Common Microsoft Operating Systems
The knowledge requirements for the A+ Operating System certification focus on the most common PC Operating Systems. In previous years, these were MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows 3.1 and Microsoft Windows 95. As of the current 2003 objectives, the computer Operating Systems an A+ certification candidate should be familiar with are:
Despite Windows Server 2003 having been released over 6 months before the publication of the 2003 CompTIA objectives, it has not been included on the list of requisite knowledge. More interestingly, Windows 95 and 98 have been retained and Windows ME has been added. Having discussed this unusual selection, your authors have concluded that CompTIA are basing the exam requirements on the install base of these operating systems, rather than their support circumstances. Microsoft intended to completely retire support for Windows 98/ME at the start of 2004, but have put this deadline back to 2006, although most free support has ended for this operating system. Windows 95 has been unsupported for a number of years, and Windows Millenium, arguably the worst version of Windows released by Microsoft, has also had its free support announced to be discontinued, however some free and paid support can be accessed until June 20062. Microsoft will not sell any new units of Windows 95, 98, Millenium or NT Workstation.
The reader should be aware that Microsoft has made some massive changes to their operating systems over the last few years, and that Windows XP is substantially different to Windows 95 and 98. CompTIA have unfortunately not specified the objectives for the different versions of the operating system in any detail, which leaves potential examinees somewhat at their mercy. The volume of changes between Windows 95 and XP would fill many large books, and documenting them in detail is impractical. Instead, the reader should expect to set some time aside prior to sitting the examination and play with each of the above versions of Windows. Practical usage is the only way to become familiar with the idiosyncrasies and differences of each operating system and although time consuming, is essential. For reference, most of the screenshots in this section are taken from Windows 2000. Figure 2 shows a timeline of the Windows Operating Systems.
Just like any other program, before it can be used an Operating System has to be installed on your computer. Sometimes an Operating System is "pre-installed" on a new computer's hard disk (known as an OEM version); other times, particularly if you are building a computer from parts, you must purchase the Operating System software and install it yourself. Either way, the Operating System is the first piece of software installed on your computer before applications like Microsoft Word, Netscape, Lotus Notes or games like Quake. Usually it is provided on CD-ROM or DVD media, like any other software package. We will look at the features and differences between each of the Microsoft Windows Operating Systems next.
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