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Network File Sharing Woes Continued

Are you having difficulties sharing files with other users on your network? Well you're not alone. We'll show you some of the common problems you should look for. Plus we'll explain why you might not be able to get DSL in your area.

By Ron Pacchiano

Q. I have a home network made up of three computers, each running Windows XP Home Edition. All of the machines are working fine and have access to the Internet via a cable modem connected to a Netgear router. The router is using DHCP to manage the assignment of IP addresses to each of the workstations.

The problem I am having is that when I go into Network Places I can't seem to see any of the other systems in my workgroup. I can ping each of these PCs, but I can't seem to get to them or access any shared files or folders. The systems were originally configured to participate on the network by using the Windows Network Setup Wizard. Can you suggest anything that might help me figure out why these systems can't see each other?

A. This is a somewhat common question and there are a number of things you can check for. The first thing you should do is verify that all of your PCs are members of the same workgroup. Different workgroup names are a common problem in peer-to-peer networks and would make it difficult to access other PCs.

Another common mistake is when your PCs have accidentally been configured with different subnet addresses, preventing them from seeing each other. For example, let's say that 192.168.22.x represented your network, but when you configured your PC you accidentally entered your workstation address as 192.168.2.x. This simple mistake would make this machine a member of an entirely different network. Without the help of a router, members in the 192.168.22.x network would be unable to reach your PC. However, because each of these PCs has Internet access and since the router is using DHCP to assign IP addresses, I doubt this is your problem.

To me, this sounds like it might have more to do with NetBIOS not being enabled. In order to share information between computer systems, the computers need to be able to communicate with each other. To do this they need a common language, which in this case are called Protocols. TCP/IP, NETBEUI, IPX, SNA and AppleTalk are examples of protocols.

Server Message Block or SMB, is the primary protocol used with PCs to share files, disks, directories, printers, and (in some cases) even COM ports across a network. Any system that makes use of the SMB standard should be able to communicate with any other system that also adheres to this standard. SMB-based networks use a variety of underlying protocols, but the most popular are "NetBIOS over NetBEUI" and "NetBIOS over TCP/IP."

An SMB client or server expects to find a NetBIOS interface, regardless of which protocol is actually being used. It might be helpful to think of NetBIOS as a passenger in a vehicle. TCP/IP, NETBEUI and IPX are the vehicles. Each is a different type of vehicle (car, boat, plane), but they all carry passengers to their destinations. In this case the destination would be the system you're trying to share information with.

So without NetBIOS enabled, these PCs would be unable to communicate with each other. What you need to do is first verify that NetBIOS is enabled to run over TCP/IP.

The last recommendation I would suggest is to verify that the computer browser service is running. The Computer Browser service maintains an updated list of computers on the network, and it supplies this list to computers that are designated as browsers. If this service is stopped, the list is neither updated nor maintained. If this service is turned off, any services that explicitly depend on it do not start.

Step-by-step instructions for enabling NetBIOS over TCP/IP and enabling the Computer Browser service can be found on the Microsoft Knowledge base at http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;318030.


Q. My friend and I both want to get DSL lines so we can play online games. When my friend called our local ISP, they signed him up and a few weeks later he had DSL. When I called, on the other hand, they told me that DSL wasn't available in my area.

The kicker is that my friend and I live on the same street and less than a mile apart. I don't get it. How can it be that we live so close together and he's able to get DSL while I'm not? I asked the phone company this but they didn't really seem to have an answer. What gives?

A. Welcome to the sometimes wacky world of DSL. There a few possible situations you might be experiencing here.

One possibility is that in spite of your relatively close distance to your friend, you could in fact be just outside the range of your local Central Office (CO). The typical maximum service distance from the CO is about 18,000 feet, or just over three miles, so if your friend is within that distance and you just miss it, he'd be able to get service and you wouldn't.

The second possibility is that you may be on a service boundary and thus handled by a completely different CO than your friend—and perhaps one that does not yet have DSL capability.

The last possibility is that since DSL is usually rolled out within a CO in stages, some of the phone exchanges (the first three digits of your phone number) serviced by your CO may not have DSL capability yet. As such, even if you are in the same CO as your friend and you are both within the required distance, if your phone numbers are in different exchanges, service may not be available to you.

On the other hand, if your phone numbers are in the same exchange, then I can't think of any reason why you shouldn't be able to get DSL. If this is the case, I would press the issue with the Phone Company or ISP.


Use our feedback form to submit your questions on home or SOHO networking issues. We can not guarantee to answer every question we get, but we'll consider them all



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