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Win2k Q&A: Do I Really Need a WINS Server?

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Sep 25, 2000


Thomas Shinder
p>Each week we receive a lot of questions about Windows 2000. We answer several of these questions a week over at the Certification Emergency Room. This week, we tackle the question of whether we really need a WINS Server on our Windows 2000 network.

Q. I've been reading a lot about how Windows 2000 no longer requires a WINS Server because the operating system now uses DNS instead of WINS. This sounds like I don't need to use a WINS Server anymore, and can just use DNS for everything that I used WINS for. Is that true?

Each week we receive a lot of questions about Windows 2000. We answer several of these questions a week over at the Certification Emergency Room. This week, we tackle the question of whether we really need a WINS Server on our Windows 2000 network.

A. This question is both a simple one and a complex one! The simple answer is "Yes", you can run a Windows 2000 network without using a WINS Server for remote NetBIOS name resolution. However, this is a lot easier said than done.

To run a WINS-less network, you should have all the machines be Windows 2000 computers. Specifically, you should not have any downlevel Windows operating systems on the network. This is because the downlevel clients are dependent on NetBIOS for important domain related activities such as log on authentication and service location.

You must also be sure not to have any NetBIOS dependent services running on the machines on your network, whether the host operating systems are Windows 2000 or not. If you have machines that run programs and services that are dependent on NetBIOS name resolution, then your best bet is to keep a WINS Server on the network.

You could run without a WINS Server in these situations, because downlevel Windows operating systems are able to use DNS to resolve NetBIOS names. However, there are some difficulties associated with this:

  1. The downlevel operating systems are not able to register themselves dynamically with DNS like the Windows 2000 computers are able.

  2. Name resolution may become unacceptably slow. Remember the NetBIOS name resolution sequence:

    NetBIOS Remote Name Cache
    WINS
    Broadcast
    LMHOSTS
    HOSTS
    DNS

    As you can see, DNS lookups are performed last, after other methods are employed. Also, in any reasonably sized network, using static files such as HOSTS or LMHOSTS becomes an administrative straitjacket.

You could solve the first problem by using DHCP to dynamically register the names of the downlevel clients in the DNS Server, and you could help with the second problem by making the downlevel systems b-node clients, so that they don't spend time looking for a WINS Server.

However, your best bet is to wait until you have all Windows 2000 computers on your network, and that you have also eliminated all NetBIOS dependent application on your network. At that point, you can decommission your WINS Server, and then disable the NetBIOS interface on all your network clients. When you do that, really good things happen, like the Browser Service no longer functions!

For More Questions and Answers, check out the Certification Emergency Room.

For detailed coverage of NetBIOS and WINS check out our Troubleshooting Windows 2000 TCP/IP or Managing Windows 2000 Network Services.

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