Start by visiting www.leapit.com and join up as a member. As a member, you can read the free online book entitled "Certification Essentials" that I have put together there. You will find your question answered not only in the chapter on Microsoft but with a detailed self-assessment in Chapter 13 as well. I suggest you check this out. To answer your direct question, you should have a decent working knowledge of PC hardware, but a strong working knowledge of networking is far more important to prep you for the MCSE. Were you to acquire any preliminary certifications prior to pursuing the MCSE, I would suggest that you tackle the CompTIA Network+ and i-Net+, in fact, rather than the A+ PC Technician certification. Visit www.comptia.org for more information on these popular certifications.
This was first published in May 2001