Computer Browser service

Computer Browser is a service in Microsoft Windows responsible for enabling the browsing of network resources using Network Neighborhood and Windows Explorer.

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What is Computer Browser Service?

A service in Microsoft Windows NT and Windows 2000 responsible for enabling the browsing of network resources using Network Neighborhood and Windows Explorer. A Computer Browser service simplifies the user task of locating and accessing network resources by eliminating the need for users to remember Universal Naming Convention (UNC) paths or other network syntax, and by eliminating the need for all computers on the network to maintain their own list of all available network resources.

Computer Browser service.

How It Works: Computer Browser

The Computer Browser service maintains a distributed series of lists called browse lists that contain information about shared resources available on the network. Different computers on the network have different roles.

These computers include the following:

  • Domain master browser:
    Collects and maintains the master browse list for the domain, and synchronizes this list with other domain master browsers in different domains. In a Windows NT network, the domain master browser must be the Primary Domain Controller (PDC).

     

  • Master browser:
    Collects and maintains the master browse list for the domain and distributes this list to backup browsers in the domain. This can be a computer running Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows for Workgroups.

     

  • Backup browser:
    Maintains copies of the browse list received from the master browsers and distributes this list to any network client requesting a network resource. This can be a computer running Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows for Workgroups.

     

  • Potential browser:
    Any computer on the network configured so that it can assume the role of a master browser or backup browser if required. This can be a computer running Windows 2000, Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows for Workgroups.

     

  • Nonbrowser:
    Any computer that cannot be a browser but can share resources with the network.

     

When a client tries to access a shared resource on the network, such as a shared folder on a file server, it first contacts the master browser for a list of backup browsers. Then it contacts a backup browser for a copy of the browse list. Once the client has the browse list, it contacts the file server for a list of shares, and then connects to the desired share.

NOTE

The Workstation service and Server service must be started for the Computer Browser service to function.

TIP

The Computer Browser service uses broadcast packets. To browse on a TCP/IP internetwork consisting of multiple subnets separated by routers that do not forward broadcast, implement Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) on the network, with the domain master browser configured as a WINS client (not a WINS server). This configuration will ensure that the domain master browser will have a browse list with the resources on all subnets in the internetwork, including those spanned by other Windows NT domains.

You can also modify the MaintainServerList entry in the Windows NT registry to enable or disable a Windows NT machine as a backup browser or potential master browser, and the IsDomainMaster entry to force a machine to become the domain master browser. Both of these registry entries are found under:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSetxxx \Services\Browser\Parameters