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MCSE Core Required Exams in a Nutshell, 3rd Ed.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 10:46 pm    Post subject: MCSE Core Required Exams in a Nutshell, 3rd Ed. Reply with quote

MCSE Core Required Exams in a Nutshell, Third Edition

Author: William R. Stanek
Publisher: O’REILLY http://www.oreilly.com/
Date Published: 2006
Book Specifications: Soft cover, 736 pages
Category: Miscellaneous
Publisher's Suggested User Level: Experienced System Administrator studying for the MCSE 2003 exam
Reviewer's Recommended User Level: Reader should have 6-12 months experience in Admin type role
Suggested Publisher Price: 49.99 US / £35.50 UK
ISBN: 0-596-10228-3

Blurb from Back Cover:
Written by the premier author in Windows administration, William Stanek, and addressing the needs of Windows 2003 administrators preparing for the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) exams, MCSE Core Required Exams in a Nutshell is invaluable. Not only does this book provide the resources administrators need to succeed on the exams, but to succeed in the real world as well. They can think of this book as the notes they would have highlighted and then recorded for every essential nugget of information related to the skills measured in Exams 70-290, 70-291, 70-293, and 70-294 (and by association Exams 70-292 and 70-296).


My goal for the end of 2006 was to study for the MCSE exams and be prepared to take them in quarter one of 2007. I looked at many different books and purchased some study guides. I looked at this book and figured it would be a good review of everything else I have studied for Microsoft’s MCSE exams. This book focuses on Exams 70-290, 70-291, 70-293, and 70-294 (and by association Exams 70-292 and 70-296).

Another reason I picked this book was because the author has a solid background in Windows, Unix and mainframe administration, server clustering, shell scripting and other programming. In other words, he seemed like a person who would have a good understanding of how a network/system works.

Chapter Synopsis and Review Comments

Chapter 1 – Exam 70-290 Overview: Managing and Maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Environment

Chapter one is a high level overview of what you can expect to read in chapter two, similar to a table of contents.

Chapter 2 – Exam 70-290 Study Guide

Chapter two is the meat of the 70-290 material. While not going overboard on details this chapter handsomely covers a lot of information. It opens up with the tools you will use to administer many if not all aspects of a 2003 server. It explains how to install the tools, configure snap-ins and when to appropriately use said tools. The next section transitions to disk management including RAID configurations and setup. I enjoyed the simple yet valuable explanations of different RAID configurations and why at times one configuration would be better than another.

After covering disk management the next section covers AD (Active Directory) Users, Computers, and groups. I found it odd that the author changed subjects so quickly mid-chapter. I thought a more suitable next section would have been backup and recovery (covered later on) to follow the disk management and fault tolerance information.

The AD section covered basic tasks such as creating OU’s (Organizational Units), groups, and users. It also has a nice refresher on how to import/export accounts using the command line utility and what flags can be used during this process. Local, Roaming and Mandatory profiles are explained. The next seventeen pages are dedicated to permissions for users, group and web shares.

Terminal Services including Remote Desktop / Assistance are explained including a helpful section on troubleshooting terminal services problems. The next section I found to be a very important section that every Administrator should know; working with Task Manager and the Performance Monitor.

Next the author covers File and Print servers and how to setup user quotas. This is an informative section, my only complaint is that it would have been better placed after the AD permissions section.

The next nine pages cover web services including setup and configuration of IIS, IIS tools and content permissions. If you have worked with IIS previously this section is a breeze. If you have not worked with IIS you will need to do some extra studying on your own to fully digest this material.

After IIS we move on to WSUS usage and configuration. You could use the information here to setup a WSUS server even if you have never had hands on experience, it is very thorough. Again, a little out of place it seemed, the next section covers disaster recovery. The author gives different ways in which you can prevent disasters using backups and restores (Shadow Copy).

That is the end of chapter two; I was surprised that DFS was not mentioned anywhere as that would have been a good addition to the fault tolerance area. It may not be on the test however the author went beyond exam material in many areas and discussed best practice and practical application.

Chapter 3 – Exam 70-290 Prep and Practice

This section has suggested exercises based on the material from chapter two. It also contains a “Highlighters Index” which is a summary of key points in chapter two. The beneficial part of chapter three is practice questions. The questions are formed in a way to make you think about the material instead of just filling in the blank which I understand is similar to the actual exam. Following the questions are the answers which are explained.

Chapter 4 – Exam 70-291 Overview: Implementing, Managing, and maintaining a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Network Infrastructure

This is basically the table of contents for the next few chapters.

