Microsoft

Compensate for the missing Network Map feature in Windows 8

Take advantage of the Details view in the Network section of Windows 8 File Explorer to map your network topology.

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I was recently reminded that Windows 8 is missing the Network Map feature that was introduced in Windows Vista and included in Windows 7. When I first discovered that the Network Map feature wasn't included in Windows 8, I developed an alternative technique that I have been happily using ever since. The other day I happened to field a question for a reader that reminded me of the missing Network Map feature and made me realize that I should write an article about the technique that I have been taking for granted all this time.

The Network Map

The Network Map feature's visual representation of the network was its most recognizable characteristic. However, there were other more substantial benefits just under the surface. Of course, what I am referring to is that when you hovered your mouse pointer over any computer or network device shown in the map, you could instantly see the MAC and IP addresses assigned to that item. Being able to easily obtain this information for all the computers on a network can come in very handy in any number of troubleshooting situations.

When I first discovered that the Network Map feature was no longer a part of the operating system, I immediately went to the Network section of File Explorer hoping that Microsoft might have added a similar hover feature to the computer or network device icons that appear there. However, I quickly discovered that was not the case. Then, I stumbled onto the fact that when you switch the View setting of the Network from its default Tiles view to the Details view, you can add more column headings to the display. And, I found that MAC Address and IP Address were among the available column headings.

I also recently discovered a neat little Windows 8 app in the Windows Store called Lanscan that will scan you network and display the IP addresses assigned to every device on your network. While it doesn't show MAC addresses, it is still a very handy tool.

In this article, I'll show you how to take advantage of the Details view in the Network section of File Explorer. I'll also introduce you to the Lanscan app and show you how it works.

In Windows 7

Even though the focus of this article is on Windows 8 and the Network Map feature that is not available in this operating system version, it is worth taking a look at how it functions in Windows 7 for the sake of comparison.

When you access the Network and Sharing Center in Windows 7, you see a small basic map, or diagram, of your system on the network. Adjacent to that basic map you'll find a link titled See full map, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Fig A 8-30.png

The Network and Sharing Center shows a basic map and provides you access to the full Network Map.

When you click See full map, you'll find a more detailed screen that shows how all the devices on your network are connected, as shown in Figure B. You can also hover your mouse pointer over any icon and find out the MAC and IP addresses assigned to that device.

Figure B

Fig B 8-30.png

The Network Map feature does a reasonable job of creating a visual representation of your network.

To create this map, the Network Map feature uses a special network protocol called Link-Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD) that essentially queries every device on the network in order to determine how the network is organized. More specifically the LLTD protocol relies on two components in order to do the job.

To begin with, each device on the network uses the LLTD Responder component which allows it to be discovered by another computer running the Network Map feature. The computer on which you run the Network Map feature uses the LLTD Mapper I/O component to seek out and discover devices on your network and to create a diagram that shows how the devices on your network are connected. Unfortunately, this isn't a perfect system and not all devices are recognized. Those that aren't recognized get clumped together down at the bottom of the screen with this caption: The following discovered device(s) cannot be placed in the map. Click here to see all other devices.

Network and Sharing Center Windows 8

Now that you know how the Network Map feature worked in Windows 7, let's take a brief look at Windows 8's Network and Sharing Center for comparison. As you can see in Figure C, Windows 8 doesn't even include a basic map of your system on the network nor is there a See full map link. There's not even an icon next to the network name.

Figure C

Fig C 8-30.png

Windows 8's Network and Sharing Center doesn't even include a basic map of your system on the network.

However, if you check out the Ethernet Properties as shown in Figure D, you'll find that the entire Link-Layer Topology Discovery protocol is present and functioning in Windows 8. Since the LLTD is functioning, we know that the network information it contains is available.

Figure D

Fig D 8-30.png

The entire Link-Layer Topology Discovery protocol is present in Windows 8.

The Network Explorer

Let's now take a look at the Network section of File Explorer. As you can see in Figure E, the default List view shows just the name of the device and the context menu is devoid of a Properties command. As such, on the surface it appears as though the Network won't be of much assistance.

Figure E

Fig E 8-30.png

In the default List view, only the device name is available.

However, if you change the View to Details and then access the Choose Details dialog box from the Current view tab, you can add more network based information to the display. As you can see in Figure F, I have selected the IP Address and MAC Address check boxes.

