Windows Server Troubleshooting - Browser

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2003-2006 Team Approach Limited
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My Network Places
My Network Places has an object Entire Network which accommodates two different methods for listing network servers and resources.

Physical Windows Network - Same as Network Neighborhood in NT
 - Uses Browser service with significant network overhead
Active Directory - Logical representation
 - Efficient directed LDAP queries to Domain Controllers

Windows has both the Directory and the Windows Network schemes enabled by default. The Physical Windows Network provides compatibility with older versions of Windows and the Active Directory is a new feature introduced with Windows 2000. Both schemes provide a list of servers and network resources. To optimize network performance, the legacy Windows Network should be disabled.

Physical Windows Network

Windows has the Browser protocol that supports the maintenance of server lists. Each Domain and Workgroup represents a namespace where a list of servers is maintained.

Domain1 Namespace
  Domain2 Namespace

One of the machines in each subnet will be elected the Master Browser by using a network protocol. There will also be one Backup Browser for every 32 servers. Every 12 minutes, every server must announce to the Master Browser that it is still an active server. The Master Browser maintains the server list with these server announcements. Every 15 minutes, each Backup Browser retrieves the server list from the Master Browser. When a user uses explorer to view a Domain or Workgroup with My Network Places, the client machine sends a request to a Master or Backup Browser for the server list. 


Server
12 minute announcement
Master Browser
15 minute replication
Backup Browser
request for server list

Client

Optimization Recommendations

The Browser mechanism is expensive in terms of network utilization. The repeated client request, 12 minute announcements, 15 minute replications, and elections, all consume network bandwidth. Although it is convenient to have server lists appear in the Windows Network, it is not necessary. Instead, the Active Directory should be used. In cases where the Active Directory is not available, shortcuts can be established with network UNC paths (eg. \\ServerName\ShareName). 

Because the Browser Service runs on all machines, disabling it involves configuring each machine. The following are recommendations to optimize network use.

  • Disable the Browser Service on all machines if it is unnecessary. Use the Active Directory instead of the Browser Service.
  • Eliminate unnecessary protocols. By default, the Browser system works with each installed protocol. For example if both TCP/IP and NWLink/IPX are installed, there is a 12 minute announcement for each protocol.
  • Reduce the number of servers. Disable the server service if not needed.
  • Disable browser announcement registry value on servers that are not needed in the list.
    • HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Parameters
    • Value name: Hidden REG_DWORD
    • 0 = make browser announcements, 1 = make no announcements

 

Speeding Up Share Viewing

When you connect to another computer with Windows, it checks for any Scheduled tasks on that computer, which takes up to 30 seconds. To disable this process, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Explorer/RemoteComputer/NameSpace. Below, there should be a key called {D6277990-4C6A-11CF-8D87-00AA0060F5BF}. Delete this and restart; Windows will no longer check for scheduled tasks.

Browser Monitor

The Browser Monitor is a Resource Kit utility. For each domain and for each protocol, it will list the master and backup browsers together with their list of servers. Ideally the list of servers would be the same, but they are often different because of the latency of the 15 minute replications and the 12 minute announcements. The following is the Browser Monitor dialog showing the browsers and the server list.