NetBIOS browsing across subnets may fail after upgrading to Windows Server 2008

When installing a new Windows 2008 server or upgrading an existing server to Windows 2008, the Computer Browser service is set to disabled by default.

If you upgrade the Domain Controller that is assigned the PDC FSMO role or you move that role to a Windows 2008 DC, you may see the domain wide NetBIOS-based network browse list get smaller and remote subnet machines will disappear from the list.  Eventually you may only see computers from the local subnet in the network browse list.  If you have subnets with only one server and it is Windows 2008, then you may also see inconsistent local subnet browse lists due to clients taking a master browser role and they may be rebooted, turned off, etc.

You may see a combination of all local computers on a subnet and some remote computers on a subnet if you have IPv6 deployed and LLTD is being used with Network Discovery to build a network browse list, using Vista clients and Windows 2008 servers.  To see if that is the case, you can use the “net view” command or the browstat.exe tool to see just the NetBIOS-based browse list.

To resolve this problem, you can either set the Computer Browser service to Automatic on the DC holding the PDC role, or move the PDC role to another DC that has the Computer Browser service started.  You will need File and Printer sharing On in the Network and Sharing Center, otherwise the Computer Browser service will fail to start since the required ports will not be open.  In a multiple subnet environment, make sure WINS is configured properly so that you have the proper NetBIOS name resolution.  After making the corrections, the computers holding the master browser roles will begin to populate the browse list for the entire network.

If you need a tool to test and determine the browsing roles from a Windows Server 2008 machine, you can use the Windows XP Support Tool Browstat.exe on a Windows Server 2008 to determine the computer that has the browse master roles. The Windows XP Service Pack 2 Support Tools can be downloaded from Microsoft at the link listed below and installed on a XP machine.  After that, move the browstat.exe utility to the Windows Server 2008 machine to do the test.

Windows XP Service Pack 2 Support Tools

– Tod Edwards