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Long time MCT and technical trainer. Windows wonder and CompTIA capable. I freelance for clients big and small, Military and Civvy street. Consulting and teaching my way round the world, you can browse my CV / Resume here

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Windows 8 and the 20687A course with the 70-687 exam


Quick overview

I wrote about my personal experience with the 70-687 examination on the blog a couple of months ago and have had quite a positive response with many people dropping me an e-mail here are there asking for study materials and notes on some of the topics of Windows 8 that crop up in the examination. Well here you go, a rundown and some notes and links out to some of the most useful sources on the web for information about the topics covered in the 70-687. If you are looking for a physical book then I recommend the Official Microsoft Press manual



Notes and resources you should grab before you start

Go here, go on, go now. Right click and open up a new tab. Don’t worry, its not a link to leekspin.com (which you should also click on if you are having a long say and need to smile) What you should be looking at is a set of download links from Microsoft for the below book! Thank you Microsoft, you can buy this in physical form from Amazon, but why would you? Here it is in PDF MOBI and EPUB for your reading pleasure!

Ok, great, you now have your first Windows 8 book, got a copy yet? No, I dont mean that copy you have 'aquired' from various sources. A real offical copy. Nope? Ok then, next link for you is to go here and you will find yourself a nice shiny download for a 90-day trial of Windows 8 enterprise edition that you can play with and break to your hearts content. Throw it on a virtual machine if you dont fancy the full install and wiping out Windows 7 or Windows XP (if you are still one of the die hard fans of 11 year old operating systems)


Windows 8 Trial


What Microsoft say is in the exam


There is a lot to take in from just this list alone and maybe too much wasted time for anyone already coming from a Windows 7 background. If you have taken the Windows 7 client certification in the past you will quickly realize that this course and the exam with it is roughly about 70-80% the same material. Heck, in the 20687A course some of the slides and the material in the book still states Windows 7 when it should state Windows 8. This is an incremental upgrade though and not such a vast underlying change as going from XP to Vista or NT 4.0 to Windows 2000. So in the above list I have marked in red the items that I consider changes in Windows 8 that will come up in your examination and are also some of the major changes from the Windows 7 course / exam.



  • Install Windows 8.
    • This objective may include but is not limited to:
    • install as Windows to Go
    • migrate from Windows XP or Windows Vista;
    • upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 or from one edition of Windows 8 to another edition of Windows 8;
    • install VHD


Windows 8 to Go

Lets start with Windows 8 to Go. Windows 8 to Go is designed around the ability to run Windows 8 from a USB HDD boot from it and have the same instance run on many computers of different hardware models. Key points for Windows 8 to Go that may appear in the examination

Windows 8 to Go can be installed on USB spinning platter drives and USB SSDs. It cannot be installed to a USB flash key / data pen / usb pen / whatever name you wish to call them

When Windows 8 to Go boots for the first time on a new system it will search for drivers in its internal driver Db for that system, if drivers are found they are engaged and the system boots. If no drivers are found the system will still boot yet will use any default drivers it has available to it and prompt you for install locations of the drivers for the hardware just as is you have added a new hardware item into the computer. Drivers are not removed on shut down and the database of drivers will increase as you move the Windows 8 to Go installation to different hardware.

If you unplug the Windows 8 to Go drive from the computer while it is still running you will NOT crash the computer. The computer will freeze in its current state for a 60 second window. This allows you to pulg the drive back in within this window and continue with your session as if nothing happened. It will give a message with an error along the lines of 'I will continue for you but I really didnt like you unplugging the drive while I am using it, please dont do it again'

Installing Windows 8 to Go on an external device can be performed using the WIM file on the Windows 8 disk and the Image X tool from the WAIK see this Install guide for more information.


Migrate and Upgrade

Microsoft have 2 ways of getting from one OS to another up the chain.


In place upgrade

An in place upgrade is the method where by you take the Windows 8 install disk or source (the setup files could be on an external drive or a network path) run the setup.exe on your existing OS sit back and let the upgrade take place. This will not require any migration of any existing data on the computer you are upgrading as the user data and the installed applications remain in place.


A migration upgrade will take place if you are moving to new hardware or want to perform a clean install on new hardware. This is accomplished by transfering off existing data ad user profile settings from the old OS or computer, moving it to a temp location (ie USB Key, network location) and then transfering it back to the new computer with Windows 8 installed on it. There are 2 tools to perform this action

WET Windows Easy Transfer Tool

This is a 1 to 1 tool for transfering data normaly between single machines or home machines

USMT User State Migration Tool

This tool is a many to many command line based tool used for copying data over a network from a group of computers and back to a new group of computers. The 2 principal commands with the USMT are 'Scanstate' and 'Loadstate'


Install to a VHD

You can pull this trick off with Windows 7 in the same way as you can with Windows 8. It is possible to boot the operating system from a VHD natively without any virtualstion.

The complete detailed guide is here on technet


In summary you will need.

Windows 7 / 8 or Windows 2008R2 / 2012 installed as normal to the computer to act as a base for the install (only the OS and drivers need to be intstalled, no other supporting programmes)

A blank VHD (you can create this using the DiskPart Tool or the Disk Management MMC console)

Windows 8 source WIM file from the Windows 8 install ISO

The ImageX tool from the WAIK

BCDEDIT for editing the boot config data


Steps to Perform

Create a blank VHD and mount it (minimum 30gb max 2tb for a VHD)

Use the ImageX tool to apply the Windows 8 Sources WIM file to the blank VHD you have created

Use the BCDEDIT tool to create a second boot entry that points to the winload.exe files in system32 inside the VHD you have just written the OS files to and give the new boot entry a name

Reboot and select the new boot entry you have created

Enjoy Windows 8


This is a particularly useful trick if you want to play with Windows 8 natively without having to install it to VM and take a performance hit or partition your hard drives up to do a traditional dual boot.





  • Install and configure Windows Store applications.
    • This objective may include but is not limited to: install, reinstall, and update Windows Store applications;
    • restrict Windows Store content;
    • add internal content (side loading);
    •  disable Windows Store


  • Control access to local hardware and applications. This objective may include but is not limited to


  • configure AppLocker;


  • configure access through Group Policy or local security policy;
    • set up and configure Windows Live ID






  • Configure Hyper-V.
    • This objective may include but is not limited to:
    • create and configure virtual machines;
    • create and manage snapshots; create and configure virtual switches;
    • create and configure virtual disks
  • Monitor system performance.
    • This objective may include but is not limited to:
    • configure and analyze event logs;
    • configure event subscriptions;
    • configure Task Manager;
    • monitor system resources;
    • optimize networking performance;
    • optimize the desktop environment;
    •  configure indexing options
  • Configure backup.
    • This objective may include but is not limited to: create a system recovery disk;
    •  back up files,
    • folders,
    • and full system;
    • schedule backups
  • Configure file recovery options.
    • This objective may include but is not limited to:
    • configure file restore points;
    • restore previous versions of files and folders;
    • configure File History