Windows Internet Name Service (WINS) is a computer name registration and resolution service that maps computer NetBIOS names to IP addresses. When you deploy WINS servers on your network, end users can access network resources by name rather than by harder-to-remember IP addresses. In addition, software and other services running on computers and other devices can perform name queries against your WINS server to resolve names to IP addresses.

What a WINS server can provide

WINS provides the following benefits for administering your TCP/IP-based network:

  • A dynamic name-to-address database that maintains support for computer name registration and resolution.

  • Centralized management of the name-to-address database, alleviating the need for managing Lmhosts files.

  • Reduction of NetBIOS-based broadcast traffic on subnets, by permitting clients to query WINS servers to directly locate remote systems.

  • Support for earlier Microsoft® Windows® and NetBIOS-based clients on your network, permitting these types of clients to browse lists for remote Windows domains without requiring a local domain controller to be present on each subnet.

  • Support for DNS-based clients by enabling those clients to locate NetBIOS resources when WINS lookup integration is implemented.

Name resolution for WINS clients is an extension of the same name resolution process used by all Microsoft NetBIOS over TCP/IP (NetBT) clients to resolve NetBIOS name queries on your network. The actual method of name resolution is transparent to the user.

For Windows XP and Windows 2000, WINS clients use the following sequential flow of options for resolving a name after the query has been made by using net use or a similar NetBIOS-based application:

  1. Determine if the name is longer than 15 characters or if it contains periods ("."). If so, query DNS for the name.

  2. Determine if the name is stored in the remote name cache on the client.

  3. Contact configured WINS servers to attempt to resolve the name using WINS.

  4. Use local IP broadcasts to the subnet.

  5. Check an Lmhosts file if Enable LMHOSTS Lookup is enabled in the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) properties for the connection.

  6. Check a Hosts file.

  7. Query a DNS server.

Components of a WINS server

WINS consists of two main components, WINS servers and WINS clients. In some configurations, WINS proxies are used.

WINS servers

The WINS server handles name registration requests from WINS clients, registers their names and IP addresses, and responds to NetBIOS name queries from clients by returning the IP address of a queried name if it is listed in the server database.

You can also configure your WINS servers to replicate the contents of their databases (which contain NetBIOS computer name mappings to IP addresses) to other WINS servers. When a WINS client (such as a workstation computer) starts on the network, its computer name and IP address are sent in a registration request directly to its configured primary WINS server. Because the server registers these clients, it is said to be the owner for the records of the clients in the database.

WINS database

The WINS database stores the NetBIOS name-to-IP address mappings for your network. If you configure your WINS servers with replication partners to which the database contents are "pushed," the contents of the database on the local server is replicated to the replication partner server. If replication partners are configured as "pull" partners, records from the remote WINS server are copied to the local database. The intervals at which these replication events occurs is configurable in the WINS Microsoft Management Console (MMC) using the WINS snap-in, also called the WINS console.

In addition, The WINS console provides the tools you need to maintain, view, back up, and restore the WINS server database. Back up the database whenever you back up other files on the WINS server.

WINS clients

WINS clients attempt to register their names with a WINS server when they start or join the network. Clients thereafter query the WINS server to resolve remote names as needed.

WINS-enabled clients are computers that can be configured to make direct use of a WINS server. Most WINS clients typically have more than one NetBIOS name that they must register for use with the network. These names are used to publish various types of network service, such as the Messenger or Workstation service, that each computer can use in various ways to communicate with other computers on the network.

WINS proxies

A WINS proxy is a WINS client computer configured to act on behalf of other host computers that cannot directly use WINS. WINS proxies help resolve NetBIOS name queries for computers located on routed TCP/IP networks.

By default, most computers cannot use WINS use broadcasts to resolve NetBIOS name queries and register their NetBIOS names on the network. You can configure a WINS proxy to listen on behalf of these computers and to query a WINS server for names not resolved by broadcast.

WINS proxies are only useful or necessary on networks that include NetBIOS broadcast-only (or b-node) clients. For most networks, WINS-enabled clients are common and WINS proxies are typically not needed.

WINS proxies listen for b-node NetBIOS name service functions (name registration, name release, and name query) and can respond for those names that are remote and not used on the local network. Proxies communicate directly with a WINS server to retrieve the information necessary to respond to these local broadcasts.

WINS proxies are used in the following ways:

  • When a b-node client registers its name, the proxy checks the name against the WINS server database. If the name exists in the WINS database, the proxy might send a negative registration response back to the b-node client attempting to register the name.

  • When a b-node client releases its name, the proxy deletes the client name from its remote name cache.

  • When a b-node client sends a name query, the proxy attempts to resolve the name using information either locally contained in its cache of remote names or through the use of information it obtains from the WINS server.

Managing a WINS server

The primary tools that you use to manage WINS servers are the WINS console and the Netsh commands for WINS.

WINS console

The WINS console is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in.

After you install a WINS server, you can use the WINS console or the Netsh WINS commands to perform these basic administrative server tasks:

  1. View and filter NetBIOS name registrations stored at the WINS server for client names used on your network.

  2. Add and configure replication partners for the WINS server.

  3. Perform maintenance-related tasks on the WINS server database, including backup, restore, compaction, and scavenging.

In addition, you can use the WINS console or the Netsh WINS commands to perform the following optional or advanced setup tasks:

View and modify WINS properties, such as the Renew Interval and other intervals that are used when registering, renewing, and verifying name records stored in the server database.

  • Add and configure static WINS mappings, if they are needed for use on your network.

  • Delete or tombstone WINS records that appear in WINS server data used throughout your network.

Netsh commands for WINS

You can type the Netsh WINS commands in a command prompt window at the netsh wins> command prompt, or you can run the Netsh WINS commands in batch files and other scripts. All of the functionality that is available in the WINS console is also available at the netsh wins> command prompt.