Windows Networking Problems? Try the Master Browser

Apr 09, 2020 at 10:00 am by Warlord720

Windows Networking Problems? Try the Master Browser

With more people working at home it would be a great time for Windows networking to be reliable and it is for a lot of users. However, if you are on the other end of the spectrum then the frustration level just adds to the anxiety of being in quarantine while trying to work from home. Since a lot of companies were not prepared for such an event a lot of baggage is coming with it.

Some of that baggage is a Windows networking problem or a host of problems from not being able to consistently see other computers on the network to not seeing any computers on the network.

Or… and even more irritating… one day the network is there like it should be but the next day is a crapshoot as to whether you will see any or what computers locally.

Googling this problem brings up all kinds of solutions and threads about all kinds of Windows networking problems. With this in mind, I can’t say the Master Browser is the problem but understanding which computer the Master Browser is located on and how it got there which for the most part seems to be first booted on a fresh network startup. So, as you can see, this means the Master Browser moves around on your network.

What brought it to my attention was the fact that once a week I had been out of the house and in the backyard studio and my main computer in the house would be turned off.  I would walk out to the studio and find that the Windows network was doing everything but networking. It might see a share but never all of them and it would only see entire computers intermittently and seemingly with no common thread to troubleshoot.

After some usual tail chasing, time-wasting, techno BS I finally happened upon a small forum that mentioned the Master Browser was only one computer on the network so find out which computer that is and start from there.

This led to pulling up a Command Window (DOS Prompt) and using the cryptic nbtstat command that will return information on your network. Supposedly it will tell you if the computer is the Master Browser or not. Trouble is… it had to be run on each computer until you found the Master Browser. It’s a great command that tells you a lot, so if you are not familiar with it then try it out. Just type in nbtstat at the prompt, press enter and it will return a short help section of how to use it. You can also clear the local cache with this command: “nbtstat -c”.

 Windows Command

While that is one way to do it, I didn’t want to traipse all over the house till I found the Master Browser so I stumbled across a cool, free tool which, as usual, you use at your own risk.

The tool is NETBScanner from NirSoft which is a compact run from download Exe file with no installation. I know nothing about the provenance of this tool, but its name kept popping up in other forums and webpages, so I gave it a try.

Within less than a minute I knew which computer was the Master Browser which was the main house computer that was off at that moment.

 NetBScanner

With all my research I still didn’t have an answer to what happened when the Master Browser computer is turned off. I rebooted one of the computers left on and it became the Master Browser. Problem solved… at least for me.  According to the support link above it can take up to 48 minutes for a new Master Browser to see everything but usually in half that time. For me, it was almost instant but it’s a small network with a few computers.

Some research pointed to disabling the Master Browser as prevention for any pc to be enabled as one. I have no idea what this will do as my problem was solved with paying attention to what computers are on and which one was the Master Browser.

A quote from a forum post:

It doesn't matter who is master browser…  if you turn others off and restart yours and leave it a bit it should become mb.

While this might not be what's causing your networking problems you will at least know where the Master Browser is located and can plan accordingly when shutting down part of your network or why late at night you can’t see anything when you are trying to get some work done. Someone may have turned off the Master Browser before turning in for the night.


M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years.  Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website






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