“Early Experts” Challenge – Apprentice Quest

 Build Your Lab! Download Windows Server 2012
 Don’t Have a Lab? Build Your Lab in the Cloud with Windows Azure Virtual Machines

The "Early Experts" Challenge provides a FREE online study group with certification exam preparation materials for quickly mastering Windows Server 2012, Windows Azure, System Center 2012 SP1 and Private Cloud in a very "hands-on" manner!  The Challenge involves a series of Knowledge Quests - starting with the Apprentice Quest below - and each Quest ends with a special completion certificate for you to promote your new knowledge!  To make it easy to participate, each Quest is developed in a modular format that you can complete based on your own schedule and availability.

The first five Knowledge Quests - Apprentice, Installer, Explorer, Networker and Virtualizer - target the objectives in Exam 70-410: Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012. If you've already passed this exam, scroll down to the bottom of this page for study materials for the other exams in the MCSA: Windows Server 2012 and MCSE: Private Cloud certification tracks. Learn more about this program by watching the video below.

Before You Begin – Setup a Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) Account

This program leverages the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) for some of our free online study resources. In order to get credit for this program, you will need to first register for an MVA account by signing in at the MVA site using your Microsoft Account (aka., Windows Live ID) via the link below …

Welcome to the Apprentice Quest!

In this first knowledge quest, you will learn and explore the key new technical capabilities of Windows Server 2012 across the product pillars of virtualization, management, networking and storage.  At the end of this knowledge quest, you will understand these new technical capabilities and be able to properly position them for relevant usage scenarios.

1. Windows Server 2012 Technical Overview Course

This course is designed to provide you with the key details of Windows Server 2012. The seven modules in this course, through video and whitepaper, provide details of the new capabilities, features, and solutions built into the product. With so many new features to cover, this course is designed to be the introduction to Windows Server 2012. After completing this course, you will be ready to dive deeper into Windows Server 2012 through additional Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) courses dedicated to each topic introduced in this “Technical Overview.”

Alternate option: You can also attend a free Windows Server 2012 First Look Clinic at a Microsoft Learning partner near you if you'd prefer an in-person training experience.

2. Download Windows Server 2012 Installation Bits

Building your own lab environment is the best way to REALLY learn new technology!  To prepare you with the ability to build your own lab, you can download the Windows Server 2012 installation bits here for FREE!  We'll be using these installation bits in the coming weeks in the additional Knowledge Quests of the "Early Experts" Challenge.  Be sure to download the bits in "VHD" format (not "ISO" format) as we'll be using the VHD bits to build your study lab and in future Knowledge Quests for hands-on activities.

3. Build Your Study Lab

Follow this step-by-step guide to build your own study lab as a dual-boot environment on your existing desktop or laptop PC.  We'll leverage this study lab environment in future Knowledge Quests for hands-on activities.  Hands-on experience with Windows Server 2012 will help you greatly in mastering the knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass the certification exams. 

4. Join our Online Peer Study Group Community

Participate in our Online Study Group Community on LinkedIn to post questions you may have, share your insights and collaborate with other members as we all prepare for certification!  Each of us has unique  insight and by participating in this community, we'll be able to expand our technical knowledge beyond our own experiences.

NOTE: If you're near one of the locations below, I encourage you to join one of our participating User Groups that will be hosting monthly live certification peer group jam sessions.  By combining our online study materials with in-person jam sessions, these User Groups are leading the way in preparing, sharing and networking technical knowledge among their members.

FLORIDA - Tampa Bay Virtualization Users Group

KENTUCKY - Kentucky SBS User Group

MASSACHUSETTS - Boston Area Windows Server User Group

MASSACHUSETTS - Boston User Groups

MASSACHUSETTS - Virtualization Group Boston

MICHIGAN - Southeast Michigan IT Pro User Group

OHIO - Akron Canton Chapter - Association of IT Professionals (AITP)

OHIO - Dayton Networking Professionals Association (DaNPA) Technical SIG

SINGAPORE - Singapore Windows User Group

[ Please check back as we add new User Groups to our list! ]

5. Share Your Success

Now that you've completed this Knowledge Quest, be sure to share your success with your social network using one of the buttons below for Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. By sharing your success, you'll also help to encourage others to join our study group and increase the number of IT Pros working together to help grow our collective technical knowledge and share even more community insight that benefits us all!

Tell your network "I just completed the Windows Server 2012 Early Experts Apprentice Quest to prepare for Certification!" using one of the buttons below.

6. Claim Your "Early Experts" Apprentice Certificate

Have you completed Steps 1 through 5? If so, follow these steps to validate your lab completion and claim your "Early Experts - Apprentice" certificate:

  1. On your study lab server, launch Server Manager and select "Tools -> System Information" from the menu bar.
  2. In the "System Information" tool, select "File -> Export" from the menu bar and export a System Information File named "EELABSRV01-Apprentice.txt"
  3. Email the SAVED COPY of the file from Step 2 to Early Experts to request an Apprentice completion certificate for the "Early Experts" Challenge, suitable for displaying in your office, at your desk or sharing on your social media network to proudly showcase your new Windows Server 2012 knowledge!


Once you've submitted your certificate request, feel free to keep going with the next Knowledge Quest below!

What's Next? Keep Going!

After you've completed the "Early Experts" Apprentice Quest, keep going with these additional Knowledge Quests to continue your preparation for the MCSA on Windows Server 2012 Exams:

  • Installer Quest: Targeting the Install, Configure and Active Directory exam objectives on Exams 70-410 and 70-417.
  • Explorer Quest: Targeting the Group Policy and Server Management exam objectives on Exam 70-410.
  • Networker Quest: Targeting the Core Network Services exam objectives on Exam 70-410.
  • Virtualizer Quest: Targeting the Hyper-V Server Virtualization exam objectives on Exam 70-410.
  • Cloud Quest: Build a Windows Server 2012 Study Lab network in the Cloud.
  • Schedule Your Exam: Schedule and Pass Exam 70-410, Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 at a local Prometric Exam testing center.
  • Exam 70-411: Prep for Exam 70-411, Administering Windows Server 2012 with these resources from 90DaysToMCSA
  • Exam 70-412: Prep for Exam 70-412, Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services with these resources from 90DaysToMCSA
  • Exam 70-417: Prep for Exam 70-417, Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012 with this FREE Exam Study Guide


After achieving your MCSA Windows Server 2012 certification, continue preparing for MCSE Private Cloud with these FREE study guides:

  • Build Your Cloud: Step through the process to Build Your Private Cloud in a Month with this FREE set of Step-by-Step guides
  • Exam 70-247: Prep for Exam 70-247, Configuring & Deploying a Private Cloud with this FREE Exam Study Guide
  • Exam 70-246: Prep for Exam 70-246, Monitoring & Operating a Private Cloud with this FREE Exam Study Guide


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