Thursday, October 25, 2018

How to Fix Network Discovery on Windows Devices

Connecting multiple devices in the same location can be useful. From accessing database files to the ability to modify documents without worrying about sorting through multiple copies and wondering which one has the most recent changes applied, devices that can browse the files of another device can be invaluable.

There are a few things required when connecting devices including:
  • Being on the same network - devices can connect wirelessly or via a wired connection, but the network must be the same. For example, two devices connected to two different wireless networks would not be able to communicate even though they were both on a wireless network.
  • Both must be powered on - this may seem obvious, but if devices are set to go into sleep or hibernate mode, this can happen and will block access.
  • Network discovery must be enabled.
This post covers how to fix network discovery between devices when it fails.

How to Fix Network Discovery on Windows Devices

If you are having trouble browsing files on another device when it was previously working, try the troubleshooting steps below to get this working again. 

Make sure both devices can talk to one another

  • From one of the devices, type "cmd" in the search window. 
  • In the Command Prompt window, type "ipconfig" to get the devices IP address.

  • From a second device, type "cmd" in the search window.
  • In the Command Prompt window type "ping X.X.X.X" where X's are representative of the IP address of the first device. If the ping test fails, the devices might not be on the same network.
  • Type "exit" to close a command prompt window.

Verify network discovery is enabled
  • Click the Settings cog in the Start menu.
  • From the Settings menu, click "Network & Internet".

  • Scroll down and click "Network & Sharing center".

  • In the Network and Sharing Center window, click the "Change advanced sharing settings" link on the left side.

  • Verify "Turn on network discovery" is selected under the Network discovery heading.

  • Click "Save changes".
If network discovery is enabled for all devices and you still cannot access files from the other devices, try the step below.

Re-enable the Windows SMBv1 feature

If both devices are on and the settings above are correct, it is possible a recent Windows update removed a vital feature necessary for network discovery. Server message block (SMB) is a feature sometimes required for network discovery to work properly. Version 1 is outdated, but ultimately some programs still need it to operate so re-enabling it may fix the issue.

To re-enable the Windows SMB version 1 feature:
  • From the Settings menu, click "Apps". 
  • In the right panel, click the "Programs and Features" link under the Related Settings heading.

  • In the Programs and Features window, click the "Turn Windows features on or off" link in the left panel.

  • Scroll down to "SMB 1.0/CIFS File Sharing Support" and click the box next to the Client and Server portions.

  • Click OK to install these features. 
  • If prompted, click yes to reboot after the installation finishes.
  • Repeat as necessary for each device.
  • Verify file browsing between devices is working again.
If network discovery fails between devices, follow the checklist above to get the devices back to communicating with the ability to browse files. SMB version 1 is an older feature that has since been replaced with version 3, but some programs may still require it. If network discovery between devices was working but suddenly fails, it is likely that this existing feature was removed by a recent Windows update. Re-enabling this feature should fix the network discovery issue when all other items checked out. 

As always, knowing how to get back to a working state is invaluable as technology is constantly evolving.

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