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Find Missing Shared Folders


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Find Missing Shared Folders

If you have a home or small-office network, here's a problem you've probably encountered. Shared folders and printers that you could see one day are suddenly missing the next. Microsoft claims to have no record of this problem being a real issue or bug, but it's one of our biggest grievances with Windows XP. And many of our readers have expressed similar opinions. Here's how to try to solve the problem.

First, you can check the availability of a shared resource by trying to ping it by name. At a command prompt, enter ping yoursharedserver, substituting the machine name of the server for yoursharedserver. If that doesn't work, you can verify basic connectivity using the IP address with ping shared server IP address (for example, ping To find out the IP address, enter ipconfig at the command prompt on the system in question. If it lists more than one connection, find your main network connection. Then look at the line IP Address below it.

If you can ping a shared machine by IP address but not by name, ensure that you have enabled NetBIOS over IP for your current network connection. To do this, go to the Control Panel and click on Network Connections. Select your current network connection by name (for example, HomeConnection), right-click, and select Properties. Next, click on the General tab (on some setups, the tab may be labeled Networking). On certain system configurations, you may need to right-click on the Network Bridge (rather than the actual connection) to access the TCP/IP settings.

Highlight the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) option in the list of installed network protocols; click on the Properties button, then click on the Advanced button. Now click on the WINS tab. Make sure that Enable NetBIOS over TCP/IP is checked. If you are using DHCP (as many home network users will) you should choose the equivalent: Default: Use NetBIOS Setting from the DHCP server, which amounts to the same thing. To check whether you're using DHCP, go the General tab under Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Properties and see whether the option Obtain an IP address automatically is selected.

If the above settings are correct, your infrastructure for sharing network resources is likely in good shape. The underlying reason for phantom shares is, we suspect, that your file shares are not updated in the network address table. Fortunately, you can manually force this table to refresh.

The Address Resolution Protocol maps IP addresses to physical hardware. Successful matches are cached in the buffer, so the system doesn't have to send an ARP request every time it needs to get that information. In a Command window, delete all IP addresses stored for the Address Resolution Protocol by entering arp –d *, and type ipconfig/release and ipconfig /renew. These commands flush the ARP buffer and then rebuild it from scratch by renewing your network connection. Chances are, any file share will become available.

You could place these commands in a batch file as well, to automate the steps, if you find that your shares frequently aren't appearing on their own. You can verify the connection to a known shared server with arp –a.This returns an IP address. To get the machine name for that address, enter ping –a IP address; for example, ping –a

If you don't want to run these commands routinely, you can simply create a desktop shortcut to the "missing" file share. Right-click in an empty space on the desktop, then select New | Shortcut. Enter the name of your share; for example, \\mysharedserver \myshare. If you are connected to the shared machine, Windows XP will help you select a known share name by browsing the available shares for each server as you type. Click Next and you can change the names of the shared files for better readability. Click Finish and you're done.

You can also try using the IP address of a shared machine here, instead of its name, for overcoming "invisible" shares. If your file share truly isn't available, you'll find out at this step. In this case, the resolution will require verifying the underlying connectivity options above.

Keep in mind that a software firewall can interfere with letting machines share files, so you may need to go into your firewall's options and give the systems on your network specific rights to one another. This is usually done by specifying safe IP addresses.

Adding a shortcut guarantees that commonly used shares will be readily accessible, regardless of whether they show up in your network neighborhood every time.

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