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




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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