I’ve been hearing good reports about Microsoft’s Windows Home Server so I thought I’d download the free 120 day evaluation and set it up on one of my spare PCs. Home Server is designed to be a simple setup easy for the average user to install and configure and connect their home PCs to. It then automatically backs them up and you can also share your documents, pictures etc via the Home Server.

Installation went pretty smoothly and everything looked fine – until I went to open the shared folders from my main PC –

Cannot Connect. The Network Path Was Not Found.

Interestingly the supplied “console” software would quite happily list the folders being shared, but connecting to them failed. It appears that MS is using newer web technologies to provide the information about what’s available, but use older local area network technologies to actually connect to the shared resources. This is fair enough – if it works!

I checked and discovered that Microsoft had supplied a connection troubleshooter with their Home Server Toolkit. I installed and ran that and it advised me –

No DHCP server, or DHCP server is not reachable

A DHCP server was not detected, or the test cannot communicate with the DHCP server.

By default, Windows Home Server gets its IP address configuration from a DHCP server that is on your home network. Normally, the DHCP server is located on your broadband router. Without the DHCP service, your computers cannot get their IP address configuration and cannot communicate with each other.

To fix this problem, ensure that your broadband router is powered on and is connected to the network. Also, ensure that your broadband router is configured as a DHCP server.

Alternatively, you can assign static IP addresses to all computers that are on your network, including your home server. You need advanced networking knowledge to do this. If you assigned static IP addresses to the computers that are on your home network, you can safely ignore this issue. Look for other others issues, particularly name-resolution issues.

For more information about Windows name resolution, NetBIOS, HOSTS files, and other name-resolution possibilities, see “Host Name Resolution” at the Microsoft Web site (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=98161)

Okkayy … I understand that. I’ve been involved with TCPIP network for almost 20 years. I also know that their assumption “Normally, the DHCP server is located on your broadband router” is often false in this part of the world. I have a direct 100Mb ethernet connection to the ISP, as do many folk in the major cities of Sweden. The ISP, Bredbandsbolaget, supplied me with a wireless bridge to provide WiFi access and additional ports for my various PCs – but all of them get their IP addresses from the ISP’s DHCP server – not from the bridge or a router.

I understand all of this. But how many “normal” people do? So what would be the next step? Click on the link supplied for further help I guess. Go on, click on it – http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=98161

Now seriously, how many “average” home users, the target group for Home Server, are going to understand even a few sentences of that? And even if they did, it doesn’t provide an answer! You need to be a network engineer to solve it.

Or if you’re lucky and googling “Windows Home Server” and “network path not found” you might find this post!

The solution is actually quite simple. When your PC connects to a DHCP server to get it’s internet address, it also gets some other settings. It’s more than possible those settings will not be appropriate for Windows Home Server. In particular, my error was caused because NetBios over TCP/IP was not enabled. This is a way for computers, usually on a local area network, to talk to each other over an “internet” based network. It’s set either via DHCP or in the “advanced” settings of network connections. In Windows Home Server you can reach it by clicking Start then going to Control Panel/Network Connections/Local Area Connection. Click Properties, then select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) then click Properties and then Advanced. Once there, click on the tab labelled WINS. At the bottom you’ll find NetBIOS setting. The default is to get the setting from a DHCP server. If that’s not working, change it to Enabled and click OK.

You may need to make the same changes on your Client PCs, it will be in much the same place.

Hopefully that helps someone.

UPDATE: After a while the above “fix” stopped working for me. It appears, though I’m still not 10=% sure, that my Vista PC was deciding whenever it rebooted to be the Domain Master Browser and not doing the job properly – stopping itself and other PCs being able to connect to the Home Server. Setting the IsDomainMaster parameter in the registry to false seems to have solved it.