Microsoft changing Windows 10 certification paths; Windows 8/8.1 certifications to retire in December 2016

November 16, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft | Leave a comment
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Disclaimer: Exam retirements are subject to change without notice. Please go to the Official Microsoft Retired exams list to confirm or deny a specific test’s retirement date, as it may have changed since this post was originally published. Click our blog’s Certification Paths category to find the latest posts by date on this topic.

Test takers, take note: Windows 8 and 8.1 certifications are being retired in December, while Windows 10 certification paths are changing. If you are only one test into the two-test sequence, be sure to schedule your exam before the retirement.

These exams will no longer be available after December 31, 2016:

  • 70-687: Configuring Windows 8.1
  • 70-688: Supporting Windows 8.1
  • 70-689: Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows 8
  • 70-692: Upgrading Your Windows XP Skills to MCSA Windows 8

If you have passed either the 687 or the 688, but you do not pass the sister exam, you will not have a valid certification after December 31.

What to do if you still need that MCSA: Windows 8 in your certification wallet

You may not know that if you hold an older certification – even as far back as Windows 2000 – you can bypass the two-exam path to a MCSA: Windows 8 and take a single upgrade exam.

You can take the 70-692 and earn the MCSA: Windows 8 if you hold any of these old-school certifications:

  • MCDST: Windows XP
  • MCSA: Windows 2000
  • MCSA: Security on Windows 2000
  • MCSA: Messaging on Windows 2000
  • MCSA: Windows Server 2003
  • MCSA: Security on Windows Server 2003
  • MCSA: Messaging on Windows Server 2003
  • MCSE: Windows 2000
  • MCSE: Security on Windows 2000
  • MCSE: Messaging on Windows 2000
  • MCSE: Windows Server 2003
  • MCSE: Security on Windows Server 2003
  • MCSE: Messaging on Windows Server 2003

You can take the 70-689 and earn the MCSA: Windows 8 if you hold any of these more recent certifications:

  • MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7
  • MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician on Windows 7
  • MCSA: Windows 7
What to do if you want to jump to the MCSA: Windows 10

There are now two distinct paths for the MCSA: Windows 10 certification. If you have already earned the MCSA: Windows 8, you can upgrade to MCSA: Windows 10 by taking and passing this exam:

If you’re starting at square one, you can earn the MCSA: Windows 10 by passing two exams:

That’s right – there is no separate “upgrade exam” that takes you from an MCSA: 8 to an MCSA: 10. The 70-697 will either upgrade your prior cert, or knock out half of the testing requirements for a brand-new MCSA.

What to do if you’re still in a Windows 7 shop

While you will no longer have the ability to earn Windows 8 and 8.1 certifications, Microsoft has not announced any immediate plans to retire the MCITP in Windows 7. The MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician on Windows 7 and MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7 are still valid certifications and can be earned with a two-test sequence:

MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Support Technician on Windows 7:

  • 70-680: Windows 7, Configuring
  • 70-685: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Support Technician

MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7:

  • 70-680: Windows 7, Configuring
  • 70-686: Windows 7, Enterprise Desktop Administrator

Note that the MCSA: Windows 7 is listed as a “retired certification” on the Microsoft legacy certifications page. (For more information on Microsoft’s newly streamlined certifications, read this post on Born To Learn.)

Note that as of this writing, there do not appear to be any direct upgrade exams from the MSCA: Windows 7 (or its equivalent MCITPs) to the MCSA: Windows 10. Your best bet there is to take the two-exam sequence starting with 70-689 (upgrade to MCSA: Win 8 from MCITP: Win 7) and 70-697 (upgrade from MCSA: Win 8 to MCSA: Win 10). Remember that you need to pass 70-689 before December 31, but you can take the 70-697 at any time in 2017.

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Announcing Microsoft’s FREE upgrade exam for Win 8 MCSAs

March 30, 2016 at 4:23 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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Are you a Windows 8 MCSA? If you are, and you earned your MCSA: Windows 8 certification between February 15, 2015, and May 31, 2015, you can take Exam 70-697: Configuring Windows Devices for free. Doing so will earn you the MCSA: Windows 10 certification.

To take advantage of this offer, you MUST sign up using the link on the Microsoft site, and you MUST take (and pass) the exam no later than May 31, 2016.

