Windows 10 and Master Browser
Or why my "Network neighborhood" is permanently broken...
Disclaimer: I am not an expert, this is based on my experiences with small workgroup networks, opinions and the information I have been able to pick up from the web
The networks in question have grown ad-hoc, and at this time do not have an Active Directory service. Name resolution is dependant on the basic name resolution built into Windows Networking.
Nothing to do with web browsers. The Master Browser is one computer in a Windows "workgroup" network which maintains a list of the other computers on the network, which it supplies on demand. This avoids the need for all computers to broadcast "I'm here" messages in order to build a list.
The Master Browser is set automatically by a hidden "election" process, which is meant to ensure that in a mixed environment the computer selected is a powerful one able to perform the task.
Oddly enough the process of connecting to a network share by name does not appear to require a working Master Browser, so there appears to be a second more reliable resolution service.
If you are running a Samba server you may have access to its configuration file in which case you can set its priority. This can be used to ensure it is always selected or never selected.
Windows client machines
Given a mix of Windows machines the process appears to favor the newest version of Windows, so XP machines aren't picked if Vista is available, Vista isn't picked if 7 is available etc.
The Windows 10 problem
The problem with Windows 10 is it just does not appear to maintain a correct list of machines, so if a Windows 10 machine becomes Master Browser then it will either report that it is the only machine on the network or not report at all.
If the Windows 10 machine is shut down and the Master Browser "baton" is passed to a Windows 7 machine then the list comes back up again.
Fixing the Windows 10 Master Browser problem
Preventing Windows 10 machines from becoming Master Browser by setting the registry
The following "hack" requires that there is at least one non-Windows 10 machine available to be the Master Browser.
It also requires a configuration change on EVERY Windows 10 machine.
The configuration change may need to be undone at some future date when the older machine is upgraded or disposed of.
On each Windows 10 machine locate the "MaintainServerList" registry key at:
It is usually set to "Auto". Valid values are "On, Auto, Off".
Set it to "Off".
This way the Windows 10 machines cannot be selected.
Preventing Windows 10 machines from becoming Master Browser by forcing control to a NAS device
This requires NO configuration changes, but does require an always-on server device that is capable of winning the Master Browser election. You simply shut down other computers till the desired machine becomes Master.
Some routers can do this, and one solution was to add a USB drive to a router to make a basic server, then shut down all the client computers so the router became master. So long as the router runs interrupted the network functions fine.
Some Linkstation NAS boxes can be Master. I believe the LSWVL and LS421DE models can not, and this may be a deliberate policy on the part of Buffalo.
If you have a NSLU2 lying around try adding it to your network with no attached disk. In my experience it quickly established itself as Master Browser, apparently taking precedence over Windows 10 desktop and providing a reliable server list.
Identifying the Master Browser
The only way I know of is to use the "nbtstat" command with the "-a" (lower case) switch and machine name ("nbtstat -a <name>"). This interrogates the machine's name table.
The Master returns a string "☺☻__MSBROWSE__☻".
Unfortunately the command has to be run on each machine in turn.
Other issues with the Master Browser process