At first glance, Microsoft’s Windows XP and Windows 2000 client exam objectives appear almost identical. But although both exams test essentially the same skills, there are important differences between the two platforms. Previously, I covered the objectives for the Windows 2000 Professional exam. If you missed them, you can review them here.

To win Windows XP Professional certification, you’ll have to prove your expertise by completing all the objectives covered in the Win2K Pro lists, with just a few exceptions. You’ll have to demonstrate some other capabilities as well.

These additional objectives, such as Product Activation, aren’t overwhelming. Let’s take a look.

Product Activation
A quick review of the Windows XP Pro exam objectives reveals that you must understand Microsoft’s new Product Activation licensing requirements. As a result, you should familiarize yourself with the new Sysprep –activated switch, which instructs Sysprep not to reset the Windows Product Activation grace period.

You should know that upon installation, you have 30 days to activate the operating system. Also remember that changing a system’s hardware configuration could require contacting Microsoft before activation can be completed if Product Activation determines that the new configuration appears too much like another or new system.

Know how to activate Windows 2000 XP Professional. Product Activation can be completed by clicking  Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Activate Windows.

Another difference between the two exams is that WinXP Pro requires you to know how to configure Advanced Configuration Power Interface (ACPI). For the Windows 2000 Professional exam, your ability to configure Advanced Power Management (APM) is key.

In Windows XP, ACPI configuration settings are administered using Control Panel’s Performance and Maintenance applet. There, you’ll find a Power Options button, which opens the Power Options Properties dialog box. You should be familiar with the power settings found there and their operation.

Handheld devices
For the first time that I know of, handheld device support is included on an exam. Under the Implementing, Managing, Monitoring, and Troubleshooting Hardware Devices and Drivers topic, Microsoft lists “Install, configure, and manage handheld devices” as a Windows XP Pro exam objective.

While various handheld devices work differently, it wouldn’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the manner in which Windows handhelds, at least, share information and interface similarities with WinXP Professional. In all likelihood, you won’t see many handheld questions on the exam. Still, it’s important to note that Microsoft felt strongly enough about the subject to list it as an objective.

Mobile users and remote administration
An important new feature of Windows XP is its ability to allow administrators to remotely troubleshoot client systems. Unlike with handheld device support, I’m sure you’ll see a few questions targeting this topic on the exam.

Under the Monitoring and Optimizing System Performance and Reliability topic, Microsoft now lists “Manage, monitor, and optimize system performance for mobile users.” Notice that the objective doesn’t just list manage and optimize, but it also says monitor system performance.

While you’ll need to know the usual performance monitoring and optimization routines, you should also master Windows XP’s remote desktop and remote assistance capabilities. These, too, are noted under Implementing, Managing, and Troubleshooting Network Protocols and Services on Microsoft’s Web site.

With Windows XP, administrators can now view and control a user’s desktop remotely. The administrator can also chat with the user using Microsoft Messenger and pass files between the administrator’s system and the user’s system.

You should memorize how requests for assistance are sent, how they are received, and how assistance is provided to the user. As part of your preparation and training, you should master use of the new Remote Assistance Console.

IIS, ICF, and network bridging
Here are two new topics that jumped out at me. Internet Information Services (IIS) and Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) on a client exam? You bet.

A scaled-down version of IIS 5 is included with Windows XP. This version supports up to 10 Web connections. IIS in WinXP is administered using the IIS Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in or a simplified Personal Web Manager utility. You should be familiar with basic IIS configuration and troubleshooting.

You’ll also likely find exam questions covering the use of XP’s new ICF, which works by examining the source and destination IP addresses of the data packets it receives. You definitely should know how to configure and troubleshoot ICF before attempting the WinXP Pro exam.

Know how to configure network bridging on WinXP machines. WinXP’s new bridging feature permits the client OS to connect multiple networks using multiple network interface cards in a single machine. You should know how to configure and troubleshoot bridging and familiarize yourself with the feature’s settings. Bridging is an important new feature in WinXP, especially considering that the bridging is occurring on a client system. While this feature hasn’t received much press, it’s important to take note of it, as small networks and peer-to-peer environments could find it quite beneficial.

Security concerns
Two new security concerns caught my attention, too, when I reviewed Windows XP’s exam objectives. If you intend to earn Windows XP Professional certification, you should ensure that you know how to troubleshoot cache credentials and configure, manage, and troubleshoot Internet Explorer security settings.

A note on preparation
While it’s all fine and good to study up on these items using exam prep books, your best bet is to sit down and spend time working with the features in Windows XP Professional itself. Nothing beats the experience you’ll gain from first-hand use of the technology.

Eckel’s take
The Windows 2000 and Windows XP desktop MCP exams have many similarities. Most of the same objectives are tested. However, that doesn’t mean that you can pass the XP exam because you passed the Win2K Pro test. The two operating systems perform some of the same actions, but differently. In addition, XP will test you on several new topics, including IIS, ICF, and network bridging.

If you’ve already passed the Win2K Pro exam, I don’t recommend you take the XP test. There’s really no need. If your goal is to earn a client MCP, though, and you haven’t yet tried the Win2K Pro test, XP may be your best bet. The final determination will depend on your personal circumstances and career requirements.

For example, if your company is preparing to deploy Win2K, or if it’s just completed a Win2K deployment, the Win2K Pro exam might be best. On the other hand, if you’re looking to earn certification on the latest platform, the XP credential should probably be your preference. Although it’s hard to believe, the Win2K desktop OS will soon be two years old. In the lifespan of an OS, that’s a pretty long time.

Which client OS exam are you going to take?

We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Post a comment or a question about this article.