Because you are limited to one free exam attempt, you may want to take advantage of Transcender’s full range of prep materials. We offer the Microsoft Practice Exam for 70-697 MSCert: Configuring Windows 10 Devices, an online Practice Lab with virutalized machines, and professional e-learning courses with 18.5 hours of instruction.

If you earned your MCSA: Windows 8 after the cutoff date, you can still register to take exam 70-697 and earn the MCSA: Windows 10 – which is still a solid move for your certification career.

Windows 10 Review, Part 3 – The house that Jack built

July 10, 2015 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Technical Tips, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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As with many trilogies, the exciting bits of my Windows 10 review happened in the middle (A Tale of Two OSes and It was the best of times, it was the worst of times). Although this chapter doesn’t have as many plot holes as my previous posts, or the multiple endings you’d find in a movie like The Return of the King, it’ll probably be more important to your productive life with Windows. Helm, warp one – engage!

Touch, Notifications and General Task Management

Material Design, anyone?

Material Design, anyone?

After initial pokes at providing a touchscreen UI as far back as Windows XP, Microsoft has delivered a mature, functional touch technology in Windows 10. Finally, the OS feels highly responsive, easy to navigate, and most importantly, stable. The taskbar is slightly taller than in Windows 8, to accommodate the tips of chubby man-size fingers like mine. The Aero interface snaps a window into full-screen or half-screen with minimal hair-pulling. And the process of dragging icons around the screen isn’t as choppy as it was in Windows 8 and 8.1.

The news is not 100% good, though. Microsoft left a few issues hanging around. In my test runs, the on-screen keyboard didn’t pop up every time I needed it to. And trying to highlight text with my finger is still reminiscent of playing a microscopic version of Pac-Man™. Overall, the touch technology earns a solid grade of B.

Microsoft has also brought some new features to the table. There is now a notification area for messages and common settings that you can launch from your task bar (even if I can’t get any notifications to show up).

Nothing to see here?

Nothing to see here?

The OS includes support for multiple desktops, reminiscent of Linux and Apple OS, so that you can spread your windows across virtual space more easily.

Too many chefs... I mean, desktops.

Too many chefs… I mean, desktops.

They even threw in a task manager that is less concerned about switching between programs than it is with graphing the overall health of your running system.

Yup, need to get some more memory!

Yup, need to get some more memory!

Release Details

Thanks to a leak from AMD, I can report that we’re expecting this new OS to hit the market by July 2015—just in time for the back-to-school sales! It’s confirmed that you can get the upgrade for free if you’re running Windows 7 or later (but only for the year following Windows 10’s release to market).

In conclusion, I think you’ll definitely want to install this new OS, especially if your need to make your touchscreen more desktop-like productive, but you don’t have to take my word for it!

NASCAR and Microsoft: A match made in Victory Lane

June 24, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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I grew up in “stock car” country and loved to see auto racing, so I was pretty pleased when Microsoft announced it has teamed up with Hendrick Motorsports. NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports will use the Windows 10 platform and Microsoft Azure to deliver technology solutions to make the cars faster and the fan experience better.

Microsoft will sponsor the Dale Earnhard Jr’s Number 88 car.

No88Car

For those of you not familar with NASCAR, NASCAR is auto racing using cars that resemble standard stock cars, but these go 200 miles per hour around a track. Unlike Formula One or other open wheel racing, stock car racing is full contact. These drivers bump and bang their cars into each other for 500 miles. Dale Earnhard Jr is the most popular driver in the sport, and Hendrick Motorsports  is the most successful team; it includes four-time champion Jeff Gordon  and six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

HendrickDrivers

Microsoft has made in roads into other sports recently. If you are a fan of American football, then you may have noticed that every NFL team uses Microsoft Surface tablets. NASCAR has a large fan base in the United States. One of the reasons for its large popularity is the interaction of the fans. When they’re at the track, fans can get pit passes to tour the the garages and see the cars and teams up close. Even if a fan is not at the track on race day, the fan can get a 3D virtual picture of the live race, hear live race radio, and stream live audio of the driver talking with his crew during the race. Technology plays a big part in the fan experience in NASCAR as well, with the NASCAR teams trying to shave a hundredth of a second off a lap or pit stop.

