Solving Windows 7 networking problems

Fred langa By Fred Langa

Win7-to-Win7 networking may be easy, but connecting your new Win7 system to older PCs with previous versions of Windows or non-Windows systems can sometimes be a real headache.

Firewalls and Win7’s HomeGroups are usually the primary culprits, but the following step-by-step tips should help solve your networking troubles with minimal hassle.

Win7 can’t see his network shares

Reader Bob Johnston is setting up a mixed-bag local network — Win7, XP, Linux, and some network-attached storage (NAS) devices — but is running into a fairly common snag.
  • “I am embarrassed to admit that I am having a problem with Win7 Pro that I cannot resolve. My background is Win XP (expert level) with a brief exposure to Vista while awaiting Win7. Since installing Win7, I have not been able to access my NAS drives. They are fully operational from my other XP and Linux work stations.

    “I can access the drives via HTTP from Win7, but it refuses under all circumstances to see these drives as standard network drives. I have searched and searched, and all of the recommendations have proved futile. Surely there is some simple remedy!”

When Win7 systems won’t network well to older devices, your first order of business is to check on third-party firewalls. I’ve done several dozen Win7 setups so far, and in most of the cases where networking was a problem, a third-party firewall was the culprit.

Win7’s HomeGroup feature accounts for nearly all of the other network problems I’ve seen. (I’ll come back to HomeGroups in a moment.) But in your case, Bob, I do suspect it’s a firewall problem. You can connect by some network protocols (e.g., HTTP) but not others. That means the basic connectivity is there, but full access is being blocked — probably by a closed port, bad “rule,” or some other firewall issue.

Try this:

  • Step 1. Make your network safe from outside attack by disconnecting your LAN from the external world (i.e., unplug the data cable that feeds your cable-box/DSL/modem/whatever). Your machines are now connected only to each other, locally.

  • Step 2. It’s now safe to remove or disable the firewalls on all your systems and devices. With no firewalls running, you should be able to get your network fully up and running. Don’t set up or enable a HomeGroup on the Win7 box(es) yet — just concentrate on getting the basic networking going.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2010-02-25:

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.