Windows XP doesn't appear yet on CompTIA's A+ exam. But just try using that as an excuse if you can't fix a problem on your boss's brand-new notebook. If you're a working computer technician -- A+ certified or otherwise -- knowledge of Windows XP is no longer optional.
That's where A+ Technician's Guide to Windows XP comes in. Curt Simmons covers everything the professional tech needs to know to install, upgrade, and maintain any Windows XP system. This is the kind of stuff that would be on the A+ exam if it did include Windows XP.
Simmons writes from the perspective of an experienced technician. For example, he notes that you'll often receive support calls immediately after Windows XP installation because your users can't find the icons they've become accustomed to. What happened to "My Computer?" Where's "My Network Places"? After many Windows XP installations, all you see is the Recycle Bin. (This might be taking tidiness just a bit too far.)
He shows you how to drag those old familiar friends back to the desktop if that's what your users want -- and how to comfort folks who are worried about inadvertently deleting Start Menu items (not to worry: they're just links).
He also shows how to "pin" items to the top of the Start menu, so they're always available -- even if users don't use them for awhile. (No more panicked calls that Microsoft PowerPoint has disappeared, when you know perfectly well it's still there.)
You'll find a full chapter on supporting applications -- including detailed coverage of app troubleshooting in Windows XP. As you may have discovered ruefully, when you upgrade a PC to Windows XP, all of its existing applications remain in place, ready to click -- but that doesn't mean they'll actually work.
To that end, Simmons introduces Windows XP's compatibility mode, designed to trick your software into thinking it's running on some older version of Windows. It's fascinating how this works: For example, if your software only works with Windows 9x Registry, compatibility mode invokes a "shim" that emulates the Windows 98 Registry, folder structure, and other Win9x attributes that are no longer present in Windows XP. (He also turns you on to two little-known Microsoft tools, QFixApp and the Compatibility Administration Tool, for fixing problems that compatibility mode can't fix.)
These tweaks actually work pretty well for a surprising number of applications (even games!). But, as Simmons points out, don't try using compatibility mode on disk management, backup, or antivirus utilities: you can cause all sorts of havoc that way.
A second application issue you're most likely to encounter is performance. Simmons helps you assess whether this is the result of hardware and points you toward whatever software tweaks might be available.
Simmons next turns to managing user accounts and permissions -- one of the most aggravating tasks faced by many administrators and technicians. You'll walk through creating and changing accounts (you're encouraged to make liberal use of the Limited account, which was formerly called "User") and creating password reset disks (for those folks who simply can't remember a password!) He also discusses Simple File Sharing (and explains why you might want to disable it if you're running Windows XP Professional.)
What's the next-most-annoying area of support? In many organizations, it's printing. Simmons offers practical guidance for configuring and troubleshooting network printers, managing print queues, and handling sticky permissions problems. (Here, he walks you through a two-page scenario explaining how to limit when one group can use a printer and make sure another group's jobs always have priority.)
From managing disks to offering Remote Assistance, configuring Internet Explorer to working with digital media, this book is a gold mine for anyone whose career depends on keeping Windows XP users happy. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.