7-## (use the same number you chose for your username).

Enter a password of !pass1234. Enter Refer to setup as the password hint.

Enter your product key.

Select Ask me later when prompted for Automatic Updates.

Set the appropriate time zone, and time and date for your location.

Select the Work network.

3 Using Control Panel, User Accounts and Family Safety, User Accounts, create a standard user account: COMPUSER## (where ## is the same unique number that was assigned to each student’s COMPADMIN## account), with a password of !pass1234.



4 In Network and Sharing Center, Advanced Sharing Options, turn on “Network discovery” and “File and printer sharing.”

5 Use Device Manager to verify that all devices are functional. If you need to download Windows 7–compatible drivers for any devices from the manufacturers’ Web sites, keep a copy of the drivers for use during class.

6 Verify that you have Internet access. If necessary, install drivers for the network adapter and verify that the computer is receiving IP addressing information from the institution’s DHCP server. The computer must be able to connect to the Internet.

7 Create a folder named Student Data at the root of the hard drive. For a standard hard drive setup, this will be C:\Student Data.

8 Copy the data files to the Student Data folder. If you don’t have the data CD that came with this manual, download the Student Data files for the course. You can download the data directly to student machines, to a central location on your own network, or to a disk.

a Connect to

b Under Downloads, click Instructor-Led Training.

c Browse the subject categories to locate your course. Then click the course title to display a list of available downloads. (You can also access these downloads through our Catalog listings.)

d Click the link(s) for downloading the Student Data files, and follow the instructions that appear on your screen. Keep a copy of the files where students can access them after reinstallation in Unit 19, “Windows installation and upgrades.”

Setting up troubleshooting activities

Some of the units contain a troubleshooting activity. In these activities, you are asked to solve problems related to the material of that unit. This section presents ideas for problems that can be implemented.

You will need to ask someone to implement one of these problems for you so that you can troubleshoot.

Unit 3: Electricity and power supplies

For the Topic C activity entitled “Troubleshooting power supply problems,” you can implement one or more of these problems:

Unplug the computer from the wall outlet.

Plug the computer into a non-functioning UPS device or surge protector.

Disconnect the power supply from the motherboard.

Disconnect the hard disk from the power supply.

Replace the power supply with a non-functioning power supply.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Unit 5: The Basic Input/Output System

For the Topic B activity entitled “Troubleshooting BIOS and POST problems,” you can implement one or more of these problems:

Switch the keyboard and mouse cables so that each one is plugged into the other’s port.

Substitute a keyboard with a stuck key or some other defect that would cause the POST to fail.

Replace the CMOS battery with a dead battery, or simply remove the battery from the motherboard.

Reset one or more BIOS setup values that would leave the computer unbootable or unusable. For example, change the boot drive order, disable the hard drive controller (if it’s the boot device), or configure the on-board video controller to an extremely low-resolution display.

Install a defective memory module so that the POST fails when it tests memory.

(Advanced) Flash the BIOS with an incorrect or outdated version.

Unit 6: Memory systems

For the Topic E activity entitled “Troubleshooting memory,” you can implement one or more of these problems:

Replace one or more memory modules with a defective memory module.

Loosen a module in its socket so that its pins don’t make proper connections.

Reconfigure the BIOS with an incorrect quantity of memory.

Install the incorrect type of module for the computer—install modules that are too slow, implement parity when the motherboard doesn’t, or don’t implement parity when the motherboard does, and so forth.

Install modules of different size or speed within a single bank.

Remove one of the modules from a bank.

Unit 8: Expansion cards

For the Topic D activity entitled “Troubleshooting expansion card problems,” you can implement one or more of these problems:

Set the video mode to a mode that the monitor cannot support.

Set the video refresh rate to a value that the monitor cannot support.

Install a failing monitor that is blurry or displays an unsteady image.

Install an out-of-date and buggy version of the video driver.

Install the wrong video driver for the video adapter.

Mute the sound.

Disconnect the speaker’s power cord.

Loosen the adapter card in its slot so that its connectors do not make full contact.

Disconnect the CD-to-sound-card audio cable.

Turn off all Windows sounds in the Control Panel.

Disconnect the phone cable from the modem.

Use a bad phone cable to connect the modem to the jack.



Configure the modem to use incorrect connection parameters (stop bits, parity, etc.).

After the modem is installed, change COM port configurations so that the modem can’t access the ports.

Change the COM port configurations in the BIOS to values that the modem card doesn’t support.

Give students a voice or fax number to dial into instead of another modem line.

Install damaged or nonfunctioning adapter cards, such as video cards, modem cards, and sound cards.

(Advanced) Put tape over the adapter’s edge connector or paint some of the connector’s pins with nail polish so that they cannot make contact.

Unit 9: Peripheral connection types

For the Topic F activity entitled “Troubleshooting problems with peripheral connections,” you can implement one or more of these problems:

Connect the keyboard to the mouse port and vice versa.

Disable the serial port in the BIOS.

Disable the parallel port in the BIOS.

Within the BIOS, assign nonstandard system resources that are likely to conflict with other devices in the system.

Cut one of the wires in the serial, parallel, USB, or FireWire cable.

Substitute a null modem cable for a straight-through cable.

Provide students with a USB device that requires external power, but don’t give them the power adapter.

Install too many unpowered devices on the USB bus.

Provide students with a USB 2.0–only device to go with their USB 1.1 systems.

Disable the infrared port in the BIOS.

Provide students with a nonfunctioning external modem.

Bend one of the pins in the male serial or parallel connector so that it cannot make contact.

Provide students with a defective or nonfunctioning mouse or keyboard (for example, one that has been dropped or had liquid spilled on it).

