CompTIA A+ Exam 220-902 sub-objective 1.2: Given a scenario, install Windows PC operating systems using appropriate methods

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Detailed (and official) description of CompTIA A+ sub-objective 1.2:

1.2 Given a scenario, install Windows PC operating systems using appropriate methods.

> Boot methods
– USB
– CD-ROM
– DVD
– PXE
– Solid state/flash drives
– Netboot
– External/hot swappable drive
– Internal hard drive (partition)

> Type of installations
– Unattended installation
– Upgrade
– Clean install
– Repair installation
– Multiboot
– Remote network installation
– Image deployment
– Recovery partition
– Refresh/restore

> Partitioning
– Dynamic
– Basic
– Primary
– Extended
– Logical
– GPT

> File system types/formatting
ExFAT
FAT32
NTFS
CDFS
NFS
ext3, ext4
Quick format vs. full format

> Load alternate third party drivers when necessary
> Workgroup vs. Domain setup
> Time/date/region/language settings
> Driver installation, software and windows updates
> Factory recovery partition
> Properly formatted boot drive with the correct partitions/format

Welcome to ExamNotes by CertBlaster! Ok you lived through 902 Sub-objective 1.1, most of you anyway and we’ve learned a lot about the Microsoft operating systems and some of the newer features designed make your experience more productive and enjoyable. Now we will look at the physical devices that make the experience possible. The tools we use to install the systems and the file structures used on our devices. We’ll evaluate them and add them to systems, further we will use some of the devices to install operating systems.

A little untestable knowledge for you. Let’s for the sake of argument call Windows 3.1 the first Windows version. it was delivered on 7 floppy disks. The install was manual, boot to first disk and the machine would wait patiently for you to type in the setup command. Then when the contents of the first disk were copied over and the machine would simply stop and wait quietly for the second floppy! No cue of any sort aside from stopping. CDs were rare and there was no network for the common man, so there we sat waiting. Windows95 burst on the scene and now there were twice as many floppies. Fortunately the CD-ROM had been introduced and the early adopters had a choice. As a point of reference the Beta release of Vista was calculated to have needed over 1700 floppies! Pack a lunch. Equally dramatic was the network install which revolutionized the way large companies handled distribution. Thank goodness for technology!

On to Business. How can you get the operating system onto your machine? The first order of business is to get the machine booted up. Interestingly we have some good choices.

Boot Methods

Internal hard drive (partition)

One of the simplest boot method it to allow the machine to boot normally to its internal storage, a partition on the hard disk or solid state drive (SSD)

CD-ROM / DVD

Most desktops and laptops have internal Optical drives. Depending on the media in the drive it could be bootable. This method requires checking the UEFI or BIOS firmware and set the Optical Drive before any other bootable device, including USB as you’ll see.

USB – External/hot swappable drive

Most PC components have a fully functional USB adaptation. This allows for serious expansions in communications, flexibility in controls and best of all in this case storage. You can get USB expansion devices using conventional hard disks or SSDs and they are really only separated by capacity. The right size for the desired result.

PXE

Here is a great way to get your desired results onto hundreds of PCs. A high volume server is necessary if you’re working at high volumes. Set your BIOS or UEFI to access the PXE (Preboot eXecution Environment) this will enable the UEFI/BIOS to use the network to seek the installation files there. When the files are located and the installation begins there is no more interaction required leaving the tech free to do it again. When the systems are properly preconfigured they only need be turned on and off it goes.

Netboot

Netboot is Apple’s version of PXE and as such uses most of the same startup initialization routines. Interesting point that will get you no points follows. When Protocols were initially recognized as necessary, yes decades ago, the BOOTP protocol was born from DHCP and instead of saying all of the protocols that make up DHCP we just use that term. And in 2015 BOOTP was instrumental as part of the UEFI.

Type of Installations

Regardless of its intended use or user all Microsoft devices need some type of operating system installed on it. Because of the number of devices and deployments.

Clean install

All current versions of Microsoft Windows and its variants are available as downloads which can be used to burn physical copies of the installation media (DVD 4GB). Always download and run the Upgrade Assistant to insure compatibility. It is wise to make physical copies as well, you never know. Make sure you have the right version 32-bit or 64-bit. If you inadvertently install the 32-bit version on a 64-bit capable machine you will suffer decreased memory availability, storage media limitations and a generally less than perfect experience. You can also visit Microsoft’s Compatibility Canter however the access to this site changes as features and programs are modified. Translation It’s probably gone.

