Review: CompTIA PDI+ Beta Exam

JDMurrayJDMurray MSIT InfoSec, CISSP, SSCP, GSEC, EnCE, C|EH, CySA+, PenTest+, CASP+, Security+Surf City, USAAdmin Posts: 11,661 Admin
Disclaimer: This is a review of the CompTIA PDI+ Beta Exam (PD1-001) taken in August 2007. The information in this review may not be accurate with regards to the first release of the live PDI+ exam, expected in March 2008.

The CompTIA PDI+ (Printing and Document Imaging) certification validates the basic skills and knowledge required to configure, integrate, maintain, troubleshoot, and comprehend the principle operations of digital print and document imaging (PDI) devices. Such devices include printers (inkjet, laser, LED, dot matrix, thermal and solid ink), scanners (handheld and flatbed), photocopiers, facsimile (fax) machines, and multi-function devices (MFD).

The CompTIA PDI+ certification is targeted to entry-level service and support technicians involved in the installation, connectivity, maintenance, repair and support of devices used for printing and document imaging. These technicians are responsible for servicing and supporting devices and technologies associated with the printing and document imaging technologies. The PDI+ certification is the first step in the extensive training required to ensure qualified, able technicians to work in the hard copy output and electronic document imaging industries. The PDI+ shares some of the objectives found in the CompTIA A+, Network+, and CDIA+ exams, making the PDI+ a very good complement to all of these certifications.

There are 115 questions on the PDI+ beta exam, and the examinee is given 120 minutes to finish. Fifteen minutes is also given prior to the start of the exam for reading the exam agreement and instructions. There is typically a post-exam questionnaire on all CompTIA exams in which the examinee is given 15 minutes to complete (there was no such questionnaire on the beta exams that I took). After completing the exam, all remaining time may be used to review the exam questions, make changes to answers, and submit comments about specific exam questions (beta exam only). The style and format of the exam questions are typical for CompTIA exams, so people who already have already taken other CompTIA exams should find the look-and-feel of the PDI+ exam very familiar.

The information on the PDI+ exam is an eclectic mix of mechanics, electronics, optics, chemistry, physics and both computer hardware and software with respect to printing and document imaging devices. There are also softer objectives regarding physical safety and how to properly and professionally interact with customers, both on-site and off-site. To get a better idea of what is covered, let us look at the eight domains of the PDI+ exam:

1.0 Print Engine Process and Components (21%)
2.0 Scan Process and Components (10%)
3.0 General Troubleshooting (23%)
4.0 Basic Electromechanical Components and Tools (13%)
5.0 Connectivity (11%)
6.0 Color Theory (8%)
7.0 Professionalism and Communication (8%)
8.0 Safety and Environment (6%)

The print engine process and components domain involves everything there is to know about how printers and copiers work, what is in them, what the components do, and how they do it. Be sure that you understand the physics, optics, and chemistry of what goes on inside of printers and copies, including power and communications. Many of the exam’s questions are based on this objective.

The scan process and components domain covers every PDI device that contains a hardcopy scanner, including photocopiers and fax machines. Know the electro-mechanics, optics, and physics behind scanning and all it associated mechanisms, such as Automatic Document Feeders. Because scanning devices many also produce electronic output, you need to know about the common file formats produced by scanners and scanning software, and what the advantages and disadvantages of each format are.

Covered in the general troubleshooting domain is every problem that you have ever experienced with a scanner, printer, photocopier, or fax machine—and then some. The troubleshooting sections of PDI device service manuals are filled with this type of diagnostic information, so learn it all. You will also need to know basic computer and network troubleshooting, and the basic concepts used to quickly and efficiently solve problems. Also learn the problems caused by different types of media (paper, envelopes, and transparencies), the lack of maintenance, and normal wear-and-tear experienced by PDI devices.

The basic electromechanical components and tools domain covers all of the fundamental electrical and mechanical components that you might find inside a PDI device and the tools used to repair such devices. It will help to know the difference between basic electronic concepts, tools, and components, such as an amp and a volt, an ammeter and a voltmeter, a resistor and a thermistor, and a LED and a laser. Also understand about the power and memory used in PDI devices, what devices have updateable firmware, and tools specifically related to safety.

The connectivity domain covers all of the ways PDI devices communicate, including ports (parallel, serial, USB, Firewire), cables (straight-through, rollover, crossover), connectors (RJ-ll, RJ-45, DB-25, USB), networking protocols (Ethernet, TCP/IP, and Appletalk), modems (speeds, handshaking), and device drivers (WIA, TWAIN). Understand what PDI device feature are controlled by firmware, drivers, or software. You should be familiar with configuring basic wired and wireless networks, installing device drivers, and common network services, such as SMTP, DNS, and DHCP. This objective is where your A+ and Network+ certifications will come in real handy.

For the color theory domain you should have an understanding of color as it relates to hardcopy printing, color models (RGB, CMYK), color calibration, and color conversion. Understand what affects the color and appearance of a printed page and how it can be corrected.

Safety and environment is than just keeping your shoelaces ties and not sticking a screwdriver into your eye. Understand how PDI devices are dangerous and can cause injury, what are the safety features on PDI devices, and how to prepare both a repair facility and a customer site for working on PDI devices. Also know what to do if an accident involving a PDI device occurs. You should also know what a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is and what information is on it.

So where do you study for the PDI+ exam? First, thoroughly read the information at the CompTIA PDI+ home page ( and get a copy of the of PDI+ exam objectives ( After reading the exam objectives and topics, you will get a very good idea of what technology subjects you will need to learn or just brush up on.

Next, Google for study resources related to the PDI+ exam. If you are starting your studies while the PDI+ exam is very new, you will not find any books on the PDI+ exam, and instead need to search for information based on the individual PDI+ objectives. Websites, such as and the Wikipedia, contain a lot of information about PDI devices; even older A+ study guides have a section on laser printers. Just keep in mind of what topics on printing, imaging, and color theory are and are not necessary to study for the PDI+ exam.

If you decide that the PDI+ certification is right for you, start digging into service manuals for all types of office printers, faxes, copiers, and scanners. These manuals contain a wealth of information on the parts, features, troubleshooting, and maintenance necessary for PDI devices. You can find service manuals for all of the major PDI device manufactures freely available on the Web. If you do not know much about installing and configuring printers, or troubleshooting network problems, you should also use A+ and Network+ exam preparations materials while studying for the PDI+ exam.

Find out where people who specialize in the PDI device servicing and repair hang out. The PDI+ exam contains no vendor-specific information, so don’t waste your time with product reviews. Instead, find forum discussions about the science, technology and industry of the PDI+ exam’s objectives. Many office technology Web sites have a tech section with great information (such as and Google using the search term “printer repair forum” to find more sites.

And, of course, all topics related to all CompTIA certifications are thoroughly covered here on

If you have any additional questions about the CompTIA PDI+ exam or certification, visit the CompTIA PDI+ home page ( or email CompTIA at [email protected].
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