Windows 9x (95/98/ME) and the Browser

When you have computers running Windows 9x (95, 98, or ME) on the same network with computers running Windows NT (NT, 2000, XP, Server 2003), you should expect browser problems (such as computers not visible, or “access denied”, when trying to use Network Neighborhood). The rules for detecting the absence of the master browser (“Browse Master” in Windows 9x) vary between the 2 platforms. This leads to the problems when a working LAN of Windows 9x computers has a Windows XP computer added.

If you don’t want to have browser conflicts, you’ll need to disable the browser on each of either the Windows 9x, or the Windows NT, computers. Choose intelligently in which group you wish to disable the browser. If you have just 1 or 2 Windows NT computers, and a larger number of Windows 9x computers, you might elect to disable the browser on the Windows NT computers. Conversely, if you have a lot of Windows NT computers, and a couple Windows 9x computers, disabling the Browse Master on the Windows 9x computers would make more sense.

To stop the Windows 9x Browse Master:

  • From Control Panel – Network, double click on “File and printer sharing for Microsoft Networks”.
  • In “File and printer sharing for Microsoft Networks Properties”, change the Value for Browse Master to Disabled.
  • Hit OK, and restart the system.

Alternatively, you can edit the Windows Registry. Change value [HKLM\ System\ CurrentControlSet\ Services\ Browser\ Parameters\ IsDomainMaster] to False. Then restart the system.

To stop the Browser on a Windows NT/2000/XP system, simply set the Computer Browser service to Stopped and Disabled.

Any time you change the browser setup on your LAN, you may have to wait for up 51 minutes, before all computers are synchronised. If this latency period is unacceptable, you may restart each computer. For maximum reliability, power all computers off; when all computers are off, power each one back on again, starting with the one which you want to serve as the master browser.

Having done this, you may need to deal with Network Neighborhood problems in general, so continue by reading Irregularities In Workgroup Visibility.

If you wish to diagnose this issue, and confirm that it’s a problem first, you can run Browstat from any of the Windows NT (NT, 2000, XP, 2003) computers. Browstat won’t run on Windows 9x (95, 98, ME) computers, but if you run browstat twice on each computer running NT, you can compensate for that. Run:

browstat status
browstat listwfw

For more information about Windows 9x browser issues, read the Microsoft white paper Browsing and Windows 95 Networking, or this Microsoft article Frequent Browser Elections When Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 Configured in Workgroup.

For more information about the browser in general, read The NT Browser (or Why can’t I always see all of the computers on the LAN?).

And for more issues relevant to the various operating systems, see Older Operating Systems – Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT

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