Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) servers : A Short Guide

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Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) is Microsoft’s implementation of NetBIOS Name Service (NBNS), a name server and service for NetBIOS computer names. Effectively, WINS is to NetBIOS names what DNS is to domain names — a central mapping of host names to network addresses. Like DNS, it is implemented in two parts, a Server Service (that manages the encoded Jet Database, server to server replication, service requests, and conflicts) and a TCP/IP Client component which manages the client’s registration and renewal of names, and takes care of queries.

Role of  WINS in the Network

Although NetBIOS and NetBIOS names can be used with network protocols other than TCP/IP, WINS was designed specifically to support NetBIOS over TCP/IP (NetBT). WINS is required for any environment in which users access resources that have NetBIOS names. If you do not use WINS in such a network, you cannot connect to a remote network resource by using its NetBIOS name unless you use Lmhosts files, and you might be unable to establish file and print sharing connections.

The following figure illustrates the role of WINS for computers that use NetBIOS names. Typically, DHCP is used to assign IP addresses automatically.

WINS Name Registration and Resolution

WINS Name Registration and Resolution

In a typical scenario, the following occurs:

  1. ClientA, which uses NetBIOS and is a WINS client, sends a name registration request to its configured primary WINS server (WINSA) when it starts up and joins the network. WINSA adds ClientA’s NetBIOS name and IP address to the WINS database.
  2. When ClientB needs to connect to ClientA by its name, it requests the IP address from the WINS server.
  3. The WINS server locates the corresponding entry in its database and replies with ClientA’s IP address.

Summary of WINS Benefits

WINS provides the following benefits over other NetBIOS name resolution methods:

  • WINS name resolution reduces NetBIOS name query broadcast traffic because clients can query a WINS server directly instead of broadcasting queries.
  • WINS enables the Computer Browser service to collect and distribute browse lists across IP routers.
  • The WINS dynamic name-to-address database supports NetBIOS name registration and resolution in environments where DHCP-enabled clients are configured for dynamic TCP/IP address allocation.
  • The WINS database also supports centralized management and replicates name-to-address mappings to other WINS servers.
  • WINS and DNS can be used in the same environment to provide combined name searches in both namespaces.

WINS and DNS

WINS and DNS are both name resolution services for TCP/IP networks. While WINS resolves names in the NetBIOS namespace, DNS resolves names in the DNS domain namespace. WINS primarily supports clients that run older versions of Windows and applications that use NetBIOS. Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 use DNS names in addition to NetBIOS names. Environments that include some computers that use NetBIOS names and other computers that use domain names must include both WINS servers and DNS servers.

Difference between a WINS server and a DNS server?

For a lot of people, the relationship between WINS and DNS is a bit of a mystery, but we are hoping to clear things up with your question.

Firstly, DNS refers to ‘Domain Name Server,’ while WINS refers to ‘Windows Internet Name Service’ – both are used to resolve names, but in a very different way!

To help explain, I’m going to use an example that will ensure you get the right picture on each of these services.

Consider a file server by the name ‘Jupiter,’ and the following two commands:

  1. Ping Jupiter.space.net
  2. Net use * \jupiter mainshare

The two above commands should look familiar. The first one simply sends a ping (icmp echo) packet to our file server, ensuring it’s alive, while the second command calls the same server (Jupiter) in order to connect to a shared folder named ‘mainshare.’

While both commands are referring to the same name (Jupiter), the difference between them is important.

Ping here uses DNS to resolve Jupiter.space.net to an IP address, e.g 204.45.12.1, while the ‘net use’ command make use of WINS to resolve the NetBIOS name ‘Jupiter’ to an IP address.

So you might be wondering why are there two different services essentially performing the same job?

The answer is that each of these services relies on different protocols – they simply work in a very different way.

WINS is an essential part of the Microsoft networking topology. In the older days, you were required to run a WINS server in order to avoid name resolution problems within a Windows network. The NetBIOS (Windows machine names) protocol back then would only work on the NetBEUI transport protocol. If you ever ran Windows 95, you’d remember the NetBEUI protocol was always present in your networking properties, where as TCP/IP was optional.

Today, DNS has replaced WINS, since Microsoft made changes to NetBIOS, allowing it to use the TCP/IP stack to perform its job (NetBIOS over TCP/IP) and most DNS servers are able to handle NetBIOS requests. This is why WINS servers are becoming lesser day by day.

In short, DNS maps TCP/IP host names to IP addresses and WINS maps NetBIOS host names to IP addresses.

WINS server role: Configuring a WINS server

Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) servers dynamically map IP addresses to computer names (NetBIOS names). This allows users to access resources by computer name instead of by IP address. If you want this computer to keep track of the names and IP addresses of other computers in your network, configure this computer as a WINS server.

This topic explains the basic steps that you must follow to configure a WINS server. When you have finished setting up a basic WINS server, you can complete additional configuration tasks, depending on how you want to use the WINS server.

