CompTIA®A+ Practical Exam Notes : Microsoft Operating System Features And Tools


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1. Windows Operating Systems

1.4 Microsoft operating system features and tools

Computer management:You can access Computer Management screen through:

1. Start -> Run -> compmgmt.msc

2. Start -> Control Panel-> System and security -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management.

One of the frequently used resource in "Computer Management" screen is System Tools. System tools contain the following:

  • Task Scheduler
  • Event Viewer
  • System Folders
  • Local Users and Groups
  • Performance
  • Device Manager

These are very useful tools to a system administrator.

Use the disk management plug-in in the computer management applet.

Start -> Control Panel-> System and security -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management -> Disk Management.

A simpler way to find Disk Management, is to type "disk management" in the search box of the control panel. You will be displayed with the Disk Management applet. Just click on it to open disk management. The Search utility is very handy in finding the applet that does the required job.

Computer Management -> Shared Folders can be used to view some very useful information like

1. Shares information: Here you can see all of the shares that have been configured on the computer.

2. Session Information: Allows you to see username, computer name etc that has connected to a share currently

3. Open Files : Allow you to see currently opened files

System Restore:System Restore takes a "snapshot" of critical system files and some program files and stores this information as restore points. You can use these restore points to return Windows Vista to a previous state.

MSTSC: Connect and login to a remote machine using the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) also known as Terminal Server Connection (TSC).

mstsc /f : Starts in full screen mode.

Options include the following:

ConnectionFile The name of an RDP file for connection
/v:<server[:port]> The remote computer to connect to
/console Connect to the console of a server (NT/XP)
/Admin Connect to a session for administering the server(Vista/2008)
/f  Start in Full Screen mode
/w:width Width of the RDP screen
/h:height Height of the RDP screen
/span  Match the Remote Desktop width and height with the local virtual desktop, spanning across multiple monitors if necessary.(Vista/2008)
/public Run Remote Desktop in public mode. Vista/win7/8/Server2008) In public mode, passwords and bitmaps are not cached.
/edit  Open the RDP file for editing.
/migrate  Convert a legacy Client connection file into an .RDP file

Disk Management:Click on the Start button and then choose Control Panel.

1. Click on the System and Security link.

2. In the System and Security window, click on the Administrative Tools.

3. In the Administrative Tools window, double-click on the Computer Management icon.

4. When Computer Management opens, click on Disk Management on the left side of the window, located under Storage.

5. If you don't see Disk Management listed, you may need to click on ">" (expand icon) displayed to the left of "Storage"

6. For secondary hard disk we need to partition the drive, format and initialize the drive.

You can use Disk Management for configuring the second hard drive for data redundancy.

Windows has built in functionality to set up a software RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) without any additional tools. This makes it easy to turn your existing spare hard drives to provide redundancy and fault tolerance.

The Professional/Enterprise/Ultimate editions of Windows 7 support the following dynamic disk modes:

  • Simple
  • Spanned: If you select Spanned, your new HDD will show up as part of your current HDD
  • Striped (RAID-0)
  • Mirrored (RAID-1)
  • RAID-5 dynamic disks are only available in Windows Server editions.
  • Note that dynamic disks are not available in the Standard/Home editions of Windows 7.
  • Disk quotas are a means of controlling the storage space available on a NTFS drive or partition. By setting quotas, an administrator can set the amount of information a user can store on that drive or partition.
  • Disk quotas track and control disk usage on a per-user, per-drive (partition or volume) basis. You can apply disk quotas only to NTFS formatted drives under Windows XP, Windows 7/8.1 and 10 and other Windows Server OSes. Quotas are tracked for each drive letter, even if drive letters reside on the same physical disk.
  • The per-user feature enables you to track every user's disk space usage regardless of which folder the user stores files in. whenever a user exceeds its disk quota, he or she will not be able to store new data on it. Furthermore, the administrator can also set warning levels, so that they know beforehand when a user is getting close to its quota limit.
  • Disk quotas do not take compression into account, so users cannot obtain more space simply by compressing their data.

You need to remember the following when setting up disk quotas:

  • In order to be able to set disk quotas and enforce quota limits, you need to use a Windows account that has administrative privileges. Standard users cannot set quotas.
  • Your hard drives (or SSDs) must use the NTFS file system. On older, FAT32 formatted drives, you cannot set disk quotas.
  • You can set quotas for disks or partitions. You cannot set quotas on folders.

Device Manager: The device manager lists all the hardware devices installed on your system. You can also update any existing drivers, as well as change the hardware settings. You use Add/Remove Hardware to install new hardware. Accessibility options is primarily used to configure the keyboard, display, and mouse options on a computer to accommodate the users who are physically handicapped. The Add/Remove Programs is used to install/uninstall 3rd party software. This is also used for installing/uninstalling Windows XP optional components. The Device Manager provides the status of the devices installed in the system.

When defragmenting a disk partition, Windows rearranges the files stored on the disk so that they occupy contiguous storage locations. Doing this increases the access speed to your files by minimizing the time required to read and write files to/from the disk and by maximizing the transfer rate. You might also see improved startup times.

