Browsing the Network

by Johannes Helmig [Published on 20 March 1999 / Last Updated on 20 March 1999]

When browsing the network via "Network Neighborhood", all systems should show up, which have either to offer a Shared disk or printer. But sometimes, not all systems are displayed, depending on which system is powered on and which is off. Or you cannot browse the network at all, getting the message:


To be able to use the Network Neighborhood, you MUST login to the Network !
So, you need to get this login window, enter your name (and password, if you
have defined one), and then click on the OK-button.
( If you just press the ESC-key or click on the Cancel-button, then you are NOT
member of the network, and then Network Neighborhood will not display anything )

Only systems, which have shared something:

or Access to files (either a complete disk or just a folder)
a shared Printer

will be displayed in the Network Neighborhood !

Error: "Unable to Browse the Network"

First, verify that there is a working network connection between the systems.

Network protocol : Test procedure:
Testing Connection using 'NET DIAG'
Testing Connection using TCP/IP: ping
Hardware test:Network card Diagnostics
Combo / Multi-Connector Board

This can also happen, when you are logged in to a NT Domain Server.
Sometimes, after a few minutes (if you do not have the patience to wait, use Find Computer), when trying again, the systems suddenly show up in Network Neighborhood, because it took the system some time to define, who will be the "Browse-Master":

Although under Windows95 networking, all systems seems to be "equal", they are not ! (It seems to be like with most humans: there is always a Chief and the Chief in a Microsoft Workgroup is called the "Browse-Master" !): ONLY ONE system in a workgroup keeps track of the information shared on ALL systems, and when you look into your "Network Neighborhood", you are asking the Browse-Master to display the network information.

To view the available resources on the network, which are the SHARED resources of other systems, at least ONE of the systems of a workgroup MUST have "File and Print Sharing for Microsoft Networks" installed AND SOMETHING must be shared ( only systems, which share something, can become a Browse-Master ) !

This error-message indicates, that there is currently NO assigned Browse-Master and the the system in the workgroup are currently electing a system to become the Browse-Master.

When looking at the Properties of the "File and Print Sharing":

there is the "Browse Master", which is by default set to "Automatic", i.e. all systems in workgroup work out between them, who is the "Chief". But if that self-declared Chief is down, it will take the other systems a while to agree on a new Chief.
You can declare yourself one system to become the "Browse-Master" (by enabling this option), it should be the system always (or at least most the time) powered-on, then this option has to be disabled in all other systems of the workgroup.

However: there are some rules to follow:
On a Workgroup-Network, systems are rated according to its software level:

Windows version:Rating:
Windows for Workgroups 3.11
Windows 95
Windows NT Workstation
Windows 2000 Professional
WIndows XP Professional
Windows NT Server
Windows 2000 Server

During a BrowseMaster "Election", a system of a higher rating will ALWAYS
be preferred compared to systems of a lower rating:

Example: If there is a mixture of Windows95 and Windows NT Workstations in the Workgroup, then only Windows NT Workstations can be elected to become the BrowseMaster.

Example: A network of Windows95 systems is running, now a Windows NT Server is switched on. This causes a re-election of the Browse-Master, as logged by the NT server in its Event-Log:

And what is happening, if you powerdown the system, which is the Browse-Master? Again, NT4 keeps a record in the Event-Log:

A new system will be elected to become the Browse-Master , but browsing the Network-Neighborhood may not be possible for a few seconds.

Which system is the Browse-Master on a Windows9x network ?

Microsoft made it very difficult to find out, which system on a network has been elected to be the Browse-Master. I did not find any report for networks with NetBEUI or IPX protocol, but at least for TCP/IP workgroup-networks, you can use the command: "nbtstat -a <computername>"

The system acting as Browse-Master has the entry "__MSBROWSE__"

More details are described in the Resource-Kit:

(on NT, you can reduce the updating interval of the BrowseMaster)

If you have a Windows NT server, you can eliminate the Browse-master
election process by using (installing ) WINS.

Find Computer
If the list in the Network Neighborhood is not yet update, you either can wait for the Browse-Master to do his job (which can take several minutes), or you can use the shortcut by using Find Computer:

Enter the name of the system, to which you like to connect (that is the disadvantage of this method: you MUST know already the name ! ), and push on "Find Now":

If the system is switched on, it will be located and displayed.
Double-clicking on the found system will display its shared resources, which now can be mapped to a network-drive.

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