Configure the external modem to use nonstandard connection parameters, such as a very slow port speed, mark or space parity, hardware flow control, and so forth.

Provide students with a printer that supports just one parallel port mode (bi- directional, EPP, and so forth), but configure the BIOS to implement a different port mode.

Provide students with a nonfunctioning printer.

Tell students to connect to a remote PC with their modems, but give them a voice number to dial into (such as an automated weather line or some other line not likely to be answered by a person, who would get annoyed by the data calls).

Cover the infrared window on the PC or device with tape, dirt, or something like nail polish that will attenuate the infrared signal without being too obviously present.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Disconnect or remove the antenna from the radio wireless device.

(Advanced) Provide students with an 802.11a hub and 802.11g wireless networking cards.

(Advanced) Within the system case, disconnect the ribbon cable that runs from the serial, parallel, or USB port connector to the motherboard.

Unit 10: Data storage devices

For the Topic F activity entitled “Troubleshooting data storage devices,” you can implement one or more of these problems:

Provide students with a damaged floppy disk. (You could scratch the disk surface, poke a pinhole in it, wrinkle it, or jam the spindle so that the disk won’t turn.)

Remove the twist from the floppy drive cable.

Configure the BIOS so that floppy drive A: is addressed as B: and vice versa.

Disable the floppy drive in the BIOS.

Disconnect the power cable from the floppy drive.

Install the floppy drive cable’s connector backward (force the connector backward into the socket).

Configure the BIOS so that the system will not boot from the floppy drive.

Install a damaged, failing, or dead hard drive.

Install the hard drive cable’s connector backward (force the connector backward into the socket).

Install the hard drive’s cable backward (connect the motherboard connector to the drive, and connect the master drive connector to the motherboard).

Install a bad hard drive cable.

Bend one of the pins in the hard drive’s connector so that the cable cannot make full contact with all of the conductors. Warning: Doing this may permanently damage the drive. Bent pins can break, leaving the drive unusable.

Configure the IDE drive identification incorrectly (for example, configure the drive as a slave when it’s actually the only drive in the system).

Configure SCSI IDs incorrectly so that there’s a conflict on the bus.

Remove termination from one or both ends of the bus, or install extra terminators within the chain.

Disconnect the power cable from the hard drive.

In the BIOS, configure the boot order so that it does not include the primary hard drive.

Delete all partitions on the hard drive to leave the system unbootable. Warning: Doing this will destroy all information on the hard drive.

Remove the “active” designation from the primary hard drive so that the system won’t boot.

Install a new drive that is partitioned, but not formatted, so that the system cannot boot from that drive.

Install, or provide students with, an extremely large hard drive (160 GB or larger) in a system that cannot support it.



With an older, slower drive, configure the BIOS to speed the boot process to the point where the drive cannot spin up and be ready by the time the startup process accesses it.

Use a scratched CD for the CD or DVD.

Use a burned DVD or CD.

Provide a DVD in place of a CD for use with a CD drive.

Plug the speakers into the MIC jack.

Disconnect or loosely connect the cable from the CD drive to the sound card.

Remove the driver for the CD drive.

Set the SCSI ID on a SCSI CD drive to a duplicate ID used by another SCSI device.

Remove (or add) termination to the SCSI CD drive.

Change the CD drive to the master drive (or as slave if it’s already a master) on an IDE channel.

Disconnect or loosely connect the power or data cable from the CD drive.

For an external CD drive, disconnect or loosely connect the power or data cable.

Use an audio DVD for the audio CD (if it is a CD drive rather than a DVD drive).

Change or remove the driver for the CD player.

Install a damaged CD drive that no longer works.

If you’re using an external CD drive, plug the drive into a power strip, but turn the power strip off.

Install the CD drive cable’s connector backward (force the connector backward into the socket).

Install the CD drive cable backward (connect the motherboard connector to the drive, and connect the master drive connector to the motherboard).

Install a bad CD drive cable.

Bend one of the pins in the CD drive’s connector so that the cable cannot make full contact with all of the conductors. Warning: Doing this may permanently damage the drive. Bent pins can break, leaving the drive unusable.

Disable the use of flash drives on the system.

Use a drive that has been damaged.

Password-protect the flash drive, but don’t tell students the password (until they ask later when they figure out that this is the problem).

Use a damaged drive that no longer works.

Use a damaged tape.

Provide the wrong drivers for the drive.

Use a controller card that is incompatible with the tape drive.

Use a damaged power and/or data cable.

Plug the drive into a power strip, but turn the power strip off.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Unit 12: Printers

For the Topic D activity, entitled “Troubleshooting printer problems,” you can implement one or more of these problems:

Replace the ink cartridges with empty ones or ones that produce poor output.

Install a printer that prints stray marks on output.

Disconnect or loosely connect the interface cable.

Disconnect or loosely connect the power cord.

Leave the cover or door open, off, or slightly ajar.

Plug the printer into the power strip, but turn off the strip.

Create a paper jam.

Remove the printer driver.

Install the wrong printer driver.

Remove the ink cartridge(s).

Turn the printer off midway through a cleaning cycle or while printing.

Provide the wrong interface cable, power cord, and/or drivers.

In the BIOS, disable the port to which the printer connects.

Add paper that is either very static-laden or humid (to produce poor images and possibly printer jams).

Replace the toner cartridge with an empty one or one that produces poor output.

Remove the toner cartridge.

If the printer requires setup on the printer, change the settings to use a different interface, or other settings. (For example, on a LaserJet printer, use the menu on the printer to specify that it’s connected via the serial port, while it is actually connected via parallel port.)