Upgrade

The same methods apply as with a clean install EXCEPT you can not Upgrade from a 32-bit Operating system to a 64-bit. This process requires a clean install only due to the massive number of changes to basic architecture and core files that would be affected. Your 32-bit programs will still work in the 64 bit environment as provisions were made for that. An upgrade install is supported in the same bit depth and in the OS versions currently supported. Just remember that you can upgrade the OS 7 to 8 for example. But you have to pay extra if you were going from a Starter or minimum version to a more fully featured version like Professional or above.

Refresh/restore

Another way to regain control over a system that’s run amok is System Restore. This method requires that restore points be created before there is a problem. Ideally this is when your PC is running great. A restore point is usually created automatically before any major system changes or software installs or updates, If you have problems you can roll back to mere seconds before the problem. Also the system will take advantage of periods of inactivity to create random restore points. And above all this works more often than not. A System refresh is essentially the same operation but the refresh is updated to restore Metro UI and related data. The Metro related data is referred to as “Modern” and the problem, if you are a longtime computer user, is that a lot of your installed programs and “Go To” apps are not modern and will need to be reinstalled. Granted that you are already standing on shaky ground but it is in your best interest to get the best backup you can.

Repair installation – Recovery partition

If you have purchased your device from a major manufacturer chances are good that you also have a hidden or hard to access Recovery partition on your disk. This is great. It would be easier if you created the backup/restore set that was suggested within the first hour of ownership. I won’t ask. But next time take the 20 minutes and do it. It’s OK we can still get the system back using a recovery installation, none of your stuff but on the bright side you can get your system back to its uncluttered out of the box configuration. Depending on the manufacturer you’ll need to hit a specific keystroke combination at boot to access your tools. This not the F8 you are familiar with but probably in the same neighborhood, like F12. If you are really jammed and these options don’t work you can buy a set of the backup disks we talked about earlier from the manufacturer.

Multiboot

Today’s systems have lots of power memory and storage capacity. They are easily capable of supporting multiple operating systems. We are not talking about virtualization here, so these systems won’t be running simultaneously. We’ll do that later. For now we’re going to set up a machine to run two different operating systems one at a time. The main point now is that each operating system needs its own partition. This could be a large drive portioned into at least two dedicated logical drives and for the ultimate segregation two hard drives there are a lot of good reasons to do this. The end result is two identical hardware platforms behaving identically. It could be as simple as having the day shift worker separated from the night shift in a tamperproof environment. You can also beta test virtually any hardware or software and accurately predict the impact on related systems.

Image deployment

The use of drive imaging greatly reduces the chance of anomalies between installations. Also a single image from a tested benchmarked and validated system can be the foundation for hundreds of clean installs using Windows AIK or ADK depending on version.

Unattended installation – We talked about the PXE earlier and our image is the meat of those installations. With an answer file completing the requirements for an unattended install.

Remote network installation

One Item remains in taking human involvement completely out of the picture and that simply enough is how do we propose to move this data? Mainly things move on the network in one of two ways, we can type a web or network address into our machine and pull the data to our machine. Conversely if we have an active interest in stocks, weather or local news you can have that information delivered to your desktop. This is Push technology.

Partitioning

After gaining an understanding of Operating System installations we’ll take a closer look at the partitions they are installed on. A good grasp on the devices and how data is stored on them is really essential to your ultimate understanding of the operational capabilities and how to effectively maximize performance. It doesn’t sound like much but if you understand the storage device speeds and how to store often used portions of a program on fast devices and the lesser/seldom used portions on your standard or slow drives you can double the production time of a program.

We will use a standard magnetic hard drive to demonstrate the principles they are easier to introduce than promote. The drive consists of several magnetic platters that are readable and writable on both sides. During the manufacturing process the platters are low level formatted into tracks and sectors. We call this low level because there is a higher level format that is used by the operating system. So the drive leaves the factory formatted into platters with concentric rings divided into 512 byte sectors. Now for the operating system the size of each sector is fixed but the sectors are grouped into Clusters. So you are concerned with Sectors tracks and clusters.

Schematic of Drive Allocation including secotors, tracks and clusters
Drive Allocation

Basic

When a new hard drive is installed on a Windows system it is configured as a basic disk. A basic disk is independent of other disks and can be formatted to any compatible portioning system including MBR or GPT.

Primary

When a new drive is installed it will need to be initialized and formatted if there are no other options are selected one primary partition will be created then you will format it to the desired file system. At this point we begin to refer to it as a volume.

Extended

A Disk can only contain one Extended partition. The disk contents can be resized to contain a smaller primary partition resized to provide unallocated space that you can then dedicate to each partition. The Extended partition can be further divided.

