A+ Certification / Beginners

Browser service

When connecting to network resources, clients need to know who is out there providing the resources. They can find this out by contacting the computer browser for their workgroup. The computer browser, or browse master, is a computer that maintains a list of servers that have File and Printer Sharing services enabled.

The first computer in the workgroup to start up that has File and Printer Sharing enabled becomes the computer browser for that workgroup. All other computers that start up and have File and Printer Sharing enabled advertise themselves to the browse master so that the browse master can update the lists of computers that are sharing resources on the network.

When Windows clients browse the network, they contact the browse master and ask for a list of servers on the network. The browse master returns the lists to the client, and then the client connects to the appropriate system to see a list of shares provided by that system.

It is important to note that you can control which system will act as the browse master. The browse master is determined by an election process in which each system submits criteria used to determine which computer should be the browse master. Generally, the system with the newest operating system wins. Also note that server operating systems will win an election over desktop operating systems.

If you would like to control which system can be a browse master, you can do this by changing a setting in the Registry on Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows 2003. It is important to understand how to designate a browse master because certain machines on the network just won't be adequate browse masters. Being the browse master takes up resources on the system, so if you have a low-end computer, you might not want it to ever be a browse master.

To configure whether a computer will be a browse master, go to the Registry Editor by typing regedit from the Run command and set the following registry setting:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\ Browser\Parameters

Modify the MaintainServerList setting to one of the following:

  • Auto: When selected, the computer has the potential to become a browse master, and the decision is made through election. Any computer with Yes set takes precedence over this system's Auto setting and becomes the browse master.
  • Yes: When selected, this means that this computer should be the browse master for the workgroup. This option will take precedence over any system with an auto setting.
  • No: When selected, this computer will never become the browse master for the workgroup.

Be very careful anytime you venture in to modify the registry - making the wrong change can cause the system to become unstable or even prevent it from starting up.

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