RaceView

In 2014 NASCAR used a Windows touch-enabled mobile line of business application for the race car inspection process across all three NASCAR series (Camping World Truck, Xfinity and Sprint Cup), which reduced inspection times by nearly half.  NASCAR will use Windows 10 as its platform to run all apps for different types of devices and race operations. NASCAR teams will use this information to make quicker and more informed decisions in race situations.  Hendrick Motorsports will use Azure to capture and analyze terabytes of data for race simulations. Making critical decisions at critical times is how great race teams win. How many laps can I keep the car out on the track before I need to get gas in the pits? How many laps can get on these new tires now that the sun has come up and heated the track up by 10 degrees? If we give the car a track bar adjustment late in the race, will this give us a competitive edge?  Knowledge is not only power, it is the difference between winning and losing.

NascarActionFire

Earnhardt said, “I’m a big technology user and really enjoy Microsoft products.” Dale Jr. may be excited about playing around with Windows 10.

As you’ve probably already heard, everybody that owns Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 can get a free upgrade for Windows 10 on July 29th, 2015. I know I’m supposed to be writing a more computer-oriented post here, but personally, I just can’t wait to see what improvements this will bring to my favorite sport. I hope to see you at the track.

FansAtTrack

Shake and Bake!

–George Monsalvatge

What went down at Microsoft Ignite 2015

May 13, 2015 at 11:53 am | Posted in Conferences, Microsoft, Vendor news | Leave a comment
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After spending a week in Chicago at Microsoft Ignite, I have a lot to report.

MsIgniteCover

First, some comments on the big picture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Microsoft has changed their strategy from buying companies to partnering with companies to get at new technologies and provide services to Microsoft customers.  Microsoft wants to be mobile first and cloud first. They announced that there will be new changes to Azure to make it the next-generation hybrid cloud. Microsoft hopes to convince customers to use Azure as their secure public cloud deployment.

Windows 10

Yes, there was a big splash for Windows 10.  Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore presented Windows 10 at the keynote.  Windows 10 is billed as “Windows as a service.”  The voice assistant, Cortana, will be built-in. Cortana can perform web queries and pull indexed files on the computer or OneDrive. Internet Explorer’s days are numbered; IE is slated to be replaced by the new Edge browser.

TheEdgeWindows

The Edge browser will have a language extension to quickly translate a website from one language to another. You will be able to use Microsoft Passport with Windows 10 which means you can use your face as authentication to log in. Encryption in Windows 10 will improve. In the past, you could use BitLocker to do an “all or nothing” drive encryption. Now you can encrypt by document, not drive. You can further extend the protection capabilities by emailing the encrypted file to another person in the company and allow that person to open the file if they use the same encryption type. Users outside the company will not be able to open the file. You could have the encrypted file copied to a USB thumb drive so that another person in the same company could open it, but not have a person outside the company open it.

Windows Update for Business

WindowsUpdateForBusiness

When you mention Windows updates to someone, their eyes roll and a low guttural groan comes from their mouth. A system administrator does not like to be overloaded with untested patches that will be applied to unsuspecting computers. With Window Update for Business, the administrator will have more flexibility on what updates are applied to company computers. You can configure distribution rings so that updates will not show up on the first Tuesday of the month.  You can configure maintenance periods to avoid updates and configure peer-to peer distribution.  Windows Update for Business will be free for Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise.

HoloLens

MicrosoftHoloLens

Microsoft mentioned  HoloLens, but did not offer a demonstration. HoloLens is a holographic headset which overlays virtual environments onto real ones.  Is this another Google Glass, or something else?  Too soon to tell.

Reinvent the nature of work

Millennials are changing the way business works. Yes, Millennials were raised by “helicopter parents” and always got a trophy for participating. However, this same generation will be the majority of the workforce in five years (2020). Millennials believe work is what you do , not where you are.  Companies such as Uber and AirBnB have used technology to disrupt industries in a similar way to how Millennials have changed corporate culture.  Millennials care less about how the individual worker is productive, and more about how the team is productive. Microsoft  announced that Office 2016 and Skype for Business will help change the nature of work to better fit the needs of this generation. Skype was mentioned a lot because studies show that 55% of communication is body language, rather than spoken word.

BodyLanguage

Security

VP Brad Anderson mention that the attendees of the Microsoft Ignite conference were not James Bond, but rather  the dude with all the nifty gadgets, Q.

JamesBondQ

Security is the number one topic on every company’s agenda. Microsoft took the opportunity to highlight the security features of Windows 10. Device Guard verifies whether each application is signed by Microsoft.  Device Guard will prevent the application from downloading if the code is not approved.   Outlook has been improved to prevent data leakage.  Data leakage protection keeps data from being copied and pasted to non-approved applications, such as Twitter, so employees cannot Tweet security secrets.  You can create a policy to allow copy and paste, but ensure that the action is logged for security purposes.   Microsoft also announced its Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) software that uses deep packet inspection and file analysis to determine suspicious data. ATA can spot the location of a potential attack.