Unit 16, Portable computers

For the Topic D activity titled “Troubleshooting notebook problems,” you could implement one or problems by doing any of the following:

Connect the notebook to an external keyboard and boot it. Then disconnect the external keyboard without pressing the Fn key combination to switch back to the notebook keyboard (this often results in the keyboard having the numeric keypad enabled on the letter keys).

Connect the notebook to an external monitor, switch to the external monitor, and then disconnect the monitor.

Remove the hard drive.

Remove any PC cards.

Install a non-working PC card.

Remove a memory module.

Install additional memory, but don’t configure the system to recognize it.

Don’t fully seat a memory module.

Remove the drivers for any PC cards that are installed.

Plug in an external monitor and/or keyboard, leave the notebook open, and place the external components behind the notebook and facing the other direction so that it’s not obvious that they are connected to the notebook.



Loosely connect peripheral cables.

Disconnect the network cable.

Remove the battery, power cable, and hard drive. Provide the wrong power cable, battery, and hard drive to each student.

For the Topic D activity titled “Identifying power problems,” you could implement one or problems by doing any of the following:

Set the power options so that the monitor and hard drive are turned off after 1 minute of inactivity.

Install an uncharged battery.

Install a battery that won’t keep a charge.

Disconnect or loosely connect the power cord.

Plug the power cord into a power strip, but turn off the power strip.

If the power cord comes apart in the middle where the transformer is, disconnect or loosely connect this connection.

Plug the notebook into a power strip that is turned off, and remove the battery or install a dead battery.

CertBlaster software

CertBlaster pre- and post-assessment software is available for this course. To download and install this free software, students should complete the following steps:

1 Go to

2 Under Downloads, click CertBlaster.

3 Click one of the following links:

CompTIA A+ Essentials 2009

CompTIA A+ Practical Application

4 Save the .EXE file to a folder on your hard drive. (Note: If you skip this step, the CertBlaster software will not install correctly.)

5 Click Start and choose Run.

6 Click Browse and then navigate to the folder that contains the .EXE file.

7 Select the .EXE file and click Open.

8 Click OK and follow the on-screen instructions. When prompted for the password, enter c_a+ess09 (for Essentials) or c_a+pracapp (for Practical Application).


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One


Unit 1 Troubleshooting methodology

Unit time: 30 Minutes

Complete this unit, and you’ll know how to:

A Describe the CompTIA A+ troubleshooting model.

B Interact professionally with users and achieve customer satisfaction.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Topic A: Troubleshooting stages

This topic covers the following CompTIA A+ Essentials (2009 Edition) version 2.0 exam objectives.





Given a scenario, explain the troubleshooting theory

Identify the problem


Question user and identify user changes to computer, and perform backups before making changes


Establish a theory of probable cause (question the obvious)

Test the theory to determine cause


– Once theory is confirmed, determine next steps to resolve problem

– If theory is not confirmed, re-establish new theory or escalate


Establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution

Verify full system functionality and if applicable implement preventative measures

Document findings, actions, and outcomes


Given a scenario, explain and interpret common hardware and operating system symptoms and their causes

Use documentation and resources


– User/installation manuals

– Internet/Web based

– Training materials


The troubleshooting process

Troubleshooting is the process of determining the cause of, and ultimately the solution to, a problem. By applying a logical, consistent method to the troubleshooting process, you make your job easier and shorten the time it takes to discover the root of a problem. When troubleshooting PC hardware problems, you can follow any of several popular models. This course focuses on the stages of the CompTIA A+ troubleshooting model.

CompTIA’s A+ troubleshooting model

The CompTIA A+ troubleshooting model has you work through stages to apply basic diagnostic procedures and troubleshooting techniques. CompTIA recommends working through the stages described in the following table.

Troubleshooting methodology




Identify the problem

Identify the problem by questioning the user and determining any changes the user has made to the computer. Perform a backup before making any changes on the system.

Establish a theory of probable cause

Analyze the problem, including potential causes, so you can establish a theory of probably cause. Remember to question the obvious. You can then make an initial determination of whether the problem is software- and/or hardware-related.

Test the theory to determine actual cause

Test the theory to determine the actual cause. Test components related to the problem. This process includes inspecting components for obvious things, such as connections and power being connected and turned on, proper hardware and/or software configurations, and indications of conflicts or problems in Device Manager. Also, consult vendor documentation for descriptions of status lights and other indicators.

Once you’ve confirmed your theory, create a plan of action.

If your theory is incorrect, re-establish a new theory or escalate to a higher level technician.

Establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution

Create a plan to resolve the problem and then implement the solution in your plan. You might need to include other professionals, such as your company’s network technician, to get assistance in implementing the resolution.

Verify full system functionality and, if necessary, implement preventative measures

Verify the results, and if necessary, take additional steps to correct the problem. Additional steps might include consulting with other professionals or the vendor, using alternative resources, and reviewing equipment manuals. Once you’ve established full system functionality, you need to implement applicable preventive measures to prevent the problem from reoccurring.

Document findings, actions, and outcomes

Document the actions you took to correct the problem, as well as the outcomes of those actions.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

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Discussing the CompTIA A+ troubleshooting model

Here’s how

Here’s why

1 Hector reports that his computer doesn’t work. Using the CompTIA A+ troubleshooting model, describe the first step you would take to fix his problem.

2 What documentation should you record after you’ve found the solution to Hector’s problem?

3 A user calls the Help desk because her Windows 7 Business computer has unexpectedly shut down and is now displaying a blue screen with a white STOP error. After you’ve identified the problem, what should you do next?

Troubleshooting methodology



Information resources

When you’re troubleshooting, you can use several kinds of resources to research problems and solutions. Let’s take a look at some of the resources you should consider when resolving issues.


Documentation is the key to successful troubleshooting. Such documentation takes two forms: that which is provided by others and that which you create.

You’ll find product user and installation manuals, training materials, manufacturer Web sites, and technology-related knowledge bases to be invaluable sources of information. You should consult these references early in the troubleshooting process to determine if you’re dealing with a known problem that has a previously published solution.

Problems that you must solve are often specific to your customer’s combination of hardware and software, as well as to how the person uses his system. Your notes are the best reference for future problems because they apply specifically to your customer’s environment


Forums are online discussion groups. These enable various people to gather at a central location online to discuss common interests in an open format. Members of the forum can exchange information and ideas.

A generic forum might be created to discuss general network issues. A forum most

often contains information on problems and solutions. This makes it useful when you have a problem because you can visit the forum and see if anyone else had a similar problem and found a resolution. These postings are not usually verified by a vendor or manufacturer as providing the best solution to a problem; they are just what worked for

a particular person. An example is the Web site at; it’s a site dedicated to

Windows operating systems and desktop applications, but it’s not a Microsoft-affiliated site.

Vendor-sponsored forums do have experts on staff to review the postings. They can also help members by gathering information about the problem and guiding them through the troubleshooting process. Most vendors then post a summary of the problem and step-by-step instructions for resolving the problem. An example is, which is a Web site dedicated to

Microsoft products and technologies.

Other sources

Other resources that you should consult include trade magazines and Web sites, fellow employees, newsgroups, trade shows, vendor group meetings, and independent consultants. Being open to using a variety of sources to resolve your problem gives you more flexibility in finding a solution as quickly as possible.

Keeping up-to-date on your knowledge through reading trade magazines and attending trade shows and vendor group meetings can help you keep abreast of potential

problems. Even if you haven’t yet encountered a problem being described in the article

or meeting, if it should arise, you will know what to do about it.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Your fellow employees can be a great source of information, especially if you are new

to the group. You might have worked for several years in a support capacity at one

company, but a new company might have a whole different set of common problems that could be easily resolved if only you knew where to look and what to do. Even on an

established team of support technicians, multiple people looking at the problem can bring their own experience to the table, and what one person might not see, another member of the team might see.

If you have been unable to find the solution in a timely manner, you should contact the

vendor for specific help. A vendor can usually guide you through the steps to resolve the problem. Another option to consider is hiring an independent consultant who’s an expert in the area in which you are experiencing the problem. Consultants often have vast experience in their areas of expertise and can help you find the solution quickly.

Microsoft Help and Support

When you’re having a problem with software or hardware on a computer running a Microsoft operating system, an excellent troubleshooting reference is Microsoft’s Help and Support Web site. This site contains problem and solution references for the Microsoft client operating systems you’ll be supporting, such as Windows Vista versions, as well as many other Microsoft applications and server and client operating systems. Sometimes, the Web site provides a hyperlink to an FTP site, where you can download patches and new releases.

A component of the Help and Support Center is the Microsoft Knowledge Base, which

explains many Microsoft error messages. You can enter the specific message in the Search box and retrieve a description of the error’s cause and a solution for resolving the problem.

To search the Microsoft Knowledge Base for a specific error:

1 Using Internet Explorer or another Web browser, go to

2 Begin typing the error code or words for the search.

3 Select the desired error from the list of search results.

4 Click an article to read it. Exhibit 1-1 shows an example of the components of a Microsoft Knowledge Base article. Expand each section to read its contents.

You can print articles or save them on your hard disk for later reference.

Troubleshooting methodology


Troubleshooting methodology 1 – 7 Exhibit 1-1: Components of a Microsoft Knowledge Base article

Exhibit 1-1: Components of a Microsoft Knowledge Base article


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

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Identifying documentation and information resources

Questions and answers

1 If the users you are supporting have a recurrent problem, which is the best source to use in resolving the problem?

2 Discuss the potential drawbacks of using a generic forum for answers to your problems.

3 Using a variety of sources, find the best solution to the problem assigned by your instructor.

4 A user tells you that she was attempting to take her laptop running Windows 7 Professional out of sleep mode when the computer shut down. The error recorded is KERNEL_DATA_INPAGE_ERROR. Where would you go to research the cause of this problem?

5 If necessary, turn on the power to your computer

6 Log in as COMPADMIN##

with a password of !pass1234

7 Open Internet Explorer

8 If prompted, follow the wizard to set up Windows Internet Explorer

This is an administrative user account that was created during class setup.

Turn on Suggested Sites and use Express Settings.

9 Research and determine the cause and resolution of this problem. (You can use the Advanced Search feature to narrow your results to Windows 7.)

Troubleshooting methodology


Topic B: Professionalism

This topic covers the following CompTIA A+ Essentials (2009 Edition) version 2.0 exam objective.





Given a scenario, demonstrate the appropriate use of communication skills and professionalism in the workplace

Use proper language—avoid jargon, acronyms, slang

Maintain a positive attitude

Listen and do not interrupt a customer

Be culturally sensitive


Be on time


If late, contact the customer

Avoid distractions


– Personal calls

– Talking to co-workers while interacting with customers

– Personal interruptions

Dealing with a difficult customer or situation


– Avoid arguing with customers and/or being defensive

– Do not minimize customers’ problems

– Avoid being judgmental

– Clarify customer statements


Ask open-ended questions to narrow the scope of the problem

Restate the issue or question to verify understanding

Set and meet expectations/timeline and communicate status with the customer


– Offer different repair/replacement options if applicable

– Provide documentation on the services provided

– Follow up with customers/users later to verify satisfaction

Deal appropriately with customers’ confidential materials


Located on computer, desktop, printer, etc.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One


Providing professional services

To be effective as a hardware support technician, you must be professional and courteous at all times. You must deliver accurate and complete information, and make sure that the customer fully understands your communications. You must do all this even when emotions run high, such as when a user has lost critical data or has expensive equipment that isn’t working.

