One more time: Computer names and Workgroup names

Have you ever belonged to a club? At your kids’ school, are you a member of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO)? At your job, do you work in a particular department, like information technology or human resources? Do you play softball in a summer league?

If so, then you already understand the idea of computer names and workgroups. Here’s why you need to understand this stuff:

One of the common mistakes people make when setting up a network is to overlook the workgroup name of the computers IN that network.

The idea is simple: if you want your computers to “talk” to each other then they have to belong to the same club, or organization, or department or team. In short, they have to be configured with the same workgroup name. In Windows, by default, that name is “WORKGROUP.” That makes it easy to allow all your computers to talk together.

Similarly, all computers in the same workgroup must have unique names. After all, two employees named “Sue” in the same department will cause some amount of confusion — so much so that one of them will be called “Sue Robinson” and the other “Sue Jones.”

Here’s what this all means:

If you ever have to troubleshoot a network where not all the computers are able to share files and folders, the simplest place to start is to make sure all the computers are configured with the same workgroup name. At the same time, you can easily verify that the computers all have unique names.

Here’s how to do it:

In Windows XP:

  1. Click the Start button (bottom left hand corner) and select the Control Panel.

  2. If not already in the “Classic view”, select the Classic view option (upper left corner of the window - you can switch between the classic view and the category view).
  3. Click on the “System” icon.
  4. Select the “Computer Name” tab.

    You will see that the computer has a “Full Computer Name” and a “Workgroup”. If the names are correct (computer name is unique, workgroup name is the same as all the rest of the computers), you can skip the rest of the steps for this computer.

    If you need to change either one follow these steps:

  5. Click the “Change” button to change them.
  6. In the first box, enter the name you wish to give the computer. You can name it anything, but each computer on the network must have its own unique name — no duplicate names, please!
  7. Below that, click the WORKGROUP radio button. For a simple network of Microsoft Windows PC’s without an NT4 server or a Windows2000 server defining a Domain, you need to define a workgroup name, which MUST be identical on all systems on your network.
  8. Click OK until you’ve closed the System Properties applet.

In Windows 2000 Professional:

  1. Go to My Computer on the desktop and right click to view Properties (or go to the System applet in Control Panel).

  2. In System Properties, click on the tab called Network Identification.

    You will see that the computer has a “Full Computer Name” and a “Workgroup”. If the names are correct (computer name is unique, workgroup name is the same as all the rest of the computers), you can skip the rest of the steps for this computer.

    If you need to change either one, follow these steps:

  3. Click the Properties button and the Identification Changes dialog box will open.
  4. In the first box, enter the name you wish to give the computer. You can name it anything, but each computer on the network must have its own unique name — no duplicate names, please!
  5. Below that, click the WORKGROUP radio button. For a simple network of Microsoft Windows PC’s without an NT4 server or a Windows2000 server defining a Domain, you need to define a workgroup name, which MUST be identical on all systems on your network.
  6. Click OK until you’ve closed the System Properties applet.

In Windows 98/ME:

  1. Move the mouse pointer over the Network Neighborhood icon on the desktop and click the right mouse button once.

  2. Select Properties from the menu.

    The Network Properties window will pop up, listing information about the network adapter(s) and protocols installed on that computer.

  3. Click the Identification tab. You will see three boxes.
  4. In the first box, verify that the computer name is unique. If it is not, enter the name you wish to give the computer. You can name it anything, but each computer on the network must have its own unique name — no duplicate names, please!
  5. In the second box, verify that the workgroup name is the same as all the other computers on your network. If not, enter the name you plan to use for the workgroup — make sure all of the computers have the same workgroup name. You may want to write it down to make sure that you enter the exact same workgroup name on each computer in your network.
  6. In the third box, you enter a brief description of that computer. For example, you could enter, “John Smith.”
  7. Once everything is configured, select “OK” to close the Network applet. Any change to the network will require a restart.

That’s it!

Here's A Few More Related Posts:
  1. What’s a Workgroup?
  2. Routers 101
  3. What to look for if two computers can’t connect to each other
  4. My computers can’t understand each other

2 Responses to “One more time: Computer names and Workgroup names”  

  1. 1 Abigail

    can two computers be given a work group name.your teaching is understood,thanx

  2. 2 Ara

    Sure.

    Just remember that the only computers that can “see” each other on the network are the ones that share the same workgroup name.

    For example, if you have 10 computers on the network and 8 share one workgroup name and the other 2 share another workgroup name, the computers in the first workgroup will not “see” the computers in the second workgroup (and vice versa).

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