Date: 28th, May, 2003
"Unable to access Computers Near Me. Workgroup is not accessible.
The List of servers for this workgroup is not currently available."
Well, that was the message I was getting when I tried to network my computers together and use them on a daily basis; but why was I getting the message at all at some times and not at others??
My network set-up at the time was a workgroup of three machines, two home-based PCs and one laptop. Through these I could share my work, carry business information on the laptop in a series of windows briefcases, and generally share the workload across all three machines. Yet at first I couldn't understand why the network fell over at some times and not at others. Until I noticed that the problem only occurred when the laptop was NOT connected to the workgroup network.
Querying the Net.
I couldn't solve the problem so I went on the internet to find out what other's knew of it. I could have used the Microsoft Knowledgebase, but didn't have a clue as to the key themes and words, anyway I was too busy and only had an hour here an hour there to look into it. From one forum at the PC Plus magazine I received a couple of clues (thanks all!) - it was to do with the "Computer Browser".
Computer Browser Service: the "Browse Master".
After some rooting around this is what I discovered: the Computer Browser Service is a means for a group of Windows PCs in a peer-to-peer workgroup to keep track of each other. As no one machine is set up in charge like a server on a larger network, the machines use a set of criteria to "elect" one machine in the group to act as holder, or "Browse Master", of the keys - the "List of servers" referred to in the error message (above). It turned out that my Laptop was acting as Browse Master and the others couldn't talk to each other with referring to it.
So, how do I make another PC the Browse Master?
Searching for a Solution
If you check the Microsoft Knowledgebase you'll find a couple of solutions of which the key one seems to be (Q285035) suggesting that you shutdown all PCs to force a new election. Of course it didn't work. Another solution I tried was to alter the registry entries for "MaintainServerList", setting them to "False" on my other PC and Laptop, and "True" for my main PC. No luck.
Computer Browser Service
My solution came when I went back to look at exactly what, and more importantly where the Computer Browser Service was. It turns out the solutions was there all along.
When looking at the setting on my machines it turned out that my Laptop had its browser service turned on (Started) and the other machines had them off (Stopped). The solution was to switch them over and start the service on my main PC. I then left the machines awhile to renegotiate the server list (one Knoweldgebase article said that it can take an hour or more for a list to be fully updated amongst the participating machines, and I didn't want to risk challenging that one and waste more of my valuable time) I closed my main PC and tested the others - there was the pesky message! A quick check with the main PC switched back on and no message, but a fully-accessible network. Yipeeee!
Follow these instructions through your "Start Menu" opening the "Control Panel", selecting "Administrative Tools" to reach the Computer Browser Services panel.
Once there select either to "Stop" a service on you PCs or "Start" it on the PC you have chosen for your workgroup Browse Master.
After you've done this the network will be accessible whenever the chosen PC is running.
(NOTE: July 2012 up-date - often in modern home networks with internet routers on your broadband connection this role of network host is carried out by the router and not a specific PC. I leave you to explore all that.)
Keys: Windows 2002 networking problem, workgroup not accessible, Computer Browser Services, altering your home network to make one Windows 2000 PC the network host, solving the problem of Workgroup Not Accessible error messages, I get an error Workgroup Not Accessible message, workgroup networking on Windows 2000 PCs, how to alter the Browser Services setting on Windows 2000 PC, DHCP Host on a Windows 2000 Professional workgroup network (DHCP - Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol).