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NetBIOS name resolution problems

I have the main office in NY and multiple locations connected via frame relay. The main server is in NY and is configured as the Wins server. In the remote locations I also have PCs with a host file. The problem I am having is this. The main lan is for ex: 10.1.0.1-10.1.0.200, subnet 255.255.0.0. The other locations are for ex: 10.1.2.1-10.1.2.200, subnet 255.255.0.0 and so on. When I go into network neighborhood I am not able to see any computers which are not on the 10.1.0.1 or main network, how can I fix the issue of being able to see the other PCs on the frame??? Any help would be greatly helpful.

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This is caused by poor NetBIOS name resolution. Basically, NetBIOS is the naming system used by Microsoft Networking. It is similar in concept to DNS but different to trap many people.

In Microsoft Networking, we have to map a NetBIOS name to an IP address. The trick is that NetBIOS names are 15 bytes plus a 1 bytes service identifier. The service identifier tells us whether the machine has printer support, file support, SQL support etc etc. So NetBIOS name resolution is quite a bit different from DNS name resolution because there are many NetBIOS names for an IP address. And the name depends on the service requested (but is only different in the service byte, confusing isn't it!!)

Microsoft Networking uses NetBIOS name calls to get functions to happen. Microsoft Browsing uses NetBIOS for networking. Network Neighborhood is built from the Microsoft Browsing database. I think that it would take too long to talk about Microsoft Browsing in detail, but, what you describe is classic NetBIOS name resolution problems.

The best way to recitify this will be to configure the WINS Server address on the workstations at the remote sites. This will allow the Windows Browse Masters (as they are dynamically elected) at each location to register with the WINS database and thus be able to find each other and exchange the Browse List database.

To do this change your DHCP server, or go to the IP setup and add the WINS Server address on the remote workstations. After they are all changed you may have to wait up to 6 hours before the Microsoft Browsing will stabilise.

If you do not want to use WINS, you can use an LMHOSTS file. The LMHOSTS file is similar in concept to a HOSTS file but is used for NetBIOS name resolution instead (the HOSTS file is for IP name resolution). I personally never recommend this because it is an administration nightmare, plus WINS is very easy to use and reliable these days.

Let me know how you go. Would like to hear if that fixed the problem.

This was first published in September 2001

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