Setting up Windows DFS without WINS

30 Aug

I always have a strange suspicion that Windows DFS (up to W2K3) still needs WINS for it to work, but some people were saying that a purely W2K3 environment should not need to WINS and even have DFS working as such.

Anyway, I went to look up the Microsoft technical reference for DFS and found this:

How DFS Works in Environments Without WINS

The default behavior of DFS is to use NetBIOS names for all target servers in the namespace. This allows clients that support NetBIOS-only name resolution to locate and connect to targets in a DFS namespace. Administrators can use NetBIOS names when specifying target names and those exact paths are added to the DFS metadata. For example, an administrator can specify a target \\FS1\Users, where FS1 is the NetBIOS name of a server whose DNS or FQDN name is

Organizations that do not use NetBIOS and WINS can still use DFS, but before setting up namespaces the administrators must create the DFSDnsConfig registry entry on all root servers and then restart the DFS service on all root servers. Administrators must then use the DNS names for when adding all targets to the namespace. When these steps are complete, the referrals will contain the DNS names of targets accessed by clients. If a namespace already exists, the administrator must perform the following steps:

  1. Export the namespace to a data file by using Dfsutil.exe.
  2. Delete the namespace.
  3. In the exported data file, change the NetBIOS names to DNS names for all targets.
  4. Recreate all root targets by using DNS names.
  5. Import the updated data file.

Now this is interesting because it appears that by default DFS (even in W2K3) still uses NetBIOS and you need to make changes to change this behaviour. Hmm… I wonder how my colleague managed to get his DFS working only on DNS straight out of the box.

Anyway, if anyone managed to get DFS working without WINS and without make the changes to the default above, do drop me a line. I would be interested to find out more.


Posted by on August 30, 2007 in Windows


Tags: ,

6 responses to “Setting up Windows DFS without WINS

  1. Steve

    February 7, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Don’t know if anyone took you up on your request, but I’ve been troubleshooting remote access to a DFS space. The WINS server was not available to the client, and things were quirky. Worked sometimes, not other times. So I did some packet traces and fussed with it until I got it working.

    The kicker is that when you try to map a drive, Windows tries BOTH NetBios and DNS to resolve an unqualified name (in this case, a NetBios name). So the NetBios name resolution fails, but the client then tries DNS. *If you have the appropriate DNS suffix appended in your NetworkProperties/Advanced/DNS tab* then the request will succeed. The “works sometimes, not other times” problem seems tied to whether the FQDN is in the DNS cache or not, and whether it can get resolved before the client times out the drive-mapping request.

    That’s how I figured out how to do remote access (add the specific domain suffix near the top of the list, too, to avoid timeouts). I suspect that’s how DFS without WINS manages to work on a LAN, as well, since on the LAN the right DNS suffix is automatically installed as part of the client’s computer name in most cases.

    Hope this is at least interesting, if not helpful 🙂

  2. saltwetfish

    February 12, 2008 at 12:57 am

    Hi Steve,

    Thank you very much for that FAQ. I am sure others reading this will benefit it, just like I did!

  3. mattlog

    October 20, 2008 at 5:31 am

    Wouldn’t just mapping drives to a FQDN instead of a hostname resolve this issue? ie, yourdomain.local\Share should use the qualified name instead of using WINS to lookup just “yourdomain”???

  4. Mike Knapp

    October 27, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    @Steve – Just ran into the same problem with a client. Thanks for the hints

    @mattlog – Yes, it does.


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