To be a professional communicator, you must:

Consider the total message you’re sending.

Stay focused.

Consider the customer’s competence.

Speak professionally.

Respect the customer.

Be culturally sensitive.

Match the delivery channel to the customer.

Consider the total message

The message you deliver when communicating is more than just your words. The total message you deliver is the sum of your words, your tone of voice, facial expressions, body posture, attire, and more. The message is often more truly communicated through the nonverbal channels than through the words you use. For example, if your words express sympathy over the loss of a critical document, yet your facial expression and mannerisms convey condescension or mockery, the customer will ignore your words and take the message from your nonverbal cues.

You must be aware of all parts of the message, or your words will be lost. Match your expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, and body posture with the message you intend to deliver.

Stay focused

Many times, customers pay for your time on a per-minute or per-hour basis. Some are quick to take offense if you "waste” time with idle chit-chat. They perceive you to be wasting their money. Stick to the task at hand, fix the problem, and move on. Of course, if you’re just watching files copy during the support call, and the user is interested in talking about last night’s game or the new restaurant that just opened, that would be a fine time to engage in some pleasantries. You should be friendly and engaging, but not too talkative.

Avoid sensitive topics. Politics, religion, parenting, and relationships are all topics that you should avoid discussing with customers. When all else fails, you can always fall back on the old standby, the weather.

Consider the customer’s competence

You must match your communication level with your customer’s abilities. You need to judge the customer’s competence level and deliver the message appropriately. Consider how you might give a different answer to a three-year old and a high school student when he or she asks why the sky is blue. The same must be true with customers, though you should certainly never provide inaccurate or incorrect information just because a customer lacks a technical background.

Troubleshooting methodology


Keep in mind that most people overstate their understanding or imply they have a higher level of understanding than they actually possess. Ask clarifying questions to judge comprehension, and explain your message in various ways to ensure that the customer understands what you’re saying.

Avoid using jargon where plain language suffices. You aren’t out to impress the user with all the "techno babble” you picked up at the latest conference you attended. You need to speak clearly about the issue and implement the appropriate solutions. Explain any acronyms and abbreviations you use.

Many users like to think of themselves as computer-savvy and find it difficult to admit that there are some situations that they just can’t resolve on their own. Other users refuse to admit that they understand anything about computers and just throw up their hands when the least little problem occurs. It’s up to you as the hardware support technician to determine at what level the user can understand what the problem is and give you the information you need about it. Don’t talk down to the user, and don’t talk over the head of the user, either.

Speak professionally

Ask clarifying questions until you’re sure that both you and the customer agree that you understand the problem. Often users don’t know exactly what the problem is. They know only that when they try to do X, Y happens. In their descriptions, they might not accurately explain the problems. A caller also might not directly ask the question; he or she might dance around it, leaving you to figure it out from the various clues given.

If the user tried to fix the problem on his own and covered up the original problem with his attempted fixes or made the problem worse, he isn’t likely to want to admit this to you. If he tells you that he already tried a particular fix when you try to perform a step in your troubleshooting, calmly tell the user that in order to fix the problem, you yourself need to go through all of the most likely possibilities in an orderly manner. If you do something that was already tried, then it’s possible that some step in between altered the outcome of trying that fix again.

If you discover that the user has created a problem through a misunderstanding of how things work, be sure to explain how to perform the task, so the problem doesn’t recur. You might recommend an online course or a classroom course that the user should consider enrolling in to learn more about using the computer.

Respect the customer

It’s critical that you respect the customer and her property. One of the easiest things you can do to show the customer respect is to show up on time. It tells the customers that you value them and their time.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Other guidelines you should follow to show the customer respect include:

Don’t minimize the customer’s problem. Although this troubleshooting might not be the most important task you have to complete, it is important to the customer.

Avoid distractions. Don’t make personal phone calls or engage in text messaging unless you do so with a fellow technician as part of the troubleshooting task. Don’t surf the Web or engage in other non-work activities in the customer’s office.

Don’t eat or drink in the customer’s space.

Don’t use the customer’s printer, fax machine, or other devices unless needed as part of your troubleshooting.

Don’t adjust the customer’s chair, monitor, keyboard and mouse location, and so forth unless the current configuration makes your troubleshooting tasks impossible.

Respect the customer’s privacy and confidentiality.

Don’t look through papers, drawers, or other private spaces.

Don’t eavesdrop on calls or meetings. Leave the area if necessary.

Don’t talk about what you overhear at a customer’s location.

Never interrupt the customer while he or she is speaking. Listen attentively, showing interest and involvement in the conversation. Make sure to look at the customer while listening—avoiding eye contact suggests that you don’t care about what the customer is saying.

Don’t argue with the customer. Even if the customer did something blatantly foolish, never be judgmental or insulting. Don’t belittle customers or minimize the importance of their computer problems. Obviously, you should never insult customers, call them names, or swear at them!

You show respect for customers when you honor their privacy and confidentiality. If a customer receives a call or visitor while you are there, excuse yourself or make it clear that you won’t eavesdrop or interrupt. Never discuss or distribute information that you learn while at a customer’s premises.

