If you’re planning on taking the new A+ exams (220-801 and 220-802), you know that they cover an extensive amount of knowledge and will take you some time to prepare. Your best bet is to get a comprehensive book such as the CompTIA A+ Training Kit (Exam 220-801 and Exam 220-802) (ISBN- 978-0735662681) by Darril Gibson. The book covers all five domains of the 220-801 exam and all four domains of the 220-802 exam. It includes a CD with practice test questions and the entire book in a searchable PDF format.

The book takes you through the inner workings of a computer in simple to understand language. Chapters 1 through 10 focus primarily on hardware components. Chapters 11 through 17 cover the specific Windows operating systems mentioned in the objectives. Networking topics are covered in chapters 18 through 24. Last, chapters 25 and 26 cover some security topics.

Each chapter includes a list of the specific objectives covered in the chapter to help you remember what is important for each exam. At the beginning of the book, you’ll find a listing of all the objectives along with the specific chapter where the objective is covered.

Most chapters start with a real world scenario illustrating how some of the knowledge directly relates to real world and on-the-job situations. Exam tips are sprinkled throughout to remind you of key information you’ll need for the exams and notes are occasionally used to provide amplifying information about a topic. At the end of most sections, you’ll find two or three Quick Check questions and Quick Check answers to help you test your knowledge of the key information in the topic.

At the end of the chapter, you’ll find a chapter summary along with some practice test questions. All of the practice test questions (on the CD and in the chapters) include detailed explanations so you’ll know why the correct answer is correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

Of course, there are also some great courses that many people find valuable to help them prepare. Infosec Institute hosts a five-day CompTIA A+ Boot Camp which includes the cost of the exams and on-site testing. They also have A+ Online Training in two separate formats depending on your needs.

The following is a partial excerpt from Chapter 9 “Mobile Devices” to give you an idea of how the book is laid out.

Chapter 9 Mobile Devices

In this chapter, you’ll learn about the different types of mobile devices, with an emphasis on tablets such as Apple’s iPad. These devices have enjoyed great popularity in recent years, and it’s clear that they are here to stay. This chapter compares tablets to laptops, compares different operating systems on the devices, and covers methods used to connect them. You’ll also learn some basics about using these mobile devices and important information about how you can secure them.

Exam 220-801 objectives in this chapter:

1.7 Compare and contrast various connection interfaces and explain their purpose.

  • Speeds, distances and frequencies of wireless device connections
    • Bluetooth
    • IR
    • RF

2.7 Compare and contrast Internet connection types and features.

  • Cellular (mobile hot spot)

Exam 220-802 objectives in this chapter:

3.1 Explain the basic features of mobile operating systems.

  • Android vs. iOS
    • Open source vs. closed source/vendor specific
    • App source (app store and market)
    • Screen orientation (accelerometer/gyroscope)
    • Screen calibration
    • GPS and geotracking

3.2 Establish basic network connectivity and configure email.

  • Wireless / cellular data network (enable/disable)
  • Bluetooth
    • Enable Bluetooth
    • Enable pairing
    • Find device for pairing
    • Enter appropriate pin code
    • Test connectivity
  • Email configuration
    • Server address
      • POP3
      • IMAP
      • Port and SSL settings
    • Exchange
    • Gmail

3.3 Compare and contrast methods for securing mobile devices.

  • Passcode locks
  • Remote wipes
  • Locator applications
  • Remote backup applications
  • Failed login attempts restrictions
  • Antivirus
  • Patching/OS updates

3.4 Compare and contrast hardware differences in regards to tablets and laptops.

  • No field serviceable parts
  • Typically not upgradeable
  • Touch interface
    • Touch flow
    • Multitouch
  • Solid state drives

3.5 Execute and configure mobile device synchronization.

  • Types of data to synchronize
    • Contacts
    • Programs
    • Email
    • Pictures
    • Music
    • Videos
  • Software requirements to install the application on the PC
  • Connection types to enable synchronization

Real World Locating your lost iPad

Not too long ago, a friend of mine lost his iPad. He used it all the time and was sure that someone had stolen it. When he mentioned it to me a few days later, I asked if he had enabled Location Services. His puzzled look indicated that he didn’t know what I was talking about, but he did say that when he bought it, his brother-in-law helped him set it up. It was possible that Location Services was enabled and that we could find it.

We ended up downloading a location app, and he signed in using his information. Within a couple of minutes, we pinpointed the exact location of his iPad. Interestingly, it was at my house. I assured him I didn’t have it but suggested it might be in his car, which was in my driveway. After a few minutes of searching, he found it beneath some papers under a car seat.

This location feature is common on most mobile devices, not just iPads. Not only can the device be located but you can also send signals to erase all the data or lock the device. Knowing what features are available will help you be a better technician, even if you don’t have a mobile device of your own.

Tablets vs. Laptops

Tablets are handheld devices such as the Apple iPad, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or the HP Touchpad. They have a touchscreens allowing you to operate them without a keyboard or mouse. Instead you use gestures (described later in this chapter) to operate them.

These devices use solid state storage drives and flash memory, providing excellent speed when being rebooted and while running applications. Solid state drives (covered in Chapter 4, “Comparing Storage Devices”) are lighter and consume less power. This allows the rechargeable battery to be smaller, and the overall weight of a tablet is less than that of a typical laptop.

