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I need assistance connecting my Windows XP pro PC to my network. Can you help?

I am trying to network three PCs: two running Windows XP pro and one running Windows 2000 pro. One of the XP machines cannot see the other two PCs. It did when for about five minutes when I first set it up, but after I rebooted the problem started. No matter what I do, short of formatting the drive, nothing works. The only thing I did that I can think of that may be causing the problem is install tape drive back-up software on the machine before I rebooted the first time. Can you help?

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Sounds like one of your XP machines is upset and refuses to work correctly.

Troubleshooting these types of problems can be an interesting experience in itself, but in order to have results, you must be aware of what is happening in the background and that's exactly what I'll briefly cover.

When browsing through your network neighborhood for other Windows machines, your PC is actually trying to contact what's called the 'master browser' of your Windows network and obtain a 'map' of all Windows machines online. The master browser is essential in any Windows network as all machines make known their presence, but also find other machines, through it. When you first power on your PC and boot into the Windows operating system, the machine will automatically 'look' for a master browser within the network and register itself with it. This also explains the frequent error received when accessing your 'Network Neighborhood" as soon as the PC boots into the Windows operating system as it has not yet received a full update on the network status from the master browser machine.

In some cases, if the master browser machine is experiencing problems and not responding to clients requests, a new 'election' will be forced by other machines, where depending on the operating system, machine uptime and a few other things, a new master browser will be elected and given the responsibility of maintaining the network overview. All the above actions are performed using the NetBIOS protocol.

So what could make a machine not 'see' the network's master browser? The answer unfortunately is not that simple! There could be a variety of reasons ranging from network card driver problems, IRQ conflicts causing the network card problems, network addressing errors (IP conflict or incorrect settings), protocol binding problems, possible firewall software installed on the PC, and lastly not having your "Enable NetBIOS over TCP/IP" setting enabled (this option is available within your network adaptor's TCP/IP properties.)

Ending this brief introduction, I would suggest you perform a quick health check to ensure you have no conflicts and the latest network drivers installed on all machines. If your problem still persists, visit http://support.microsoft.com and perform a search by describing your problem.

This was first published in September 2004

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