Coming Soon

WindowSQLServer2016

Yes there will be a new version of Windows Server and SQL  Server, Windows Server 2016 and SQL Server 2016 respectively. There was not a sneak peak of either one. However, there was mention that SQL Server 2016 will allow you to stretch part of a table into the cloud. A good use of this could be stretching a table that contains historical data.

Microsoft Ignite was different than Microsoft TechEd shows in the past. For starters, it was a heck of a lot bigger. There were over 20,000 reported attendees at the inaugural Microsoft event.  The McCormick Convention Center was a city in itself. If you were there, I hope you got an opportunity to visit the Hands On Lab.

20150507_082212-1

The Hands On Lab offered you the opportunity to run through different labs on SharePoint, Azure, Office 365, SQL Server, and others. Attendees of Microsoft Ignite can access these labs online through https://myignite.microsoft.com/#/ until  June 1st, 2015.  If you did not attend, you can still access Microsoft online labs at https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/virtuallabs/bb467605.aspx for free.

Microsoft Ignite was a blast. It will be back in Chicago next year. I hope to see you there!

20150507_194310-1

–George Monsalvatge (that’s me in the middle)

Windows 10 Review, Part 2 – It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

March 25, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Technical Tips, Vendor news | 1 Comment
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After my introductory foray into Windows 10, I was ready to get down to brass tacks and really discover what Microsoft’s new OS was all about. When, suddenly, this happened:

app_error_message

You can’t always get what you want… but if you try, sometimes you might find that you don’t have to re-install. Well, actually that doesn’t really work for Windows, especially with a Technical Preview. But maybe this is a good starting point to discuss how Windows will treat this kind of error, from Windows 8 going forward.

Refreshing Your PC

Windows 10 comes with the fairly painless re-install option introduced in Windows 8, called refresh. Refreshing your PC leaves all of your files and personal settings alone, but reinstalls Windows Store apps for you. Bully for you if you have any of those applications, but more than likely you’ll need to re-install any legacy applications by hand, e.g. the ones that every business user works in. So don’t go throwing away those InstallShield downloads and installer DVDs. But, hey, it’s better than having to reinstall everything, right? Certainly it’s a quick enough procedure if it fixes the problem.

In this case, though, it didn’t fix the problem. Okay, so now I had some investigation to do. Nurse, scalpel, STAT!

Reinstallation

Yeah, so surgery didn’t go so well. Good news is I have updated to the latest build (9926). Bad news is my first patient didn’t make it, but, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. So, after three hours of alternating between Candy Crush and Trivia Crack, I’m back on the review beat… Oh, did I plug our great mobile app time-waster yet? Who knows? You might learn something.

Okay, skip the ad — let’s break into the hyped stuff first.

Start Menu 2.0

Fair is foul, and foul is fair. It’s not the same compact program listing you remember. Gentleman, they rebuilt him; they had the technology. That’s right, meet the new Start Menu. Granted, you don’t have to dive into full-screen unless you’re in tablet mode.

Here's the Start Menu!

On the left is your old Programs listing, with fewer functions than the Windows 7 edition, but thankfully more simplistic. If you can’t find the application or document you want, then try clicking on the All apps link. Once here, it helps to know the name of the app you’re searching, because you’re staring at a phonebook-like listing. Reminds me of scrolling through Windows Phone contacts. Or you can get cozy with Cortana (see more about that below) to avoid hunting and pecking every time you need to open something new.

Another note about the lovely new Windows 10 Start Screen, each application displays as a tile and supports live updates, so that you can keep up with the latest Facebook flame war and your cousin’s selfies. If that’s a distraction, then you can move the tiles around, group them, and set them in one of four sizes – small, medium, wide, or large. Not a whole lot of custom options, but hey, at least it’s simple to use.

Browser

Internet Explorer 11 comes pre-packaged with two different browser platforms: Edge and Compatibility. Eventually, this will make its way into two completely different browser applications – Spartan and Trident. Spartan will be the experimental, lightning-fast HTML5 engine, while Trident will be the old, reliable browser with the compatibility to handle older web pages with ActiveX, Silverlight, and other retired or soon-to-be-shelved technology.