Tablets commonly include Wi-Fi capability, allowing them to connect to a wireless network. Some tablets also include the ability to access a cellular network for Internet access. When using the cellular network, the user needs to sign up with a wireless provider such as Verizon or AT&T. The cellular network used by tablets is the same cellular network used by smartphones.

Hardware for tablets is rarely upgradable or serviceable. If you buy a 16-GB iPad and later decide you want a 64-GB iPad, you need to buy a new one. If it breaks, you might be able to send it back to the company to get it serviced, but this can be quite expensive if it isn’t under warranty.

In contrast, laptops are bigger, include more hardware, and are upgradable and serviceable. Laptops include keyboards along with the display screens, but tablets use a display keyboard that allows you to touch the keys on the touchscreen. You can purchase laptops with display screens as big as 17.3 inches, which are much bigger than the 9.7-inch diagonal display of an iPad or the 10.1-inch diagonal display of the Galaxy Tab.

Note Tablet Sizes

Tablet display sizes are commonly quoted as the diagonal display size. This is the length of the screen from an upper corner to the opposite lower corner and includes only the viewable area.

Table 9-1 summarizes some of the important differences between tablets and laptops related to the A+ exams.

Table 9-1 Comparing Tablets and Laptops

Exam Tip

Tablets do not have field-serviceable parts and are rarely upgradable. They include solid state drives, contributing to their high performance and lighter weight. Tablets have many common features that aren’t always in laptops. The following sections cover these features.

Accelerometers and Gyroscopes

Many devices include an accelerometer and a Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS) gyroscope to measure the orientation of the device. In many devices, a single chip includes both. The output of the accelerometer and gyroscope indicates the orientation of the device, and the device can use this information to change the display.

The most basic use of accelerometers and gyroscopes is to determine whether the device is positioned horizontally or vertically in front of a user. If the user changes the orientation of the device, the software can automatically switch the screen orientation to landscape or portrait mode.

Note Landscape and Portrait Modes

Landscape mode is used when the device is held horizontally, and portrait mode is used when the device is held vertically. The automatic change in orientation can be disabled in many devices by using a Lock Rotation setting.

A more sophisticated use is to sense the exact orientation of the device and change the display to match. For example, Star Walk (shown in Figure 9-1) is an application that shows information about satellites, planets, stars, constellations, and more.

Figure 9-1 Star Walk application screen.

If you hold the tablet up with the back pointing toward the sky, the display shows the names of everything in that direction. Move the device in any direction, and the display automatically changes to show you what’s in the new direction. If you were looking for Saturn, you could scan the sky with the back of the tablet until Saturn was displayed. You could then look at the sky in that direction. Similarly, many games use this feature. For example, in some racing games, you can hold the tablet like a steering wheel to make turns within the game.

Exam Tip

Tablets include accelerometers and/or gyroscopes to sense the position of the device. Applications and the operating system use the output of these components to automatically adjust the display. This includes switching from landscape to portrait mode or making incremental changes in the display when the device is moved.


Most tablets and smartphones include access to a Global Positioning System (GPS), which can be used to determine the exact location of the device. The location is used by many apps on tablets to provide location-specific data. For example, if you use Google Earth, this feature allows GPS to zoom in on your location. Similarly, weather service apps use the GPS to provide local weather reports.


Geotracking is the practice of recording the location of a mobile device and using it to track the movements of the device. The location is identified based on cell towers accessed by the device and can provide specific information including latitude, longitude, the azimuth or compass heading from the tower, and the time and date. It can also record information if users connect to geographically tagged Wi-Fi hot spots.

Note Apple’s Use of Geotracking

Apple has stated this data is used for apps that need location-based information. They mention that calculating a phone’s location by using only GPS satellite data can take several minutes, but the time can be reduced to a few seconds by using the logged location data.

Mobile devices store this data in a file on the device, and if someone knows how to retrieve it, they can track the location of the device over a period of time. Some forensics classes teach specifically how to retrieve this information from a device. Similarly, some applications can retrieve the data from a device.

There are also apps that you can install on devices to track their movement and location. Parents sometimes use them to keep track of their children, and employers have used them to keep track of employer-supplied devices.

Screen Calibration

In some cases, the touchscreen can become uncalibrated. You might find that instead of touching directly on an item, you have to touch somewhere else close to the item. For example, if you touch a button on the screen, it doesn’t respond, but if you touch to the right of the button, it works. This isn’t common with many current tablets but has been an issue with tablets and devices using touchscreens in the past.

If the device needs to be calibrated, you need to follow the directions for the device to start the calibration program. For example, on one version of an Android Samsung tablet, you start the screen calibration program by holding the menu button down for 10 seconds.

After the calibration program starts, you see a circle or prompt displayed somewhere on the screen that you need to touch. Touch it, and another circle appears with a prompt to touch it. It’s common for the calibration program to display this circle in each of the four corners and at the center of the screen. Each time you touch the circle, the device records this as the correct calibrated location. After touching the last circle, the screen is calibrated.

Quick Check

1. What’s the difference in upgradability between a laptop and a tablet?

2. What is used to identify the location of a device?

Quick Check Answers

1. Tablets are not upgradable.

2. GPS. Geotracking can track the movement of a device.