The Mysterious “Error = 53” aka “Name Not Found”

Next to an “error = 5” (“access denied”), I don’t know of too many diagnostic messages that can cause so much confusion or uncertainty in the heart of your desktop / network support tech.

An error = 53 message comes in a number of circumstances.

The literal meaning of “name not found” is “I can’t resolve the name of this host to an address”. There are a number of possible reasons for this.

One of the most obvious is lack of physical connectivity between you (this host), and the target. Maybe that host doesn’t even exist. How many times have you mistyped the name of a host that you’re pinging? I’ve done that a few times.

I’ve been working with Windows Networking, and browser issues, for several years. I’ve come to associate “error = 53” (“name resolution”) problems with several possible causes that don’t come from either CKI or hardware faults.

  • Corrupted LSP / Winsock.
  • Firewall problem.
  • Registry settings.
  • Invalid node type.
  • Network components and services not started, or missing.
  • Excessive protocols.

The first three are identified only from experimentation. A corrupted LSP / Winsock is only diagnosed after its been fixed. Many times, you try everything, and I mean everything, to fix a problem. Sometimes you spend days, then somebody says “Try LSP-Fix”. You run it, and that’s the solution. But there are 5 possible solutions for the corrupted LSP / Winsock – LSP-Fix is just one of the 5, and not all 5 work every time.

A firewall problem you only identify after you disable a personal firewall (assuming it disables successfully, which does happen about 1/2 the time). The other half, you go thru the bit with everything else, and even try LSP-Fix and its siblings, to no avail. Then someone discovers a misconfigured or overlooked firewall, and the light goes on in your head. You un install a personal firewall, and your problems are gone.

Registry settings, which are designed for security, can cause many problems, including interfering with name resolution. Here the oddly ubiquitous restrictanonymous setting has been observed to cause problems.

Run “ipconfig /all”. The value of Node Type will tell you if you have a problem. If the Node Type is “Peer-Peer”, and you’re on a small LAN (ie no DNS or WINS server), Peer-Peer won’t work, though any other setting will, though with varying success.

Also in the log from “ipconfig /all”, if you saw the line

NetBIOS over Tcpip. . . . . . . . : Disabled

you would hopefully know to correct that. But even if that line does not show, NetBT might not be enabled, and that will cause this symptom, “error = 53”. Please, explicitly Enable NetBT, except for specific network conditions.

An “Error = 53”, when referring to the master browser in a browstat log, can be caused by the Remote Registry Service not running on the master browser. Running a server with XP Home, as the master browser, is a bad idea – XP Home does not have the Remote Registry Service, as it does not provide for any administrative access thru the network.

Finally, if you spot IPX/SPX or NetBEUI protocols in a “browstat status” log, or IPV6 aka Advanced or Teredo Tunneling in an “ipconfig /all” log, you’ll need to un install that – at least to diagnose the problem. Having unnecessary protocols will hamper name resolution. Name resolution is generally by broadcast – the computer sends out a message to all computers, thru all transports bound to that computer, asking what address the target computer is using. The computer has to wait for each transport to timeout, when no response is received, before trying the next transport, on each query.

Microsoft Unable to Reach a Host or NetBIOS Name discusses other possibilities.

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