Be culturally sensitive

The growing global economy has resulted in people from different nations, cultures, languages, and backgrounds communicating, meeting, and doing business with one another. As an information technology support person, you might be interacting with a diverse clientele. To do this successfully, you need to be culturally sensitive.

Cultural sensitivity begins with knowledge. You must first be familiar with different cultures—their characteristics, history, values, belief systems, and behaviors. You exhibit culturally sensitive behavior when you can identify these differences without assigning a value to or passing judgment on them, such as better/worse or right/wrong.

If you’re going to be working with people whose culture is different from your own, you can request training in the etiquette, protocol, communication styles, and negotiation approaches of those cultures. Many Human Resources departments offer such training.

Troubleshooting methodology


Match your delivery to the customer

Technology, when abused, can prevent or hinder communication. The pitfalls that organizations should avoid when they use technology to communicate include:

Using technology for technology’s sake

Over-reliance on or unrealistic expectations of technology

Mismatching a technical solution to users’ needs or expectations

You must match the communications channel to the customer. Many customers prefer phone calls to e-mail. Others want an instant message solution, prefer e-mail, or want to see you in person for face-to-face communication. Make sure you use the channel that your customer prefers, not the one that you’re most comfortable with.

Guidelines for effective communication

In summary, there are several basic guidelines that help you communicate effectively:

Speak clearly — It helps your receiver understand the message.

Avoid jargon — Define jargon whenever necessary to ensure that your message is accurately interpreted.

Keep messages concise — Avoid using unnecessary words, stories, and irrelevant topics.

Be specific — Keep your message specific, rather than broad and general.

Make sure the message is understood — Question your receiver to ensure that your message has been understood as intended.

Listen actively — Maintain eye contact, focus on the message, and use nonverbal cues to indicate interest. Good nonverbal cues include nodding your head in agreement and leaning slightly toward the source. Other cues such as affirmative comments, noises, and uncrossed arms also indicate openness to the source. It’s important to remember that communication is an exchange.

Paraphrase messages — Paraphrasing helps you understand a sender’s message and indicates your understanding to the sender.

Pitfalls to avoid in communication

When communicating, you’ll want to avoid these pitfalls:

Jumping to conclusions — Listen to someone’s entire message before planning your response. If you jump to conclusions, you might miss information that would change your response.

Becoming distracted — It’s important to remain focused on the sender so that you don’t miss important parts of the message.

Exaggerating — Although exaggeration can function as a tool for humor, it might send incorrect information.

Using negative words — Negative messages can be sent without belittling or offending the receiver. Also, when appropriate for the circumstances, replace "I can’t” statements with "I can” statements—focus on what you can do.

Sending conflicting messages — When the symbols and language of your message don’t match, you weaken your credibility. Avoid telling someone you’re listening when you’re watching people out the window. Active listening incorporates eye contact, appropriate body language, and verbal assurances. By listening actively, you can avoid sending conflicting messages and focus on receiving information accurately.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

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Maintaining professionalism

Questions and answers



receive a call from a customer named Joe and visit his cubicle to provide

assistance. Joe believes himself to be computer-savvy and tells you all the steps


taken to solve his printing problem. In fact, he becomes irate when you try to

send a test print job to the queue before doing any further troubleshooting. What’s the best way to respond to Joe?


Tell him that you’re the expert and you will solve the problem.


Tell him that you want to make sure that a problem really exists.


Tell him that you’re following a methodical troubleshooting plan, and the first step is to try printing.


Tell him that before arriving you degaussed the fuser and primed the piezoelectric elements so that the print device should be operational.



at least three activities that you shouldn’t engage in while in a customer’s

cubicle or office.


While troubleshooting Jill’s computer, you find that she spilled coffee into the keyboard, causing it to fail. How might you inform Jill of the problem?

A Sternly tell her that it’s against corporate policy to consume food or beverages near company computers and equipment.

B Tell her the source of the problem and suggest that she keep food and drinks more than an arm’s reach from her computer.

C Replace the keyboard without telling her why it failed.

D Tell her boss what she did.

Troubleshooting methodology



Effective communication

Effective communication involves both verbal and nonverbal techniques. How you use your voice says a great deal about you. Listeners take note of your vocal characteristics and form opinions about your sincerity, enthusiasm, and even your knowledge of the topic being discussed. Your body language also clues listeners into your state of mind. Your posture, the firmness of your handshake, and your willingness to make eye contact all tell listeners something about your personality and character. You need to make sure you're communicating the same message with both your voice and your body language.

Verbal communication

Your voice often indicates whether you are nervous, which might affect how a listener perceives your credibility. Controlling your voice and communicating in a pleasing way can help you attract and maintain listeners’ attention. To become a more effective speaker, you can work on controlling three vocal characteristics: volume, rate, and pitch.

Volume is a vocal characteristic you need to tailor to the environment. Room size, number of listeners, and external noise all influence the volume of your voice. Make sure your listeners can hear everything you say.

Rate is the speed at which you speak. Every person has a different natural rate, so it’s important to adapt your rate to the topic and listener. Nervous speakers tend to speak rapidly. If you feel anxious about the message you are delivering, you should try to maintain a slow, even rate of speech so that the listener hears the actual message, instead of being distracted by your nervousness. Conversely, you shouldn’t let your speaking rate drop much below 120 words per minute, or you risk losing the listener’s attention. Stay enthusiastic about your message to maintain an appropriate rate.

Pitch is the highness or lowness of your voice. When your vocal muscles are taut, your voice has a high pitch; when your vocal muscles are relaxed, your voice has a low pitch. If you’re nervous, your vocal muscles tighten and your voice rises above its natural pitch.