If you use a disk drive that was previously configured as a dynamic drive in another computer, it may show up as foreign drive. You need to import the foreign drive to show up in the device manager as local.

You use Disk Defragmenter to analyze and defragment disk volumes. The easiest way to start disk defrag is to type defragment in the search box, and select "Disk Defragmenter" option.

In Windows 8.1, it is called by slightly different name: "Defragment and Optimize Drives"

Do not defragment SSDs or USB drives. These types of drives have a different way of allocating files and they have a limited number of read/write cycles before they stop working. Hence, defragmenting them will decrease their lifespan. Given the high read and write speeds provided by SSDs, you shouldn't encounter slowdowns anyway, so there's no reason to defragment them.

DirectAccess: is a welcome addition to Windows 7 for any user who connects to a corporate VPN. Rather than input all the credentials manually, DirectAccess now streamlines the process of securely connecting to a corporate network. It also maintains that secure connection throughout the process, ensuring that no data leaks out during the transmission.

Applocker:AppLocker is a useful tool for IT admins. The software gives administrators the opportunity to decide exactly what applications users can run on the network. It's a great way for the IT department to maintain some control over the security of employee computers.

Branchcache: BranchCache is a new feature of Microsoft Windows 7 designed specifically for businesses that operate from multiple office locations. It provides a file caching service for professional network administrators to use at their branch offices. The main purpose however is to decrease the time branch office users spend waiting to download files across the network.

Bitlocker: Windows 7 users can have more control over the encryption of their hard drives. Using BitLocker Drive Encryption is one of the best ways to protect portable systems such as laptops from loss of data and information when the laptops themselves are lost or stolen. Microsoft's BitLocker automatically encrypts new data while it's running and it is considered as a hands-off tool that should improve security in Windows 7.

MSCONFIG utility is shown in the exhibit. One use of this utility is that you can identify the startup programs, and remove those that are not required to be loaded at the startup. By doing this, you can improve the speed of the system.

MBRshort for Master Boot Record, is stored on your hard drive but kept outside of Windows partitions and volumes. Crucially, the code in the MBR is run as your computer starts up (before Windows) which makes it an ideal place for a virus or rootkit to hide.

REGEDIT: Windows Vista provides a Registry Editor by name regedit.exe. You can also call this program by giving the command regedt32.exe.

1. Regedt32.exe (32-bit) and

2. Regedit.exe (16-bit).

Regedt32.exe is automatically installed in the systemroot\system32 folder, while Regedit.exe is automatically installed in the systemroot folder. Regedit.exe is primarily used for its search capabilities as it doesn't support all functions and data types.

Task manager: CTRL-ALT- DELETE opens Task Manager window in which you can select the offending program, and then click "end task"

You need to right click on the short-cut, select properties. Then, select short-cut tab. You can click on change icon button, to change the icon of a short-cut.

If Microsoft Windows Firewall is blocking a port that is used by a service or by a program, you can configure the Windows Firewall to create an exception. Windows Firewall may be blocking a program or a service if the following conditions are true:

  • Programs do not respond to a client's request.
  • Client programs do not receive data from the server.

The Startup Repair tool is automated and used to diagnose and recover systems that do not start. It is automatically installed onto the operating system partition. After an unsuccessful start, Windows 7 automatically loads the Startup Repair tool which scans the computer for issues, automatically repairs an issue when it is possible, and then restarts the computer.

System Configuration (msconfig) is a tool that can help identify problems that might prevent Windows from starting correctly. The following are the options that are available in System Configuration:

The command ATTRIB C:\private.txt +h +r will mark the file as hidden and read only.

1. General: Lists choices for startup configuration modes

2. Boot: Shows configuration options for the operating system and advanced debugging settings,

3. Services: Lists all of the services that start when the PC starts, along with their current status

4. Startup: The Startup tab in Task Manager lists apps and services that run when the PC starts up, along with the name of their publisher, status, and startup impact.

Tools: Provides a convenient list of diagnostic tools and other advanced tools that you can run. Windows 7, Windows 8 uses a boot manager (bootmgr.dll) which consults with the BCD ( in Boot folder) to locate the boot loader ( winload.exe). Bootmgr.dll is a hidden system file and it is located generally in the root directory of C:\ drive By editing bootmgr.dll we may change boot configuration.

CONFIG.SYS is a text file containing DOS (Disk Operating System) commands that tell the operating system how the computer is initially set up.

Windows memory diagnostics: You can use Windows Memory Diagnostic to investigate RAM problems in Windows 7. If you're encountering application failures, operating system faults, or Stop errors, you could have defective or failing RAM. The Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool in Windows 7 can help you test the RAM chips in your system. It is possible to use the tool without any operating system installed. You can use the optical drive to use the tool. Note that the BIOS also has the capability to test the memory, but it is very basic test. The WMD reports are very comprehensive, and tests the RAM thoroughly.

