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In Windows, is active directory required for using "Domain" instead of "workgroup"? Do I need to register a domain with a DNS provider like godaddy?

What I really want to do is set up my home LAN so that everyone connecting to the main router (which is everyone, which is about 30 people) can see each other.

I've tried having everyone use the same work group name, still hit or miss. I tried setting the domain name and host name on the router itself, still nothing. I've tried joining the domain name I set instead of work group, and I get an AD error.

But ideally, everyone who is connected to the main router should simply just see each other and any shared folders.

I've had this problem when I was not the network admin on other large LANs, and I've never been able to figure out why sometimes people disappear or never see each other.

I'd really prefer using the native sharing functionality in the OS to setting up an internal FTP or Samba server, etc.

Any sure-fire ways to fix this? (maybe an open source clone of AD?)


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up vote 4 down vote accepted

A Windows domain requires a machine running Windows Server acting as a domain controller and maintaining an Active Directory database. Unless you have a machine dedicated to this role, you won't be able to join the computers to a domain.

To make an ad hoc group of computers able to share files with each other, you probably first want them all on the same workgroup. This is not strictly necessary but makes discovery easier between computers. Just make up a name ("Workgroup" is fine) and set it to be the same on all computers.

You also want to make sure that "Client for Microsoft Networks" and "File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks" are both flagged in the network interface properties on each computer (Control Panel → Network Connections in XP, and Network and Sharing Center → Manage Network Connections in Vista and 7).

You should also make sure the firewalls on every computer are not blocking Windows file sharing. On Windows XP, this is in Control Panel → Windows Firewall → Exceptions, and in Vista/7 you want to open the Network and Sharing Center and turn on network discovery and file sharing. If you have a third-party firewall installed, you'll need to make sure it is not blocking file sharing, which it may label NetBIOS or NetBT.

Microsoft has published a couple good troubleshooting guides for file sharing:

You can also find more helpful guides by searching for phrases such as "troubleshoot network file sharing".

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A Windows Domain does NOT require a Windows server, or even Active Directory for that matter. It is possible to setup Samaba as an NT4-style Domain Controller. This still permits full computer management, including centralized password management.

This said however, does not make it easy. Setting up Samba is always a challenge once Domains get involved. I've been playing with Samba as a PDC for almost 10 years. Unfortunately, I've never tried to run a PDC on my ASUS RT-N16/DD-WRT Router, as I simply have a dedicated Linux box inside my network that already does the job. However because my configuration is so old, I don't recall the steps I took to get it working. I do however recall spending hundreds of hours with O'Reilly's Samba book before I got it working....

Good luck in your quest.

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