Sometimes, a Windows computer will simply get confused. Reboots don’t solve the problem. All the pertinent program, networking and firewall configurations are right. But Windows just doesn’t work right — and functions that DID work don’t work now.
Such was the case with my wife’s PC recently. She’s running Windows 7 Professional on her computer, just as I am on all my other computers except my notebook and a cheap PC I’m using as a home theater PC client (both of which run Windows 7 Home).
The strangeness, in this case, had to do with networking.
I haven’t upgraded any of them to Windows 8, although I plan to upgrade my desktop soon (perhaps over the Christmas holidays). Yes, I’ll give it a serious try, but I’ll also use a Start Menu replacement, probably Start8 from Stardock.
Her computer could access the Internet just fine through our home network. Her computer could also access shared files on my desktop computer, and my desktop computer could access files on her’s.
That’s about as far as it goes. The files on my wife’s PC could not be accessed from my old desktop computer, nor could her computer access files on the old desktop.
Even stranger, running a Ping command from the desktop, either pinging her computer by name or by IP address, was unsuccessful in getting any response.
On her computer, Windows Explorer didn’t show the old desktop in the Network, but my new computer’s desktop showed it just fine.
If a network computer isn’t shown in Network, you should still be able to access it from the Windows Explorer address bar, by entering "\\" and either then name or IP address. That didn’t work in either direction between those two computers, but it did between my new desktop and her computer.
The firewall settings were fine. The network settings were fine also. Otherwise, I couldn’t have gotten to either of them from my new desktop. There were not any special firewall rules blocking either computer, nor were either computer specifically linked to a specific IP address via the
After scratching my head a few times (and banging it against the wall a few more times), I remembered one of the fixes from the early days of Windows networking.
Occasionally, with Windows 95 and Windows 98, in order to solve a problem, we had to actually uninstall the networking code (networking was optional at the time) and then reinstall it.
In the days of Windows 7, that’s unreasonable, but there was something to try.
Windows Network Discovery is one of the options available in the Advanced Sharing Configuration dialog box in the Control Panel.
One of the issues was that her computer would not show in the Network list on the old desktop. I checked in my new desktop and found that it didn’t show there, either, although I could access the computer with Ping and with Windows Explorer.
Taking a hint from old solutions, I disabled Network Discovery (I clicked the radio button labelled Turn off network discovery), and then clicked the Save Changes button. Then, I turned it back on again.
When I tested from my old desktop, there was no change. But, when I checked from my new desktop, it was now listed among the other computers listed under Network.
That left me still trying to get the communications working between the old desktop and her computer. Again, neither File & Printer Sharing nor Ping worked in either direction. It almost seemed like there was a firewall issue, but I couldn’t find one.
I took what should have been an unrelated step, a real "stab in the dark."
From her computer, I used Windows Explorer to connect to my home theater PC client. It connected successfully and presented me with a log-in screen. I logged in successfully.
Then, I tried using Windows Explorer to access the old desktop again. IT WORKED, both by name and by IP address.
If it had just been an issue of having log-in credentials stored, I should have had the same inability to make any kind of connection to either PC (of course, if I couldn’t make any connection, I wouldn’t be able to log in and establish those credentials, either). But, I was able to connect with the HTPC client before I could log in.
Somehow, just the act of establishing log-in credentials for one computer reset whatever was causing a problem with the other one, too.
This was one of those strange mysteries of Windows, where the underlying problem was that some internal Windows configuration settings — ones established when user-configurable setting were picked, but not directly changeable by the user — got out of sync with the displayed configuration choices.
Disabling and re-enabling a Windows function fixed the internal settings.
Sometimes, turning a function on or off does more than just set a yes/no value within Windows. Sometimes, turning it on will actually trigger multiple related changes — and makes the changes that fix the unexplained problems.