Chapter 5 – Exam 70-291 Study Guide

Chapter five starts with IP address implementation and maintenance. Although not as in depth as a CCNA course it covers Class A,B and C addresses and when you should use them. There is a section on troubleshooting IP address problems which covers the basics but is a good refresher. DHCP is covered in depth including scope creation / activation and troubleshooting. There is a good practical walk through on backing up and restoring a DHCP database. There is lots more information on DHCP.

The DNS section of chapter 5 is more than just a refresher. Configuration of DNS is shown in detail with helpful pictures included. Following DNS is an important section on Network security. This section focused on using the Security Template, Configuration and Analysis snap-ins. The author not only shows how to use and understand the tool but how to use in conjunction with good security practice.

The other sections in this chapter show how to configure NAT and the Basic Windows Firewall. The book explains how to manage remote access clients with a RADIUS server VIA IAS (Internet Authentication Service). I was a little disappointed as this part of the book felt more like a user manual than anything else, needless to say it was very dry.

Chapter 6 – Exam 70-291 Prep and Practice

This chapter has the exercises for the material in chapter five. The exercises for setting up a DNS server are great if you have a test server or virtual server to play with. Following the exercises are the practice questions.

Chapter 7 – Exam 70-293 Overview: Planning and Maintaining a Windows Server 2003 Infrastructure

The author opens this chapter up with a comparison to exam 70-291. He also states the required skill level to pass this exam. This is followed by a table of contents.

Chapter 8 – Exam 70-293 Study Guide

I found this part of the book to be very interesting. The author explains how to choose a security strategy based on what role the server will be playing. This section covers GP (group policy) and how to use different GP templates. He talks about some of the Active Directory default groups and when they should be implemented. This section has some really good information for administrators planning out and configuring a small to medium size domain. There is a brief section on the OSI model which breaks down the different layers in an easy to understand high level overview. We go on to read about network topologies and many different scenarios a network designer should consider before planning a new network.

Part of network planning includes IP address allocation. Plenty of pages were spent defining the different classes of IP addresses. This section seemed to be overkill for the book but the material was accurate and pertinent to the chapter. After the IP classes dissemination the author has a great section on troubleshooting WAN/LAN connectivity problems.

Chapter 9 – Exam 70-293 Prep and Practice

Chapter 9 has exercises you can try if you have a test server to use. It also includes highlights of all subjects covered in chapter 8. If you have a server to use, I highly recommend participating in all exercises in the book. It really makes everything come alive. The QandA section is next which you will hopefully have no trouble with. If you do, go back to chapter 8 and re-read the sections you had trouble with.

Chapter 10 – Exam 70-294 Overview

Chapter 10 is an overview of the skills required for exam 70-294. The author gives us a table of contents for the next chapter.

Chapter 11 – Exam 70-294 Study Guide

This chapter was a fun chapter to read. As you read through the author explains how to plan for and prepare an AD forest. While covering plenty of fundamental information the author also explains good practice when preparing a network. This chapter breaks down the different operations master roles in an easy to remember way and how/when to implement them on your server.

The next section teaches how to plan out OU’s for your domain. Following that are plenty of pages on creating sites. From the practice tests I have been doing there seems to be lots of questions about sites; I was happy to see the author expound on the subject. Following is an explanation of trusts and how to troubleshoot trust relationship problems.

Chapter 12 – Exam 70-294 Prep and Practice

This chapter has test exercises which everyone should do who has access to a test environment. After you have done the exercises you can test yourself with the QandA section.

Style and Detail

I was a bit torn in regards to the style of this book. In some parts of the book I felt the author did a great job explaining things that I hadn’t read before. Other, and possibly more, parts of the book felt like I was reading a tech manual. I don’t mind either style however when the author wanted to he could really help you understand a concept. The order in which things are presented at times was a bit backwards. That being said I felt like the author highlighted everything I need to know about these exams.


Having read many condensed books for the MCSE test I liked this one better than any other. I felt that after reading this book I walked away with a better understanding of what I need to know. The author helped me retain most of what I was reading. If you are planning on taking the MCSE exam, I recommend this book to supplement you studies.

I feel this book deserves an honored SFDC rating of 8 out of 10 SFDC globes.

Ryan Sutton

This review is copyright by the author, Ryan Sutton, and Security-Forums Dot Com, and may not be reproduced in any form in any media without the express permission of the author, or Security-Forums Dot Com.
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