New release of Windows means new MCSA exams

The release of Windows 8.1 in October 2013 marked the first major upgrade of Microsoft's latest desktop OS. Windows 8.1 reflects Microsoft's new strategic goal to provide major upgrades of key products on an annual basis, in order to innovate on pace with its industry partners and market competitors.

This new commitment to a more aggressive release schedule has also been mirrored by Microsoft's training and certification program. It only took three months from the release of Windows 8.1 for Microsoft Learning to update both certification exams in the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) track for Windows 8. The updated MCSA exams were released in January 2014.

The updates made to the Windows 8 MCSA exams include material specific to Windows 8.1, as well as changes to terminology and other revisions which had been identified since the debut of these two exams.

The two Windows 8 MCSA exams are:

  • 70-687: Configuring Windows 8
  • 70-688: Supporting Windows 8.1

Here are some of the changes candidates might see in the revised exams.

Updates to Exam 70-687

The 70-687 exam is all about installing and configuring Windows 8, as well as configuring hardware, networking and applications. The revised version of the exam includes material specific to Windows 8.1, including how to upgrade Windows 7 and Windows 8 installations, and how to migrate from earlier versions of Windows (XP, Vista) to Windows 8.1.

There is new content on the exam based on newer technologies such as Hyper-V, Miracast display, Pervasive Device Encryption, and Secure Boot. There is also new material concerning installing and updating applications from the Windows Store.

Windows 8.1 has tighter integration with OneDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage solution. Exam takers may see updated questions concerning how to configure the OneDrive service, including how to retrieve files, and how to make them available offline.

Microsoft's latest version of its venerable web browser, Internet Explorer 11, gets some attention on the exam. Related topics can include configuring either/both the desktop and Modern versions of IE.

There are many other updates and revisions related to the 70-687 exam, too many to list here.

Thankfully, Microsoft has compiled all of the changes in a PDF document which can be downloaded from the 70-687 exam page on the Microsoft Learning site. Look for the hyperlink text in the sentence, "Beginning in January 2014, the questions on this exam will include content covering Windows 8.1."

Link: Exam 70-687

Updates to Exam 70-688

While it doesn't appear consistently across the Microsoft Learning website, the 70-688 exam does appear to have been renamed "Supporting Windows 8.1", from its original name "Managing and Maintaining Windows 8".

The 70-688 exam drills deeper into the plumbing of Windows 8.1 clients and how they work in enterprise networks. Because of this, the majority of the changes made to this exam are revisions to the existing knowledge domains, rather than entirely new Windows 8.1 content.

The 70-688 exam domains are as follows:

  • Installation and Application Strategy
  • Resource Access
  • Maintaining Windows Clients and Devices
  • Managing Windows 8.1 using Cloud Services and MS Desktop Optimization Pack

Some of the updated content on the 70-688 exam is related to Windows Intune, the cloud management product which can be used to manage PCs and mobile devices, including non-Microsoft devices like iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. Windows Intune can be used to deploy desktop and Windows store apps, as well as to "sideload" line-of-business applications onto Windows 8.1 devices.

Again, Microsoft has created a PDF that lists the changes to the 70-688 exam. The PDF is available from the 70-688 exam page on the Microsoft Learning site. The desired link is in the sentence, "Beginning in January 2014, the questions on this exam will include content covering Windows 8.1."

Link: Exam 70-688


It's great to see the Microsoft Learning team working in sync with the Windows team to provide relevant and timely updates to product certification exams. Hopefully this trend will continue, bringing greater industry recognition to an already valuable program.

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About the Author
Aaron Axline is a freelance technology writer based in Canada.

Aaron Axline is a technology journalist and copywriter based in Edmonton, Canada. He can be found on LinkedIn, and anywhere fine coffee is served.