Tricks & Traps: Ask Dr. Bob Your Windows NT Questions

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Bob Chronister

Windows NT Magazine, January 2000

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Static Electricity Perils

Static Electricity Perils

Recently, one of my clients called to tell me that her tape backup wouldn't work. When I arrived to troubleshoot the problem, I found the drive totally dead. When I placed a tape in the drive, I discovered that the drive refused to set the tape. I was preparing to install a new tape drive when I decided to attempt a reboot. Why did I consider rebooting? The client who was running the system with the tape drive has a history of static electricity problems. (I've replaced six keyboards on her system.) After I rebooted, the tape drive worked perfectly. This case is bizarre, but the solution saved me the cost of a new tape drive.

Q: I set up VPNs in a Cisco router. When I use PPTP on our Windows NT machines, I can easily access and browse the network. However, none of our Windows 9x machines can use DUN to browse the network. Do you know how to solve this problem?

A: When I chose Mindspring as my ISP, the company told me to place its DNS server's IP address into my DUN setup box. At the time, I didn't understand the reason. Then I ran into the problem that you describe. The solution is to add the IP addresses of the WINS and DNS servers to your Win9x DUN setup boxes. If you have only a few of these boxes, this process should be fairly easy. If, however, you have many boxes, you have my sympathy.

Q: What is the Microsoft Browser Service? How do I set up a network with Windows 9x workstations and a Windows NT server running Microsoft SQL Server so that the Win9x machines can see the server and one another? The protocol that loads on boot is TCP/IP, and I'm considering adding a router and attaching systems on the other side of the router to the SQL Server machine.

A: The Browser Service is a list of available network resources. The four browser roles that networked computers assume are Master Browsers, Backup Browsers, Domain Master Browsers, and Nonbrowsers. A Master Browser is a computer that assembles and maintains the list of available network resources. Only one Master Browser exists on the network. The Master Browser assigns Backup Browsers, which are computers that take control of the Browser Service if something happens to the Master Browser. In a Windows NT domain environment, the Domain Master Browser collects Master Browser lists from all the network segments and provides cross-domain browsing capabilities. Only one Domain Master Browser can exist on a given domain on the network. Nonbrowsers are computers that never participate in the Browser Service. Sometimes, computers contend for the Master Browser role. In a mixed Windows NT, Win9x, and Windows 3.11 environment, you need to avoid such competition.


Screen 1 Editing the MaintainServerList parameter

To determine which computers participate in the Browser Service, you can alter the Windows NT Registry. Start regedt32.exe in the \system32 directory, and go to the

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \SYSTEM \CurrentControlSet \Services \Browser \Paramaters Registry key, which Screen 1 shows. The MaintainServerList parameter, of type REG_SZ, can have a range value of Auto, No, or Yes. If the range value is Auto (the default setting), the computer for this Registry entry contacts the Master Browser, which decides whether this computer can become a Backup Browser. If the range value is No, this computer will never participate in the Browser Service. If the range value is Yes, this computer attempts to become a Backup Browser and contacts the Master Browser for a current browse list. If a Master Browser and a Backup Browser already exist on the segment, the computer won't become a Backup Browser unless the segment has a sufficient number of nodes to require another Backup Browser. (A segment with 1 to 32 nodes requires only one Master Browser and one Backup Browser.) The more nodes a segment has, the more Backup Browsers are necessary. If the computer can't find the Master Browser, it forces an election and is a candidate to become the Master Browser. Whenever a computer that can become a browser goes online, the Master Browser shares its resources with the Backup Browsers.

If the MaintainServerList value is Auto, the computer might or might not become a browser, depending on the results of the broadcast exchange with the Master Browser. If the MaintainServerList value is Yes, the computer will typically be a Backup Browser. A PDC is always the first to become a Master Browser.

The original NT 3.1 design included a priority for determining which computers became browsers. Windows NT Server systems were first on the priority list, Windows NT Workstation systems were second, and Windows for Workgroups (WFW) systems were third. Today, browser conflicts don't typically occur. However, when conflicts occur, you need to set the MaintainServerList Registry entry to No on a Winodws NT system that you don't want to use as the Master Browser. On WFW systems, you set the following parameter to No in the Network Section of system.ini:

MaintainServerList=<yes, no, auto>

If this value is set to the default Auto setting, the WFW computer functions as a browser.