Rate and volume also affect your pitch. When you speak rapidly, your muscles are tense, which causes your pitch to rise. Speaking loudly also causes your pitch to rise. Although pitch variations might be useful in emphasizing certain points, generally it’s best to maintain an even and natural pitch in most situations.

What you say also affects how others see you. Use the following guidelines to make the best verbal impression with clients.

Use positive language

Negative language can be expressed in a variety of ways, but the main concern with negative language is the word "no.” The word "no” delivers a blunt, end-of-conversation attitude, regardless of the rest of the message. If at all possible, avoid using the word "no” and any other negative language, such as "can’t,” "won’t,” and "don’t.”

Use non-inflammatory language

Inflammatory language is meant to stir intense negative emotions in the listener. It’s often prejudicial against someone because of gender, ethnicity, or physical attributes. Inflammatory language is always inappropriate in the workplace.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Use powerful language

Powerful language involves the use of clear, direct statements of fact and feeling rather than dancing around an issue. A powerful speaker lets you know exactly what the situation is and how to handle it efficiently and effectively.

A powerless speaker uses "hedge phrases,” such as, "I guess…”and "Maybe we should….” Often, powerless speakers form their ideas as questions, such as, "Shouldn’t we start the meeting?” instead of stating, "We should start the meeting.” Powerless speakers tend to be disappointed with the results of their ambiguity.

Keep in mind that speaking powerfully doesn’t mean being blunt, abrupt, or rude. An effective powerful speaker combines politeness with directness so as to be clear and concise.

Remember names

According to Dale Carnegie, "the sweetest sound in any language is the sound of one’s own name.” People feel that you respect them and believe in their importance when you use their name. The common recommendation is "name times three” which means you should use the person’s name at least three times in any conversation.

Take care to use the other person’s name properly. In most business settings, you should start with Mr. ('mist-ər), Ms. (miz), or Mrs. ('mis-əz). If the other person shows less formality or directly requests that you use her first name, then do so.

Do it!


Using effective verbal communication

Questions and answers

1 Identify the characteristics of negative language.

A Dull, discourages conversation

B Bold, encourages conversation

C Blunt, ends conversation

D Timid, ends conversation

2 Which of the following phrases defines inflammatory language?

A Inflammatory language is appropriate and insignificant.

B Inflammatory language stirs negative emotions and is prejudicial.

C Inflammatory language is angry and prejudicial.

D Inflammatory language is intense and always appropriate.

Troubleshooting methodology



Nonverbal communication

You are constantly communicating with those around you. You express fear, anger, happiness, sadness, enthusiasm, and many other emotions without even saying a word. It’s important to be aware of the signals you are communicating to those around you. It’s also important to be able to recognize the nonverbal signals that others are communicating to you.

When two people meet, nonverbal communication gives each of them clues about the other’s personality, attitudes, and feelings. Six types of nonverbal communication have the most impact on your conversations:


Expression and eye contact



Gestures and posture

Physical appearance


A firm handshake is the foundation of any business interaction. Some people carry

firmness to the extreme, but you’re not trying to crush the other person’s hand. Of course, you don’t want to give a "limp rag” handshake, either.

A good, firm handshake starts with a dry palm; carry a handkerchief if you need to wipe

damp palms before entering a meeting where you expect to shake someone’s hand. Grasp the other person’s palm, not just the fingers. Give a positive squeeze, but not too firm to cause discomfort. Use one hand; don’t clasp both hands around the other person’s hand.

Your handshake should last a couple of seconds, no longer. People are sensitive to being touched and restrained. A handshake that lasts too long can make the other person feel caught in a trap. Of course, the handshake should last long enough to appear deliberate and sincere.

Look the other person in the eye. Introduce yourself with a greeting like "Hi, I’m (say your first and last name). It’s nice to meet you.” Let go of the person’s hand and then listen intently as he greets you back. Remember the person’s name; repeat it to yourself a couple times if you need to. Then use the "name times three” guideline to help yourself remember the name.

Expression and eye contact

A friendly expression and direct eye contact convey that you’re open, honest, and

enthusiastic. When coming into a meeting or interaction, smile and look into the eyes of

the other person as you’re introduced. You can show interest in the other person by maintaining eye contact as she speaks. When you tilt your head toward the speaker, you give the impression that you are an interested listener. These cues encourage the other person to relax and help open the lines of communication.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One


Personal space is an important element to keep in mind when communicating. Typically, people of a higher status tend to keep more than the normal four to six feet between themselves and their subordinates. Close friends and romantic partners usually keep approximately 18 inches of distance. While you don’t want to give the appearance of invading an acquaintance’s personal space, too great a distance sends a message that you aren’t totally involved in the conversation. Three to five feet of distance typically evokes feelings of closeness, trust, and parallel status between acquaintances.


Touch in the workplace must be dealt with carefully. Touching in the workplace is more common between women than men. Appropriate touching can convey openness, trustworthiness, and interest. It can also result in self-disclosure and compliance. Appropriate touching includes a good handshake or sometimes a light touch on the shoulder or arm of an acquaintance.

Inappropriate touching conveys disrespect to the recipient of the touch. It might also demonstrate hostility. Inappropriate touching includes lingering contact and caresses or contact with inappropriate areas of the body. When determining the appropriateness of a touch, you should also consider the pressure that was used in the touch, the body part that did the touching, what body part received the touch, and if anyone else was present when contact was made. Many people are easily bothered by touching. Such folks can be offended by a hand on the shoulder or touch to the arm. When in doubt, don’t touch!

