Limitations of Network Neighborhood

Under Windows for Workgroups 3.11, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, and all Windows NT 4.0 versions, the Network Neighborhood icon is available on the desktop to assist in the browsing of Windows Network resources. While useful on the local network, this tool is of limited use in browsing the wide area Windows Network, and it is non-functional over PPP. However, equivalent tools exist which work over wide-area protocols such as TCP/IP.


The limited usefulness of "Network Neighborhood" (NetHood) is due to its primary reliance on the NetBEUI protocol to 'browse' other computers on the network. NetBEUI cannot pass through routers, so it is useful on the local area network only (for example, one building, or one student House). It is possible to 'bridge' the protocol between networks. However, NetBEUI generates a high amount of network traffic, making bridging impractical in most cases. The bulk of this traffic is in the form of periodic broadcast announcements that each NetBEUI-enabled computer makes to the network. Other Windows computers that use NetBEUI receive and track these announcements to identify the computers are on the network. These NetBEUI announcements are used to construct the Network Neighborhood view.

The behavior of the NetBEUI protocol applies to Windows for Workgroups 3.11, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, and all Windows NT 4.0 versions.

Under the new student House network (implemented during the 96-97 academic year), NetBEUI's reach is more limited than before. On the other hand, the new network is also faster and much less congested. Similar trends will apply to the CITnet 2000 initiative as networks are segmented to improve performance.

The Caltech IMSS PPP dial-up resources transmit only the TCP/IP protocol. The background network traffic generated by NetBEUI would require a sizable portion of the limited modem bandwidth. Without NetBEUI, Network Neighborhood does not function over PPP.

Fortunately, the limits of NetBEUI are of minimal significance because the Windows Network is fully functional over TCP/IP. The only difference is that one cannot browse the network through 'Network Neighborhood' using the TCP/IP protocol.

TCP/IP Tools

If you need to reach a computer that does not appear under NetHood, do the following:

  • First, be sure that your computer is using the campus WINS database (WINS is a DNS-like service for finding other computers on the wide-area Windows Network). Check by going under Control Panel -> Network -> TCP/IP Properties -> WINS tab and checking that is entered as the primary WINS server.
  • Second, try to connect to another computer, go to Start button -> Find -> Computer and type in the name of the computer; if that does not work, try the third option below.
  • Third, if the second option does not work, try to connect to another computer, by right-clicking on 'My Computer' and select 'Map Network Drive...'. Pick a drive letter and enter the path of the resource you would like to connect to. The path is in the form of: \\\\computername\\resourcename

If you connect to a computer frequently but do not want to map it to a drive letter, you can use the second option above to create a shortcut to the computer that you can place on your desktop, in a folder, or even in 'Network Neighborhood'.