Before you begin

Before you configure your computer as a WINS server, verify that:

  • You are familiar with WINS concepts such as NetBIOS names, WINS server, WINS clients, and replication partners. For more information, see Understanding WINS.
  • The operating system is configured correctly. In the Windows Server 2003 family, WINS depends on the appropriate configuration of the operating system and its services. If you have a new installation of a product in the Windows Server 2003 family, you can use the default service settings. No further action is necessary. If you upgraded to a product in the Windows Server 2003 family, or if you want to confirm that your services are configured correctly for best performance and security, then verify your service settings using the table in Default settings for services.
  • You know how many WINS servers you need to install and where to locate each server on your network. When you add the WINS server role, you configure this server to maintain a database of computer names and IP addresses. In a large network, you may need to add the WINS server role to additional servers in order to ensure that client computers always have access to at least one WINS server. For more information, see Planning WINS networks.
  • This computer has a static IP address. For more information, see Configure TCP/IP for static addressing.
  • All existing disk volumes use the NTFS file system. FAT32 volumes are not secure, and they do not support file and folder compression, disk quotas, file encryption, or individual file permissions.
  • Windows Firewall is enabled. For more information, see Enable Windows Firewall with no exceptions.
  • The Security Configuration Wizard is installed and enabled. For information about the Security Configuration wizard, see Security Configuration Wizard Overview.

Configuring your WINS server

To configure a WINS server, start the Configure Your Server Wizard by doing either of the following:

  • From Manage Your Server, click Add or remove a role. By default, Manage Your Server starts automatically when you log on. To open Manage Your Server, click Start, click Control Panel, double-click Administrative Tools, and then double-click Manage Your Server.
  • To open the Configure Your Server Wizard, click Start, click Control Panel, double-click Administrative Tools, and then double-click Configure Your Server Wizard.

On the Server Role page, click WINS server, and then click Next.

Summary of Selections

On the Summary of Selections page, view and confirm the options that you have selected. If you selected WINS server on the previous page, the following appears:

  • Install WINS

To apply the selections shown on the Summary of Selections page, click Next. After you click Next, the Configuring Components page of the Windows Components Wizard appears, and then closes automatically. You cannot click Back or Next on this page. The Configure Your Server Wizard installs the WINS Server service. Unlike many other services, the WINS service installs without any input from the administrator.

If you cancel Configure Your Server, then WINS Server service is not installed. To install it later, restart Manage Your Server and add the WINS role.

Completing the Configure Your Server Wizard

After the components are configured, the Configure Your Server Wizard displays the This Server is Now a WINS Server page. To review all of the changes made to your server by the Configure Your Server Wizard or to ensure that a new role was installed successfully, click Configure Your Server log. The Configure Your Server Wizard log is located at systemroot\Debug\Configure Your Server.log. To close the Configure Your Server Wizard, click Finish.

To verify that your server is secure and has the most recent updates, do the following:

  1. Run Windows Update. For more information, see Windows Update.
  2. Run the Security Configuration Wizard. For more information, see Security Configuration Wizard Overview.

Removing the WINS server role

If you need to reconfigure your server for a different role, you can remove existing server roles. If you remove the WINS server role, and this server is the only WINS server that clients can use to register and resolve computer names, you need to add the WINS role to another server. Also, if this server is configured to replicate WINS database information with other WINS servers, then you must reconfigure replication on those other WINS servers.

To remove the WINS server role, restart the Configure Your Server Wizard by doing either of the following:

  • From Manage Your Server, click Add or remove a role. By default, Manage Your Server starts automatically when you log on. To open Manage Your Server, click Start, click Control Panel, double-click Administrative Tools, and then double-click Manage Your Server.
  • To open the Configure Your Server Wizard, click Start, click Control Panel, double-click Administrative Tools, and then double-click Configure Your Server Wizard.

On the Server Role page, click WINS server, and then click Next. On the Role Removal Confirmation page, review the items listed under Summary, select the Remove the WINS server role check box, and then click Next. On the WINS Server Role Removed page, click Finish.

Next steps: Completing additional tasks

After you complete the Configure Your Server Wizard, the computer is ready for use as a basic WINS server that can keep track of server IP addresses and provide this information when a client requests it. Up to this point, you have installed the WINS Server service on one server. If you want to support WINS clients on a complex network, you may need to install additional WINS servers on other subnets.

The following table lists some of the additional tasks that you might want to perform on your WINS server.

Task

Purpose of task

View WINS name records registered at the server. Verify that the WINS server is functioning correctly.
Modify WINS server defaults. WINS uses several default server configuration parameters that determine how NetBIOS name records are managed in the WINS server database. These parameters are usually acceptable. You may want to modify them in special circumstances, such as when a host name change must be made, or when you renumber the network so that clients and servers use a different set of IP addresses.
Configure replication settings on primary and secondary WINS servers. WINS servers replicate database changes to each other so that each WINS server has the same information about the servers on the network and the IP address of each.
Configure ports to allow remote administration. To manage the WINS server from other computers on the network.

——————- Thanks everyone

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Tauseef Emraj Shehan

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