A+: Useful Hardware and Software Tools
Troubleshooting best methods expect you to know the use of basic diagnostic devices, so a review of this section will be useful before your A+ exam. The following list of items also provides you with a handy reference for what you should bring on service calls.
Hardware diagnostics tools can help you determine what components inside of a bootable system are not working correctly. Testing software used as part of the diagnostic process can also be used to perform burn-in tests on new hardware to help find problems before systems are put into service.Some typical products include a blank CD-R and DVD-R, bootable antivirus disc, blank floppy, POST card for PCI slots, and diagnostic/testing software such as QuickTech Pro and its loopback plug set which link transmit to receive lines for diagnostics..
Also, acquire testing software such as Burnin Test Professional (www.passmark.com), CheckIt Professional Edition (www.smithmicro.com), AMIDiag Suite (www.amidiag.com), or Ultra-X QuickTech Personal or PRO (www.ultra-x.com)—Tests RAM, hardware configuration, motherboards, serial ports, parallel ports, and drives; some also check USB ports.
If the testing software you choose doesn’t include the loopback plugs you need, make sure you use compatible loopback plugs (these can be ordered from the software vendor or various online or mail-order hardware vendors). Mixing and matching serial and parallel loopback plugs and testing software can provide inaccurate results because different brands of testing programs use various wiring designs for their loopback plugs.
USB 2.0 loopback plugs (also compatible with USB 1.1 plugs) are available from PassMark Software (www.passmark.com); they are compatible with PassMark’s USB2Test and BurnIn Test Professional programs.
SuperLooper loopback plugs for various Ethernet and telecom interfaces are available from the Smartronix Store (www.smartronixstore.com).
Other useful items include:
• POST card— Displays hex POST codes during system startup to find boot errors that don’t have matching beep codes. To display POST codes on systems that don’t have PCI, PCI Express, or ISA expansion slots but have parallel ports, use a parallel-port based POST code displayer, such as Ultra-X’s MicroPost.
• Blank media (floppy disk, USB flash drive, recordable CD and DVD media)— These can be used to transfer drivers from a working machine to a similar machine that is not working. Note that you must use a floppy disk to provide a mass storage (RAID, SCSI, or SATA) driver for Windows XP during installation.
• A preinstalled Windows environment on CD or DVD matching the Windows version in use— The most famous of these is BartPE (www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/). A BartPE disc can be used to recover files, perform maintenance, and other rescue tasks on a system running Windows XP; it is created from a licensed Windows XP CD with the PE Builder program.
• Virus/malware scanning software— An up-to-date copy of a major anti-virus and anti-malware program helps find and remove viruses and Trojan Horse programs that affect systems. If you don’t have a licensed anti-virus program available to scan a system, but it has a working Internet connection, use free online scanning services, such as Trend Micro’s HouseCall (housecall.trendmicro.com), Symantec’s Security Scan (part of Google Pack; http://pack.google.com), Panda’s ActiveScan (www.pandasecurity.com), BitDefender Online Scanner (www.bitdefender.com), or others to scan the system.Although many anti-virus programs are shipped on bootable CDs, most of these bootable CDs cannot scan NTFS-based file systems used by many installations of Windows 2000/XP. If you need a bootable CD with anti-virus and other tools that works on NTFS-based installations, check out avast! BART CD (Bootable Antivirus and Recovery Tools for Windows Server and Workstation) from Alwil Software (www.avast.com), makers of avast! 4 antivirus. Do not confuse avast! BART CD with BartPE.