Sunday, September 8, 2019

I purchased the CompTIA Network+ Exam Voucher...What’s next and why?

I officially purchased the CompTIA Network+ certification exam voucher back in June and its already been about eighty seven days since then. I am a bit nervous about taking this exam because it is my first official IT related certification since I have been a computer support technician. While nervous I am more excited and motivated to learn something and hopefully pass.

I have been studying since June and with the summer “officially” done I can increase my focus.  July was a bit distracting with the swimming pool and really hot summer days plus I took a vacation with my wife and kids.  Although we needed a nice vacation, that really pushed my routine back a bit, plus I felt like August was a blur and now September.  Since June I have done some reading and online LinkedIn Learning but lately I have not been retaining or understanding new content. With school back in session and no upcoming vacations I can get my study habits back into a strong daily routine.  All of this to take my exam at the end of October.

Today was perfect because I took some time away from my wife and kids, who went to a kids birthday party, and went to my nearest Barnes & Noble to study.  I am probably not the only one going to Barnes & Nobles or the library but to me it is the only way to focus and be productive.  If at home I will be distracted with the kids and tempted to turn on my iPad to watch some YouTube.  So I happily said no to attending the kids birthday party and said yes to my Network+ studies.

Before I continue I want to quickly address a concern that some of you might have, as I did, about pursuing this certification.  If your new to the world of information technology there are tons of certifications out there and you can truly be overwhelmed.  There are also plenty of YouTube videos and websites that provide their opinion on CompTIA.  Some will truly just bad mouth any CompTIA certification, especially the Network+, but I am not going to do the same.  What I will do is provide you with my perspective on why you should.  If want to know what is the best certification only you can decide that.  The best certification, to me, is the one you have and the next one you get.  I almost went with another certification path but I had a good feeling about the Network+ and how it aligns with my level of knowledge and experience.  I also felt that this was the best certification for me now and it will not be the last certification I achieve so I would not get too hung up on what is “the best”.

However, if you want to be a network engineer or work with systems like Juniper, Cisco or Aruba Wireless then I would focus on those specific vendor certifications.  Just take a moment to think about your passions and where you want to be in the next 3-5 years.  Also be realistic on your technical knowledge and what it will take to get to that dream job.  So far I am happy I went this route and have a plan in place when I hopefully pass the Network+ exam.

It took some time for me to really adjust my understanding of networking as a whole.  I think it took me one month to feel confident with some of the content.  What might work for me might not work for you but once I take my exam I will gladly provide you with an update and why.

Overall I do not like large text books and some people might discourage you from buying a book nowadays but I would highly recommend to buy one.  The one that I use is Exam Cram by Emmett Delaney.  Most books include a good practice exam for your computer, which should be part of your study plan. What attracted me to networking was to understand what takes place behind the walls of a computer.   I have always gotten fascinated how computers and systems work and communicate through the network.

Why did I purchase the exam voucher?  Well I feel as though its an accountability to help encourage myself to study.  If you do not know once you purchase the voucher exam it has an expiration of one year.  I hope to have this exam done by the end of this year and pushing myself to take it by the end of October. Thankfully my manager is encouraging me to take some development time during the week and the week or two before the exam to study from home and not in the office.  This is a must because even at work I get distracted with emails and people walking into my office for computer help or questions.

With my daily studying of at least one hour each day and two or three hours on Saturday or Sunday I feel as though I have a good chance to pass this exam.  Now reading a good book can get boring quick and what I would recommend is a good online learning website.  I would not recommend to go to an in person training facility because they can get really costly, at least $1200-$3000, and some of them do not provide you with the exam certification at the end of the week long class. One online website that I would recommend is Udemy and LinkedIn Learning.  Once there search for Mike Meyers Network+ certification.  I have watched most of my online video lessons from him and decided to purchase his full training videos through Udemy because its not all available through LinkedIn Learning.  Why I like his teaching is because he keeps me engaged through most of his videos and explains this with great visuals.  Now these videos and book both work for me but it may not be the same for you.  In all just do not stick to just one video author and one book.

In regards to practices exams and validation I have been using the Pearson Vue exam included from my Exam Cram study book.  That has worked out well and reading some Amazon reviews some have been able to pass the exam with that book alone.  I really like it because its not as large as Mike Meyer's book and easy to read but I found the Mike Meyer's study book through my company online and it provides a different approach.  With that I also have another site to take practice exams.  I am lucky to have my company provide technicians with free online training through Skillsoft.  Another great website to use for learning.  Their exam questions and system is different which helps present some content that I might have missed through my book or the Pearson Vue practice exam.

