How to Troubleshoot Your Home Network

Having a hard time with your home wireless network? Lincoln Spector tackles some of our readers' most pressing networking questions.

Wi-Fi that crawls, connections that come unconnected, and printers that stop sharing -- our expert provides remedies for these common network woes.

Why Can't My PCs see each other on the network? They can all see the Internet.

Since all of your PCs can see the Internet, we can safely assume that you don't have a network hardware problem.

Let's start our sleuthing with Windows' network troubleshooting wizard--not because it's likely to help, but because it's quick and easy. In XP, select. Click Fixing a problem and then Networking Problems. In Vista, select Start, Help and Support. In either version of Windows, click Troubleshooting, followed by Troubleshoot problems finding computers on a home network.

If you can't see one of your PCs across your network, add it to a trusted zone in the firewall's settings.

If that operation doesn't help (and it probably won't), check your firewall. Third-party PC firewalls like ZoneAlarm and Norton Internet Security often block local networks. As a safety precaution, begin by disconnecting your Internet connection, either by turning off your DSL or cable modem or by unplugging the cable that connects the modem to your router. Then turn off each PC's firewall.

If the computers still can't see each other, the culprit isn't a firewall.

If possible, turn on just one PC's firewall. Does the problem return? If so, check that PC's firewall settings and documentation to see how to make it local network-friendly. You may have to add your other PCs to a "Trusted Zone" or some such group.

Repeat this process with each computer. Don't reconnect to the Internet until all of your firewalls are back up and working.

Here are some more steps to take to troubleshoot other potential trouble spots.

Make sure the entry for 'Workgroup' is the same on all of your PCs, or the machines won't see each other on the network.

Make sure that all of your PCs are in the same workgroup: Press Windows-R, type sysdm.cpl, and press Enter. Click the Computer Name tab. If the workgroup name there doesn't match the workgroup name listed on your other computers, click Change.

Make sure sharing is on. Press Windows-R, type ncpa.cpl , and press Enter. Right-click the appropriate network connection, and select Properties. If 'File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks' isn't checked, check it.

If you're using Vista, you should also select Start, Network, and click Network and Sharing Center. There, you can fine-tune your sharing settings.

Right-click the folder you'd like to share and click 'Share' in the pop-up menu to set its sharing properties.

Make sure that you're sharing a folder: In XP's Windows Explorer, go to the folder you want to share. If the folder's icon doesn't have a little hand under it, right-click it and select Sharing and Security. In the resulting dialogue box's Sharing tab, check Share this folder on the network, and complete the other options as you see fit.

If your operating system is Vista, the folder's icon should have a tiny picture of two people in the lower-left corner. If it doesn't, right-click it and select Share. In the resulting dialogue box, type everyone into the text field, click Add, adjust the permission level (if you wish), and click Share.

If the computers still don't see each other, try a last-ditch stupid trick that shouldn't work but sometimes does: Press Windows-R, type the other PC's network path, and press Enter. The network path is probably two backslashes and the computer's name on the network, such as \\chris.

If this gambit succeeds, you can map the computer as a network drive or create a shortcut to it.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lincoln Spector

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?