Gestures and posture

Although most people are aware of the hand gestures that flow naturally throughout the course of communication, many people are less aware of the messages that hand, leg, and foot activity sends. Restless hands or legs can suggest nervousness, which might make people question your honesty or integrity. Fidgeting might also indicate impatience and concealed anger. To ease nervousness, take deep, calming breaths and practice keeping your hands, feet, and legs still.

Keep in mind regional differences in hand gestures. A thumbs-up sign can deliver an affirmation of a job well done or can be a vulgar insult, depending on where you are in the world. Avoid pointing at people—they can feel they are being accused or reprimanded.

Similarly, your posture can affect the impression you make on someone. Standing and sitting straight signals that you are ready for open communication. Sitting or standing hunched over gives the impression that you are uninterested in conversation or contact.


How you dress and look sends a message. Compare your first reaction to these two fictitious technicians:

Technician A wears dress slacks, a white button-down shirt, and shoes, not sneakers. He keeps his hair short and neatly combed.

Technician B wears faded blue jeans and a T-shirt advertising a hard rock band. His hair is shaved short on the sides and spiked in the middle. He wears dirty sneakers.

Troubleshooting methodology


Without judging one look to be better than the other, these two technicians send different signals with their appearance. Which is appropriate for you depends on your industry, company dress code, region, and the expectations of your customers. Technicians working at an insurance company in the Northeast U.S. would probably be expected to dress like technician A. But a technician who dressed that way at a software startup in California would probably seem out of place.

Do it!


Using nonverbal communication effectively

Here’s how

Here’s why

1 With another student, practice your handshake and greeting. Provide constructive and friendly feedback to your fellow student, and accept his or her advice graciously.

2 With another student, determine your personal space.

Some people are comfortable communicating within a couple feet of another person. Others need more space.

3 With another student, try different postures. Have one person pose while the other guesses at mood and intention. Reverse roles.

4 Compare your appearance with the expectations of your business, company dress code, region, and customers. Do you look and dress appropriately for those expectations? If not, what should you change?


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One


Customer satisfaction

A problem isn’t resolved until both the technician and the user agree that the problem is resolved. Keeping a customer satisfied during a long troubleshooting process can be a difficult task, especially for a technician who’s better at dealing with hardware than with people. Such a technician needs to work on people skills to be successful in the support role.

Service-level agreements

Many companies develop a service-level agreement (SLA) that specifies how clients and support personnel are to interact, what to expect from each other, and timeframes for the resolution of issues. The following table describes some of the important concerns that an SLA should cover.



How to contact tech support

How soon the user can expect a response

How soon the user can expect a tech to attempt to fix the problem

What happens if the tech can’t initially fix the problem

What were the services provided

Escalation of the problem

Customers will contact tech support by phone, Web-based application, e- mail, or some other method. The SLA might also specify contact methods that should not be used. For example, some companies might not accept e- mail requests for assistance or stopping techs in the hallways to ask for support.

Tech support will usually send an e-mail message to let the user know that the request has been received and queued up for resolution.

The tech might need to do something behind the scenes to resolve the problem, might be able to walk the user through the problem over the phone, or might need to meet with the user in person.

In some companies, the response time is in minutes or hours. In others, it’s in days.

This parameter often specifies how much time the tech is allowed to spend trying to resolve the problem before escalating it.

The SLA might also specify whether the user gets a loaner system (to use if his or her system is completely down) or whether other workarounds to the problem are available.

This portion of the SLA describes what type of documentation will be supplied to the customer pertaining to the services the tech provided (regardless of whether or not the tech resolved the problem). This documentation keeps the customer informed and aware of actions taken to resolve their problem. It also provides the support department with a written record of the work already done if the problem needs to be escalated.

Usually there are three tiers of support. The process often starts with a help-desk contact (via phone or e-mail), then a desk-side hardware technician, and finally a backroom technician who works at a bench making repairs.

The staff for each successive tier of support usually has more experience, as well as access to additional resources to help resolve the problem.

The course "A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help Desk Professional, 2nd edition” is available if you’d like more in-depth coverage of this topic.

Troubleshooting methodology


Do it!


Ensuring customer satisfaction

Here’s how

1 Working in groups, determine what you’d include in your SLA for a small workgroup that needs support for basic hardware and commercial software.

2 Compare your SLA with those of the other groups.

3 Create an SLA for a department that uses specialized hardware and custom applications, in addition to needing support for basic hardware and commercial software.

4 Compare your SLA with those of the other groups.


CompTIA A+ Certification: Comprehensive, 2009 Edition, Revised Volume One

Unit summary: Troubleshooting methodology

Topic A

In this topic, you examined the CompTIA A+ troubleshooting model. You also learned about the various types of documents and resources available to use for troubleshooting computer problems, such as user and installation manuals, Internet and Web-based resources, and training materials.

Topic B

In this topic, you learned that being professional, courteous, and respectful is critical to success as a support technician. You learned that you must stay focused, speak professionally, respect the customer, and stay up to date. You learned how to communicate professionally, using both verbal and nonverbal means. You learned that a problem isn’t resolved until both the technician and the user agree that the problem has been resolved. You also learned about service level agreements, which specify how clients and support personnel are to interact.

Review questions


Match each stage of the CompTIA A+ troubleshooting model on the left with its correct order on the right.





Test the theory to determine actual cause


First stage


Document findings, actions, and outcomes


Second stage


Establish a theory of probable cause


Third stage


Verify full system functionality and, if necessary, implement preventative measures


Fourth stage


Identify the problem


Fifth stage


Establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution


Sixth stage

Answers: 1-C, 2-F, 3-B, 4-E, 5-A, 6-D


In which troubleshooting stage do you consult vendor documentation for descriptions of status lights and other indicators?

A Identify the problem