I passed my Windows Internals exam!

A few months ago, I got a tip from one of the blogs I read about a new Windows Internals beta exam.

In my years as an IT professional specializing in Microsoft, I have never sought certification.  It’s expensive to study and sit for many certification exams, and I have a very limited training budget.  Our executive director at SATV has never pressed me about formal certification, although he once pursued an MCSE in the Windows 2000 era (but never sat for the exams.)

But Microsoft offers beta exams at no charge, and full credit if you pass them.  So this was a good opportunity.  I’ve always been good at digging into WinDbg and looking at crash dumps.  I’ve had too many real-life problems to solve with my own personal machines, never mind SATV’s, not to be familiar with the internal workings of Windows..

This exam got a blog post with an amusing title: "Microsoft is developing a new, super hard certification test":

This exam is not intended for the great networker masses, it is aimed at high level engineers who have extensive and in-depth knowledge of windows and the windows architecture. These are the folks who find the deep errors and faults that the rest of us can’t. From the Microsoft website, the preparation for this test involves a thorough knowledge of the PSTools developed by Mark Russinovich (you might remember him from Sony’s root-kit debacle a few years back). These tools enable you to delve deeper into the operating system than you are able using the built-in tools.

I think this is going to be a very interesting exam as it will definitely separate the geek from the uber-geek. I hope that this is the start of more tests in this same genre (maybe not just on networking) – pushing the level of knowledge (and having a certification to prove this knowledge) and perhaps encouraging others to push themselves as well.

I did have to study all of the tools I heard of (including PStools, which I am well familiar) and a few that I did not.  I slept with Windows Internals every night.  I ran Windows in a virtual machine and crashed it so I could connect a debugger to it from the host machine. 

I’m supposed to say I found it hard to sit in the Prometric center in Brookline and take the test, but it went by very fast.  Some questions tripped me up because I’m a system administrator by trade, not a programmer (though I have a BSCS and have basic familiarity with modern programming concepts.)

But the test paled in comparison to some of the really difficult Windows crash/bug problems I’ve had to work on.  Sadly, I am working on several very frustrating Windows problems at the moment that have eluded me;  they are the sort of problems that make you try everything, that lead you into corners of Windows with obscure log files and DLL’s you never heard of, tools you never knew existed.

If I could only solve these, Microsoft would have to give me the certification!

But no need.  This morning at 12 AM local, I got the email that Windows certification candidates hope for,  “Congratulations on passing your recent Microsoft Certification exam, inspiring confidence for your employer, your peers, and yourself with a widely-recognized validation of your skills on Microsoft technology…”

So, I passed:

I’m not done yet.  A few weeks after I took the Internals exam, I got an invitation to the SBS 2008 certification test beta and sat for that exam and am waiting to hear.

So everybody send me your crash dumps for debugging!  I will “!analyze –v” for food!  (In-joke;  !analyze is the command in WinDbg that attempts to analyze Blue Screens of Death, but not plaid ones!)


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