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Troubleshooting Guide (part1): File and Printer Sharing for XP

By LookinAround
Apr 30, 2008



    Part 1a, Network Visibility Issues​

    Troubleshooting File and Printer Sharing can be frustrating as it involves a variety of mix-and-match variables that must be “just right” across multiple computers on a network. This troubleshooting guide focuses on XP Home and XP Pro computers. It divides the File and Printer Sharing problem into two parts:
    Solve Network Visibility Issues
    Verify computers on a network are visible to one another. Initially, the only concern is that computer A can “see” computer B and other devices on the Microsoft Windows Network. Don’t be concerned with access privilege errors between A and B

    Solve Access Privilege Issues
    Verify your computers can share file and printer resources. Don’t even try to attack this problem until you’ve resolved underlying issues which prevent network visibility
    The troubleshooting guide is being published incrementally in different posts (as I have time to complete each of them)
    • Part 1a: Basic Troubleshooting, Network Visibility (is this post)
      A basic step-by-step “how to” resolve most Windows network visibility issues for XP computers using Files and Printer Sharing. It includes instructions on how to test each computer to confirm it can see your other computers.
    • Part 1b, Extended Troubleshooting, Network Visibility (not yet published)
      Contains additional info and more detailed instructions one might find helpful as a companion document when problems are uncovered during Basic Troubleshooting.
    • Part 2, Troubleshooting Access Privilege Issues (not yet published)
    • Eventually....
      I (or someone else?) will tackle Vista as well
    These instructions assume your Control Panel is set for Classic View (all control panel applets displayed in a single list). Look in upper left of Control Panel to click/switch between Classic and Category View.

    1. Verify Computer and Workgroup Names
    • Click My Computer -> Properties. Click Computer Name tab
    • Check (these are uppper/lower case sensitive)
      • Computer Name: (must be unique for each of your computers)
      • Workgroup: (should be identical across all computers sharing file and printers)
    • To change Computer Name or Workgroup, click Change. You must restart before changes take affect.
    2. Verify Local Area Network Connection properties
    Your computer may have several ways to connect to a network. Verify the settings / properties assigned to your computer’s Local Area Network (LAN) Connection
    • Control Panel -> Network Connections. You’re presented with a list of available network connections
    • Confirm the Status shown for your LAN connection is Connected
    • Right click your LAN Connection, select Properties. Review list of items “used by the connection”. Verify the following are listed and checked (for instructions to uninstall, reinstall or repair an item see Part 1b, Extended Troubleshooting)
      • Client for Microsoft Networks
      • File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks
      • Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) (this should always be present and can not be uninstalled. If corrupted, see Part 1b, Extended Troubleshooting) ]
    • Verify NetBIOS over TCP/IP enabled
      • Select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) -> Properties
      • Click General tab -> Advanced
      • Click WINS tab. Under NetBIOS setting, click Enable NetBIOS over TCP/IP
      • Close the property dialog boxes
    3. Verify Required Services are Running
    Computer Browser and TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper services are required components. Confirm both are set to automatically start on boot up and are still running now.
    • Right click My Computer then Manage
    • Double-click Services and Applications, double-click Services
    • Scroll right pane to Computer Browser. Confirm Startup Type = Automatic. If you need to set Startup Type
      • Right click Computer Browser, select Properties
      • Set Startup Type to Automatic, hit OK. Reboot and check Browser settings again
    • Confirm Computer Browser’s Status = Started (i.e. it’s running). If it’s other then Started there’s a problem causing it to fail. Check Event Log (next step). Look closely at conditions I’ve listed under Event Source:Browser
    • Scroll to the TCP/IP NetBIOS Helper Service. Verify Status Type = Automatic (and set it if not). Also, its Status should = Started.

    4. Check for errors in the Windows Event Log
    The Event Log service records significant events in the Event Log. The Event Log service Startup Type should be set to Automatic so Windows always starts it at system boot. See step 3 above for instruction on setting a service’s startup type
    • Right click My Computer -> Manage
    • Expand System Tools -> Event Viewer -> System
    • Click View -> Filter. Uncheck Information, then OK
    • Review events of last couple days. In particular, events since last boot. For more info
      • Double click event for description. Click on the link in description.
      • Use Microsoft Help and Support to search Event Source and ID
    • Check the log for footprints of known issues (I list by source)
      • Browser: Check for these common causes on each computer
        • Firewall blocking ports needed by File and Printer Sharing
        • File and Printer Sharing not installed on LAN connection
        • NetBIOS over TCP/IP not enabled on LAN connection
      • MRxSMB: May indicate Browser error. Event ID: 8003 indicates a “Master Browser” error (see Part 1b, Extended Troubleshooting)
      • Service Control Manager: May indicate Browser error. Event ID: 7036
        occurs if a service can’t start. Check the description. If it’s Computer Browser, check same causes listed under Event Source:Browser.
      • Tcpip: protocol errors. Look at Event ID and description. If TCP/IP or Winsock might be corrupted you may want to reset them. (see Part 1b, Extended Troubleshooting)

    5. Check if firewall misconfigured / interfering with communication
    A misconfigured firewall is often a problem. It can result in error messages which seem to point elsewhere. The best way to rule out firewall issues is to turn off the firewall on every computer.

    Most Firewall changes do not have an immediate affect on Windows’ Network behavior. It often takes time. You can:
    -- Reboot. Changes effective at startup, or
    -- Be patient. Wait 5 min (max 10) for firewall change to impact Windows’ network

    IMPORTANT: Before turning off all firewalls, first disconnect from your ISP. When firewalls are off, you want the outside world to stay outside!
    • Verify only one firewall is running on each computer (e.g. Windows Firewall sometimes manages to get re-enabled and runs in addition to your own firewall)
      • Control Panel -> Windows Firewall
      • On General tab, check Off, click OK
    • Turn off every firewall you've installed on all computers
    6. Test each computer’s view of others on the network
    The goal is confirming each computer can see one another on the Windows' Network

    Repeat this test on every computer. Start by disconnecting from ISP. Then make sure every firewall on every computer is off.
    • Right click Windows Start, select Explore
    • Scroll Explorer to My Network Places. Expand My Network Places -> Entire Network -> Microsoft Windows Network (if you don’t see Entire Network, right click My Network Places, then Explore)
    • You should now see workgroups listed under Microsoft Windows Network
      • If more then one workgroup: computer workgroup names are not identical. Go fix.
      • If only one workgroup, expand it. Verify every computer is listed by the name you assigned it
    If the test succeeds on each computer, turn firewalls on and reboot all computers. Repeat test with firewalls all on. If a computer fails now, it's a firewall problem. Otherwise, continue to Part 2, Troubleshooting Access Privilege Problems

    Another test approach (if you’re still having failures) is to repeat the test but start with just two computers. Repeat the test on all computers and if succeeds incrementally add another and check again. Also see Part1b, Extended Troubleshooting for additional help/info.
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