Logical

The Extended partition can be divided into many logical partitions. The dimensions of the logical partitions are found at the beginning of the extended partition, not in the MBR. The logical partitions do not have to to fill the entire extended partition. Empty space can be retained in the extended partition that then can be carved up into additional logical partitions in the future if need be.

Dynamic

In Windows everything we’ve covered to this point was relative to Basic disks, one disk one partition structure. Time to have some fun or become irrevocably convoluted. The dynamic disk can be but is not limited to a single disk or volume. All volumes used on dynamic disks are called dynamic volumes. A dynamic volume has considerable advantages over basic volumes. Dynamic volumes can be spanned over multiple drives and it’s possible to create up to 2,000 volumes, a comfortable 32 volumes is a reasonable recommendation. Another advantage of the dynamic disk spanning is that they can assume the redundancy aspects of RAID 0 and RAID 5 so if any portion of the span goes down it can automatically rebuild the lost data.

GPT

is the GUID partition table is the replacement partition method for the time tested MBR this is special because along with other important advancements it can support large hard disks to the tune of 18 Exabytes. For comparison the MBR limit is 2.2TB.

File system types/formatting

Here we’ll take a deeper look at filesystems available and their uses.

NFS

The Network File System the oldest file system in our list is still in use after revisions over the years since1984.originally a Sun Microsystems product testing finished and Version 2 was the first official release. The new century saw NFS deploy strong security, larger file sizes and the stateful protocols making it comparable to SMB (Server Message Block) Revisions since then leave us at NFSv4.

SMB

is actually the basis of Windows network file sharing protocol an earlier version of the protocol was known as the Common Internet File System (CIFS) and spent some time as Samba. The last major usage came as Microsoft Windows Network prior to Active directory.

CDFS

The CD File System initially released in Linux allows the export of boot images on a CD. In Microsoft implementations CDFS replaced MSCDEX. This filesystem allows data stored on a CD to be treated like a ordinary file system at the command line.

FAT32

designed to address the new complexities in Windows95 things we now take for granted like Long filenames, the old limit was 8 characters with a three characters extension. This was the filesystem that supported the most significant advancement in computing of the 20th century. Imagine an 8 character URL!

NTFS

The New Technology File System (Know this one for the test) also the NT File System is the advancement that prepared our servers and systems the headroom necessary to evolve at the accelerated pace necessary to support the new technologies. Number 1 (IMHO) the Access Control List (ACL) a crucial security enhancement that supported file level access control with administrative control. Also there was large file support of 16 billion bytes! We got file compression integrated into the operating system for fixed and removable disks.

ExFAT

This filesystem is optimized specifically for use on flash and USB drives. It provides large file support and some other meaningful enhancements. For removable media of this type a fast filesystem makes a big difference and security is at the forefront when it comes to high capacity high portability media. So consider the speed of the most compatible FAT32 without restrictions and the security of NTFS without the bulky overhead, and there you have it. Formatting Flash media offers FAT32, NTFS and exFAT. The capabilities of all potentially used devices should be considered when formatting the flash device, fall back to FAT32 if there is a question about compatibility.

ext3, ext4

ext3 and ext4 are both Linux filesystems. ext3 was a system staple between the years 2000 through 2008 when it was a replaced by ext4 offering huge file and system sizes of 16GB for files and one Exabyte for the filesystem plus other features improving performance and reliability.

Quick format vs. full format

A quick format removes all files on the volume without scanning the drive for problems. A full format removes all files and also scans the disk for bad sectors. This option is preferred for system installs to be sure your disk is in good condition.

Load alternate third party drivers when necessary

When installing hardware sometimes Windows built in drivers may only partially activate your device. This is particularly prevalent with multifunction printers/scanners/faxes and duplexers. When you encounter this situation go to the manufacturer’s website as opposed to a page with drivers for many devices and manufacturers.

Workgroup vs. Domain setup

The main decision you need to make regarding Workgroups and Domains is will this be a home network or business? Then the size and scale, will you have the skills or personnel to handle administrative tasks.

Time/date/region/language settings

Always one of the first setup questions you localize the machine.

Driver installation, software and windows updates

Immediately after an installation check device manager for any issues install any Windows updates that are available depending on the age of your installation software there may be 40 or so to deal with. Then check the operation of your software, especially if you did an in-place upgrade.

Factory recovery partition

If you are using a new machine for the first time make sure your recovery partition is present and accessible. Get the media ready to create your recovery disks and make them.

Properly formatted boot drive with the correct partitions/format

Access the Disk management console and review the installed drive(s) and validate the partition data against your expectations. Also review any unallocated space and determine if you need to use it.

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That’s all for 220-902 objective 1.2. Nice work. Make the best of it and Good Luck on the Exam!

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