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January 24, 2012

Workgroup is not accessible

My sprawling home network has sort of grown hap-hazardly over the years and I find myself burdened with this ungainly nightmare of a network:
2 Wireless Routers
1 25 port switch
4 PC's running XP Pro
1 laptop running XP Pro
2 laptops running Windows 7

At some point in 2011, I realized that I could no longer browse my Workgroup in Windows Explorer. And I've just sort of ignored this problem until now and now, it's bothering me enough that I'm going to figure out what the problem is.

Now, I'll start off by saying that Microsoft Sucks and if I ever met Bill Gates in person I think I'd strangle him with my bare hands. But having said that, it's not likely that I'll ever see him in the flesh, and even so, strangling him wouldn't solve my computer problems, at least in the sort term in any event.

The message I get is this:

"Workgroup is not accessible. You might not have permission to use this network resource. Contact the administrator of this server to find out if you have access permissions. The list of servers for this network is not currently available."

So, the first thing I'll try to do is ping some of the other boxes to make sure I have TCP/IP access to them.

I've now verified that I'm able to ping the other boxes no problem. So, this isn't a problem with TCP/IP. But Microsoft Networking runs on a layer on top of TCP/IP. So now, we'll try to figure out what's wrong there.

So, I tried following the directions on this website:

You must have administrator rights to do this.
Enable the IPX/SPX protocol and follow all instructions.
To enable file and print sharing on the IPX/SPX protocol
Only perform this procedure if your home or small office computers are connected directly to the Internet through individual connections or using a DSL or cable modem connected to an Ethernet network hub.

1. Open Network Connections.
2. In Local Area Network, Right click on top of your connection and select Properties, click Install.
3. In Select Network Component Type, click Protocol, and then click Add.
4. Click NWLink IPX/SPX/NetBIOS Compatible Transport Protocol, click OK, and then click Close.
5. In Network Connections, on the Advanced menu (on top menu bar), click Advanced Settings.
6. On the Adapters and Bindings tab, under Connections, click the local area connection on which you are enabling IPX/SPX file and print sharing.
Under Bindings for Local Area Connection, under File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks, clear the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) check box, and then click OK."

Wow. I can't believe it, but that fixed it. I applied this fix to my four desktops so far, and they're all working correctly at this point. Go figure.

Posted by Rob Kiser on January 24, 2012 at 12:43 AM


So your network is overly complicated, and your solution is to add a Novell networking protocol to enable peer-to-peer file sharing?!

Have you thought about setting up a Windows Home Server instead?




Posted by: Robert R. on January 26, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Is that what I did? I added a Novell protocol? I didn't know. But I can tell you that the Microsoft Windows for Workgroups is pretty weak. And for whatever reason, they didn't make Windows 7 Homegroups compatible with Windows XP Workgroups, which blows.

Posted by: Rob Kiser Author Profile Page on January 29, 2012 at 11:13 AM

Yes, IPX is a protocol for Novel networking. I remember back when we used to actually use Novel Netware for our file and print servers. Since file and print used IPX, and internet and e-mail used TCP/IP, it would often be a while before anyone noticed that connectivity to the Novel Netware server was down (because they were too busy surfing the web and reading e-mail, which was unaffected since TCP/IP would still work).

Ditch the peer-to-peer networking and go to a client-server model to share files. I suggested Windows Home Server, because I know how much you love Windows. But it could also be Linux, or whatever.

That way, you only have to configure each desktop or laptop to connect to one server, so the total number of connections equals the total number of nodes (minus one, since the central server doesn't connect to itself).

If you insist on using peer-to-peer networking for file sharing, the number of possible connections is going to grow, with the possible number of connections for n nodes being

n ( n - 1 ) / 2

Since you don't use that math you majored in, see the chart below:

2 nodes = 2 x 1 / 2 = 01 connections

3 nodes = 3 x 2 / 2 = 03 connections

4 nodes = 4 x 3 / 2 = 06 connections

5 nodes = 5 x 4 / 2 = 10 connections

6 nodes = 6 x 5 / 2 = 15 connections

7 nodes = 7 x 6 / 2 = 21 connections

or the pictures at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metcalfe%27s_law

It sounds like your network is already unmanageable, and it's not going to get better.

Posted by: Robert R. on January 29, 2012 at 12:37 PM

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