When in automatic mode, I experienced no lag loading web pages with multimedia, and scrolling and touch-to-zoom seemed responsive and snappy. So I went ahead and ran a quick HTML5 benchmark to get some objective measures … and was quickly disappointed.

Windows 10 IE 11 Edge Peacekeeper Rating

According to the Peacekeeper universal browser test, IE 11 running with Edge scored a measly 406, and only 388 with Compatibility enabled. That’s lower than an iPhone 4s scores, and trust me, that stock browser is sluggish by anybody’s standards! To test whether it was the fault of Windows 10 or Internet Explorer, I installed Google Chrome as a control. Chrome scored a whopping 616. Let’s hope that the new IE only gets better as we move towards the general release.

Cortana

So, after the limited success of voice activation on the Xbox, the folks at Microsoft brought the voice recognition application Cortana (named after the AI in the Halo franchise) over to the desktop/tablet. She knows your name (after you type it in) and keeps you in the know with the latest news. I tried making friends with Cortana. You should too. But approach with caution. Go ahead and ask her what the weather is today and where Washington, DC is located and you’ll be pleased. But if you ask, “How far am I away from Washington DC?”, she may stop talking to you and instead launch the Bing website. Although, when I asked, “How long would it take for me to get to Washington DC?”, she took a minute or two, and then returned a detailed answer. Of course had I followed her directions I would have ended up in the state of Washington  and not the District. D’oh!

Hello, Cortana.

That said, this is early going for Microsoft’s voice recognition system. But I have no doubt it will rise to the standards of Google’s Speech and Apple’s Siri by general release.

Look out for the third and final installment of my Window 10 Review – What Lies Beneath!

Until then,

Josh Hester aka codeguru

Windows 10 Review, Part 1 – A Tale of Two OSes

March 5, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Technical Tips, Vendor news | 2 Comments
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2011. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Well, actually, it was a bummer of a year. Not only did a famous pop star say her final, “no, no, no,” but R.E.M. called it quits and Charlie “Tiger Blood” Sheen got booted off of prime time TV. More seriously, there were several devastating natural disasters—namely the earthquake-tsunami that led to the Fukishima nuclear meltdown and the slew of tornadoes that ripped through Joplin, Missouri.

Perhaps that grim recap puts me in the mindset to review the spectacle that was Windows 8. Rather than screen capping or demoing any of the fledgling OS’s features, Microsoft chose to talk about ARM support at CES. This pushed anticipation into a fever pitch, culminating into the first pre-release later that year. The result was a strange hybrid—one part traditional Windows and another part this thing called Metro, later amended to the Modern UI in 8.1.

Some reviewers would describe it less charitably: more like an OS with schizophrenia, similar to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, than a cohesive user experience. By the time of its public release, all of its laudable features—such as Microsoft account integration, improved task manager features, and built-in virtual drive mounting—fell away. It all boiled down to that awkward Metro UI for many Windows users and businesses. Oh, and let’s not forget Start-Gate!

So, in my review series on Windows 10 (Technical Preview Build 9841), I plan to start from a baseline of Windows 7 before Microsoft’s misadventures into the Modern UI. If Microsoft itself wants to move right from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, then I too will go ahead and skip any unneeded Windows 8 comparisons. After all, most of you never upgraded to Windows 8 or 8.1 anyway.

The Hype

Two of the features I was most interested in previewing were the Spartan browser with its lightning-fast Edge engine and the streamlined Office suite. I’d also heard the churning rumors regarding the return of the Start menu, and was curious to see whether this was another Microsoft game.

The Setup

To properly evaluate the Windows 10 preview release from a touch standpoint, I installed it on the Asus VivoTab Smart with a Bluetooth keyboard. It came with a dual core Atom processor, 2GB of Ram, 64GB storage, and Windows 8 pre-installed, which I later upgraded it to Windows 8.1. For this preview, I went ahead and did a clean install of Windows 10. The process was relatively painless, but coming from Windows 7, you’ll probably be a bit confused. Since Windows 8, Microsoft is pushing for an OS that’s not just your co-worker, but also wants to be your friend.

win8-hi

MIA

Sadly, the Spartan browser and the updated Office suite were not included in the build I installed. Next to the Cortana voice assistant, these are two of the more highly anticipated features, so I’ll review them individually once they come out in a future build.

But good news about that Start Menu… it’s back!

Untitled

Well, sort of back… more about that in my next post.

Until next time,

Joshua Hester

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