In all I am back at it and excited to take this learning to another level.  I wanted to express it in this blog to help keep me accountable and motivated.  If you are not sure what certification to pursue just do a little bit more research and maybe get a book at the library to see if anything is of interest.  Last  thing I will encourage you is to create a written plan.  Not typed...well maybe, but write it out first and see how it turns out.  It helps me and it could help you with achieving your IT career goals.  Stay tuned in the coming months to see how things turned out.  I cannot wait to tell you how it all went.  If you have any questions or comments please leave a comment below or visit my YouTube page.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

External Hard Drive Crashed? - Simple Steps to Help Troubleshoot & Possibly Recovery Your Data

Is your external drive not showing up on your Apple Mac or Windows PC computer? If so this article is probably for you.  The reason I am posting this is because I recently experienced one of my mobile hard drives not functioning properly.  Thankfully nothing important was lost because the data was a redundant copy.  Below I provide some steps that could help determine if your external drive crashed. If you prefer a quick video check out my YouTube page online.

In my field as a computer support technician I have seen my fair share of users coming to me to see if I can retrieve their data from their non working external drive.  Most hard drives will fail at some point, both hard disk and solid state drives.  Some hard drives fail due to age, an accidental fall or the enclosure stops functioning all together.  Before going to a retailer or repair shop check the steps below to see if could help. 

Step 1 - If your external hard drive is not detectable within a mac or windows computer then the obvious issue to think of is that the cable is damaged. If you replace the cable, as I did, and your drive is not showing up in your computer some times the drive format is corrupt and needs to be reformatted.  Tools to use to locate your drive and to reformat it for both systems are Disk Utility (Mac) or Disk Management (Windows).  If they are not detectable within these applications its possible that the enclosure and hard drive failed.  Just understand that if you do reformat it on a mac its possible that it may not be detectable on a Windows computer.  I would then suggest to format it as exFAT which will be read on both mac and pcs. Remember that once format the hard drive you will lose all of your data.  Don’t do this and continue reading.  There could be other ways to get your data from your hard drive.

Step 2 - Confirm power going to the hard drive. Most external drives have a light indicator showing us that there is power and activity going to the drive. Some external drives work on a separate power adapter like my Seagate Desktop 3TB drive which are designed to be stationary at the desk.  Some times the power adapter could be the issue and it is the least expensive way to get your drive running again.  If that solved your issue make sure you copy your files over to another working hard drive.  I would not trust the external drive after that experience.  It’s a sign that it could be failing soon or that the enclosure is to die as well.

Step 3 - If you have power and your device shows up intermittently, like one of my drives did, on your computer it is possible that your enclosure is the issue.  I had a really old 1TB external portable drive and found a new USB 3.0 cable and it worked for a bit but noticed it was giving me issues showing up once in a while.  At that point its possible the enclosure is no good and had to recover the data.

Step 4 - If no power is showing up from the enclosure and you have a new power adapter and cable then its possible that the enclosure of the hard drive just died.  No need to worry just yet as its possible to still retrieve the data.  Some external drive enclosure are pretty challenging to take apart so please do your research before doing so.  You dont want to damage the internal drive and its connections.  Thankfully my LaCie was easy enough to take apart but not all drives are the same.

Step 5 - After you remove the internal drive from the enclosure you can get an economical hard drive dock that can connect to your computer via USB, companies like Sabrent make some nice docks that are around $29.99 on that work well.  If you are not too comfortable with this step then see if you have a friend or coworker that likes to work on computers and most likely they might have one.  Don’t go yet to a retailer as they overcharge for things like this or may not provide this service.
Step 6 - If and when you dock your internal hard drive to your computer and you hear a consistent click or buzz then that could be an indication that your hard drive has officially failed.  This is what happened to one of my external drives.  The enclosure still worked but the drive gave a large buzzing sound when connected to the dock.

Now there are services out there for data recovery but some services can be costly.  If your data is priceless then I can understand you going through those channels.  There is no guarantee but there could be ways to get the data from a “crashed” hard drive.  I have been lucky to use a software like Data Rescue to recover data for some users.  I used this only when the hard drives were not detected within my computers while connected to the USB dock.  Only then I was able to recover most of the data, not all, using this software and it took a long time. For some software options on data recovery see the article I found from

When my external drive stopped working I was able to still use my LaCie enclosure and installed a spare 2TB internal laptop drive which was compatible and working great. Good thing it still worked because I didn't have to go and spend $159 on a new external drive.

Most important lesson never save all of your data on one hard drive.  Buy at least one external drive at start with at least 1TB drive but if you have lots photos then go with 2TB or more.  Stay organized if you have multiple external drives like I do for both work and personal use because it can be a bit too much to have multiple external drives.  Also dont forget about cloud services like DropBox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, etc.  Most of these servers provide a free account but to get more storage you will most likely have to pay a monthly or yearly subscription.  This works great for people like my mother who do not have a computer or external drive to save their files so she purchased the monthly iCloud service to back up her photos and data from her iPhone.  Visit to see other online backup services.