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Network+ TechNotes: Microsoft Windows Networking

Microsoft Windows Networking

Microsoft is a leading vendor for both client and server operating systems, named Windows, in corporate and home networks. Windows supports many standardized protocols and network services but also includes many Microsoft proprietary technologies. Most Windows computers today use the TCP/IP suite as the primary means of communication in networks.

Microsoft’s own implementation of those standard technologies can be very different from other operating systems. A good example is Dynamic DNS, even though others now also support it. Another good example of a proprietary network technology in Windows networks is WINS, which is an older naming service similar to DNS. You can read more about WINS in the Network Services chapter.

A Microsoft network typically consists of one or more servers and a bunch of clients, which are joined together in a workgroup or an Active Directory domain. In case of a workgroup, each computer regardless of whether it is a server or client maintains its own local user account database. If you want a certain user to be able to access different computers in the workgroup, you need to recreate the user account on all those computers.

In Active Directory domains however, users accounts, groups, etc, are stored on one or more centralized servers referred to as Domain Controllers. The Domain Controllers perform the authentication of users and computers logging on in the domain. When you add a member server (a server that is not a domain controller) or a client, an administrator must join it to the domain before it share or access resources throughout the domain. Users logging on to the domain can be assigned permissions to resources by configured ACL (access control lists). An ACL is attached to every resource (e.g. file, printer) and lists the users and groups that are assigned or denied certain permissions.

Before you can communicate with other systems in the network however, you need to configure the network protocol, which on any recent Windows version with a network interface is TCP/IP and installed automatically. By default, it is configured to obtain IP addressing information automatically, i.e. through DHCP or APIPA. If your network does not have a DHCP server, you should configure the IP addresses manually instead. Most Windows systems support additional network protocols such as IPX and AppleTalk, which you may need to configure when your Windows systems need to communicate with older MAC or Netware systems that don’t support TCP/IP.

Following are two other protocols/services that are listed in the Network+ exam objectives or related to them.


NetBIOS Extended User Interface (NetBEUI) is a non-routable Transport layer protocol created by Microsoft. Novell and Microsoft wanted to use the Session layer part of the NetBIOS protocol with other transport protocols such as TCP and SPX and decided to split up NetBIOS into NetBEUI and NETBIOS. NetBEUI may still be used in some exceptional legacy networks but in general has been replaced by TCP/IP.

The reason NetBEUI is non-routable is its flat addressing scheme. NETBEUI uses NetBIOS names, sometimes referred to as friendly names , to identify computers on the network, and do not contain a network portion. NetBIOS names are 16 characters in length and cannot contain any of the following characters: \ / : * ? " < > |, but most version of Windows don't allow many other characters, such as @ and {} neither. The first 15 characters represent a unique name identifying a resource. The 16th character is a suffix identifying the type of resource or group of resources. For example, the redirector, server, or messenger services can be installed on one computer resulting in three times the same name but with different suffixes. If you set a name of 8 characters, it is padded with spaces up to 15 characters long to allow the '16th' character.

NETBEUI is a broadcast protocol, meaning a computer running NETBEUI discovers the MAC address from an intended communication partner by sending out a broadcast with the remote NETBIOS name. The owner of the MAC address listed in the broadcast message then replies with is MAC address. The main advantage of NETBEUI is that it is small (on disk and in memory) and requires little configuration.


The Server Message Block (SMB) protocol is an older file and printer sharing protocol used in OS/2, Windows 95 and Windows NT networks. The Common Internet File System (CIFS) is Microsoft’s attempt to create an open and enhanced version of SMB. CIFS offers better security, is supported also by UNIX and other operating systems, and is optimized for file transfer across the Internet and other IP networks. In addition to access to Windows and other file servers, CIFS is commonly used to access Network Attached Storage (NAS), which is covered in more detail in the Network Services TechNotes.

Current related exam objectives for the Network+ exam:

2.4 Differentiate between the following network protocols in terms of routing, addressing schemes, interoperability and naming conventions:
- NetBEUI (Network Basic Input / Output System Extended User Interface)

2.13 Identify the purpose of network services and protocols (For example: SMB (Server Message Block))

3.1 Identify the basic capabilities (For example: client support, interoperability, authentication, file and print services, application support and security) of the following server operating systems to access network resources:

- Windows

3.2 Identify the basic capabilities needed for client workstations to connect to and use network resources (For example: media, network protocols and peer and server services).

3.4 Given a remote connectivity scenario comprised of a protocol, an authentication scheme, and physical connectivity, configure the connection. Includes connection to the following servers:
- Windows

4.5 Given a troubleshooting scenario between a client and the following server environments, identify the cause of a stated problem:
- Windows

Click here for the complete list of exam objectives.

Discuss this TechNote here Author: Johan Hiemstra


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