Don't configure a Win9x machine to be the Master Browser. Go to Control Panel on the Win9x computer, double-click File and Print Sharing for Microsoft Networks, access the Advanced Properties dialog box, highlight Browse Master, and disable it.

Win95 uses NetBIOS over TCP/IP (NetBT) to connect to a Windows NT server that doesn't use the NetBEUI protocol. With name resolution, you can use the standard syntax \\Hostname\Sharename to connect to the server. Browsing is a NetBIOS-based service that can use NetBT (or NWLink with NetBIOS) if NetBEUI isn't present. To properly browse in a Windows NT and Win9x network, many users need to install NetBEUI.

If you want Win9x machines on the other side of a router to see the Windows NT server when you use Windows Explorer or Network Neighborhood, set up one Win95 computer as a Backup Browser. This computer needs to include a #DOM entry in its LMHOSTS file that points to the Master Browser (usually the PDC) and to a Backup Browser on the other side of the router. You can use a Windows NT workstation instead of a Win9x machine as a Backup Browser for the other Win9x machines. To accommodate name resolution, routers create barriers on remote networks. The only way to overcome these barriers is to use WINS or an LMHOSTS file.

Q: I recently decided to upgrade a notebook's hard disk. I used Symantec's Norton Ghost and experienced many problems. I moved the hard disk to the desktop and used Ghost to copy the contents of the old disk to the new one. Everything worked fine on the desktop, and I could boot from the new disk. However, when I moved the disk back to the notebook, it wouldn't boot. How can I correct this problem?

A: You can't use Ghost (or similar applications) to upgrade a notebook by moving the replication to a standard desktop—I'm not sure why. However, I experienced the same problem that you face. I recently decided to upgrade my Hitachi notebook from a 3.2GB hard disk to a 6GB hard disk.. I finally solved the problem by moving the old disk to the desktop and keeping the new disk in the Hitachi. With a LapLink cable on the parallel ports, I copied the files from one disk to the other. The image was perfect, and the system works flawlessy.

Q: For many years, my company has used Accpac as its accounting package on a Novell NetWare server. We want to upgrade to Windows NT 4.0. How do we set up local variables for Accpac?

A: First, you need to understand how to determine the Set variables in Windows NT. To display a list of Set variables, type


at the command line and press Enter. To set these variables, open the Control Panel System applet. Enter the variable and its value on the Environment tab.

You need to add the following variables to a workstation's Windows NT environment:

  • Set plususer

  • Set plusswap

  • Set plusstart

  • Set plusrint


Screen 2 Adding Set variables

Screen 2 shows one of the variables you'll add. I typically ask users to set all variables to C:\accpac and then copy the necessary files from the server to the \accpac folder. You can use the following command to copy these files:

copy <G>:\ez*.* C:\accpac

where G is the shared Windows NT Server directory and ez*.* are the files you need for user definitions. Finally, copy the printer identification file to the \accpac folder.

Q: I have a Microsoft Access 97 database. Recently, I've been getting error messages that tell me I can't open the database because of internal errors. I've tried using several programs to fix this problem, but none have worked. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Your best bet is to open the database in Access 2000. Don't let Access 2000 convert the Access 97 database. (Even though the software states otherwise, this conversion is only temporary.) Use the repair and compress functions to fix the database. However, be prepared to replace a table or two from backup tapes.

Q: Disk Administrator was working fine on my computer, but suddenly the program doesn't work. Every time I attempt to open Disk Administrator, I get a memory violation message. How can I fix this problem?

A: I first encountered this problem in the days of Windows NT 3.1. An application I used frequently suddenly wouldn't open. After much troubleshooting, I decided to boot as an administrator. When I tried the application, it worked. Somehow, the user profile had become corrupted. No matter what I tried, I couldn't fix the profile. The easiest solution was to create a new user. This new user ran the application fine. I recommend that you try creating a new user profile or logging on as an administrator. In Windows NT 4.0, these solutions presuppose that the application in question is a common one that a new user can see.



Bob Chronister is a contributing editor for Windows NT Magazine and president of Chronister Consultants in Mobile, Alabama. He is coauthor of Windows NT Backup and Recovery(Osborne/McGraw-Hill). You can reach him at

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