MMC(Microsoft Management Console): Windows Performance Monitor is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in that combines the functionality of previous stand-alone tools including Performance Logs and Alerts, Server Performance Advisor, and System Monitor. It provides a graphical interface for customizing Data Collector Sets and Event Trace Sessions. Windows Performance Monitor enables you to track the performance impact of applications and services, and to generate alerts or take action when user-defined thresholds for optimum performance are exceeded. Windows Vista includes Windows Reliability and Performance Monitor, which is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in that combines the functionality of previous stand-alone tools. It also includes Reliability Monitor, an MMC snap-in that tracks changes to the system and compares them to changes in system stability, providing a graphical view of their relationship.

Windows Vista introduces Sync Center, which enables users to synchronize their data with other computers and devices from one common user interface. There are several ways to interact with Sync Center, one of which is as a provider of synchronization information. Synchronization information consists of a synchronization engine, and the data that it synchronizes. In windows 7, Sync Center allows you to check the results of your recent sync activity if you've set up your computer to sync files with a network server (often called offline files). When you sync with a network server, you can access files by keeping synced copies of those files on your computer, even when the network server is unavailable. Sync Center can tell you if the files synced successfully or if there are any sync errors or warnings.

To launch sync center, just open your control panel, then click sync center.

Following are the important points about MSINFO32

1. System Information (also known as msinfo32.exe) shows details about your computer's hardware configuration, computer components, and software, including drivers.

2. Open System Information by clicking the Start button. In the search box, type msinfo (or System Information), and then, in the list of results, click msinfo.exe (or System Information, if you had typed it in the search box).

3. System Information lists categories in the left pane and details about each category in the right pane. The categories include:

4. System Summary displays general information about your computer and the operating system, such as the computer name and manufacturer, the type of basic input/output system (BIOS) your computer uses, and the amount of memory that's installed.

5. Hardware Resources displays advanced details about your computer's hardware, and is intended for IT professionals.

6. Components displays information about disk drives, sound devices, modems, and other components installed on your computer.

7. Software Environment displays information about drivers, network connections, and other program-related details.

8. To find a specific detail in System Information, type the information you're looking for in the Find what box at the bottom of the window. For example, to find your computer's Internet protocol (IP) address, type IP address in the Find what box, and then click Find.

Task scheduler: You may open the task scheduler as below:

1. Open the Control Panel.

2. Open the Administrative Tools window.

3. In Windows 7, look under System and Security.

4. In Windows Vista, under System and Maintenance.

5. Open the Task Scheduler icon.

6. If prompted, type the administrator's password or click Continue.

The Task Scheduler window appears. Now, you can select a new task from the menu Action -> Create Task. Various tabs are as given below:

1. Triggers Tab: A trigger is an event that prompts a task to run. It can be a time of day or it can be an action, such as system startup.

2. Actions tab: An action is what a task does run a program, display a message, or make another thing happen, set a restore point, defragment the hard drive, or send an email message, for example. Yes, the action shown for setting a restore point is technical. But keep in mind that you're viewing a Windows task. The tasks you set up will not be as complex.

3. Conditions tab: The settings on the Condition tab refine when the task is run. The task doesn't run unless all the conditions are met.

4. Settings tab: The Settings tab lists further control over the task, including when to stop a task that might run amok.

5. History tab: You find on the History tab some information about when the task was last run and whether it ran successfully. That's your way to test whether your tasks are doing what you set them to do.


1. Spanned volumes:

To create a spanned volume using the Windows interface

1. In Disk Management, right-click the unallocated space on one of the dynamic disks where you want to create the spanned volume.

2. Click New Spanned Volume.

3. Follow the instructions on your screen.

To create a spanned volume using a command line

1. Open a command prompt and type diskpart.

2. At the DISKPART prompt, type list disk. Make note of the number of the disk where you want to create a simple volume.

3. At the DISKPART prompt, type create volume simple [size=<size>] [disk=<disknumber>].

4. At the DISKPART prompt, type list volume. Make note of the number of the simple volume you want to extend onto another disk.

5. At the DISKPART prompt, type select volume <volumenumber>. Select the simple volume volumenumber you want to extend onto another disk.

6. At the DISKPART prompt, type list disk. Make note of the number of the disk you want to extend the simple volume onto.

7. At the DISKPART prompt, type extend [size=<size>] [disk=<disknumber>]. Extends the selected volume onto disk disknumber and makes the extension size=size megabytes (MB).

2. Language settings: You can use Region and Language to support additional languages on your Windows 7 computer. With the support of additional languages, you will be able to edit documents written in those languages. You can also set locale specific to any region using this Option.

3. Registry:The Registry contains the important information about the devices and applications. Any failure to backup the registry may require re-installation of the complete system.

USB Connectivity:

To achieve proper USB connectivity six basic system elements must be present and working correctly.

1) Support from the BIOS

2) Support from the Operating System

3) Physical USB ports

4) A USB Device

5) The correct USB cable for the device.

6) Drivers either from the OS and/or the peripheral maker

To connect a USB device

1. The OS should support USB.

2. The USB should be enabled in the BIOS

If both the above conditions are met, USB Controller is listed in the Device Manager. If it's not listed in the Device Manager, you can suspect that the USB was not enabled in the BIOS.

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