WINS is a Friend of Mine – Original Posted Feb 22, 2005

Yes, I like WINS, and WINS likes me. I recently went through another string of issues with a few clients and the resolution seemed to just scream WINS when I took my first glance at the problems. A click here, a click there, and *poof* you have a WINS server. I recommend at least two that replicate for redundancy.


I don’t know who started the whole “Windows 2000 will make it so that WINS can go away” mantra, but it just isn’t true. WINS has a real purpose in life. The purpose is not so that Windows can connect to the Internet. I actually heard a trainer (a very inexperienced trainer that was obviously pulling the explanation out of his @ss) state that the only time you need WINS is if you are connecting to the Internet. Somehow, I managed to not go into the classroom and biatch slap him right there in front of his students. WINS is used for NetBIOS name resolution. That sounds pretty vague to many people, but what it comes down to is that when an application requires NetBIOS name resolution, it will either use a NetBIOS name server (i.e. WINS) or it will broadcast on its network segment to try and resolve the name. Since we all know that broadcast traffic is evil, we should all be implementing WINS in our environments if we use any of the following:


  • Exchange 2000 setup program
  • Exchange 2000 System Manager
  • Exchange Server 2003 setup program
  • Exchange Server 2003 System Manager
  • Exmerge
  • Network Neighborhood
  • Outlook (except for Outlook 2003)
  • OWA – in order to change a password
  • Windows 2000 Server Clustering
  • Windows 9x Clients (please tell me that you don’t have anything that old around)
  • Windows NT 4.0 Workstation Clients (ditto)
  • Windows Server 2003 Server Clustering

http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=837391 discusses most of the above applications and their use of NetBIOS naming. There are many other times you should implement WINS. For example, you might have a mixed Exchange environment with 5.5 still loose and wreaking terror on your life. I just don’t have the memory to remember all of the situations.


All of the above use NetBIOS naming and NetBIOS name resolution. It doesn’t mean that they have to use WINS, but it sure makes sense to use WINS in these situations since broadcasting only will resolve names on the same network segment (in most cases). Before I start hearing the screams of those that want to rid themselves of WINS, I fully acknowledge that many applications that use NetBIOS naming can be configured to work without WINS. But why go through all of that pain when you can use WINS, and it is so easy to install and maintain? I know, there are some people that really get off on pain. Let’s remember to keep our distance. <G>


By the way, I bet many of you didn’t know that there is an awesome tool that is fantastic for troubleshooting NetBIOS resolution. Take a look at nblookup when you get a chance. It is fantastic. http://support.microsoft.com/Default.aspx?kbid=830578

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