Figure F

Fig F 8-30.png

The Choose Details dialog box will allow you to select network specific details including the IP Address and the MAC Address.

After clicking OK, you'll see the IP Address and MAC Address for each device on your network, as shown in Figure G. Keep in mind that that you may see IPv6 addresses for some or all of your devices, but if you click the Refresh button, you will eventually see the IPv4 addresses.

Figure G

Fig G 8-30.png

Using the Details view, you can see the IP Address and MAC Address for each device on your network.

As you can see, there are two special cases in my example. The first one is that the computer named Asteroid is running Windows XP, which by default doesn't have the Link-Layer Topology Discovery protocol. (Note that you can download and install a version of the LLTD protocol for Windows XP.) The second special case is the computer on which you are working, which instead of its actual IP address, will show the Localhost IP Address.

The Lanscan app

As I mentioned, in addition to using the modified Network section of File Explorer to seek out IP addresses, I recently discovered a Free app on the Windows Store called Lanscan. Once you have installed Lanscan, you can launch it, specify start and end addresses, and click the Scan button. When you do, Lanscan will traverse your network and create a list showing every device's name, IP address, and port number, as shown in Figure H.

Figure H

Fig H 8-30.png

The Lanscan app builds a detailed list of all the devices on your network.

If you don't wish to see all of the IP ports, you can go to the Services screen and select just those that you want to see.

What's your take?

Have you missed not having the Network Map feature in Windows 8? What do you think of the Network Details View technique? Have you used the Lanscan app? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

20 comments
Tshepo Phala
Tshepo Phala

Can this be implemented in Windows 7 somehow?

mark
mark

In VMware workstation edit your ethernet connection to ba a Bridge Connection (pass thru) and not VMWare NAT. This will let your network DHCP server issue the IP Address and not hte VMWare workstation. 

This should make the Linux guest show up on network maps as it will now actually be a part of the network and not NAT'd in VMworkstation.  

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

I have received an email from a reader in Canada who has been unable to download the Lanscan app from the Windows Store. I wonder if anyone else outside the USA has had a similar problem?

sdmagic
sdmagic

My network scanning tool of choice for those networks that have a WiFi connection is:  Fing Network Scanner by Overlook.  I use it on both my iPhone and my Android tablet and it works like a champ:

Fing gives you the  IP addresses, the MAC addresses, Vendor names and has a lot of other features I'll let you discover.

It just plain works and it's Free.


Overlook:

http://www.overlooksoft.com/ 

Fing - Network Scanner for iOS:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fing-network-scanner/id430921107?mt=8

Fing - Network Tools for Android:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.overlook.android.fing&hl=en

Phil Simon
Phil Simon

Is it just me, or does this just look ridiculously complicated?

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

The "View > Details" trick doesn't work on my W7 install.

The"IP Address" and "MAC Address" columns are empty.

It doesn't even show the info about my PC.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

What tools do you use to map your network topology?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

@Tshepo Phala Yes, you can use the Network Explorer technique in Windows 7...just change to the Details view and enable the new column headings.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

@Anindya Maiti You are mistaken. The ability to show columns providing IP Address and Mac Address was not available in Windows 2000 nor was it available in Windows XP. The first Windows operating system to show that information in the Network Explorer was Windows 7.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

@lehnerus2000

What do you see in the Network Map on your Windows 7 system?

What version of Windows are the other computers on your network running? 

Are you using a firewall that is blocking LLTD? 

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

@Greg Shultz@lehnerus2000 

Hi Greg

Thanks for your reply. :)

I see this:

Normally: W7 > Unknown > Gateway > Internet

Sometimes: W7 > Gateway > Internet

Occasionally: Nothing

We have a Linux PC and W7 PC connected (cable) to the switch in our wireless router.

My W7 PC has VMware Workstation installed.

It is using the Windows Firewall (I haven't changed any settings in it).

IPv6 is disabled in my NIC properties (everything else is enabled).

Both PCs have static IP Addresses.


"Unknown" appears when VMware is running (obviously).

It usually remains stuck in the Network Map even when it is entirely disabled (i.e. all the Services are manually stopped).


The Linux PC sometimes appears at the bottom of the screen (not connected).

It shows up in the Network section of Windows Explorer (most of the time).


No "IP Address" or "MAC Address" info is displayed in Windows Explorer for either PC.

I'm not sure how the firewall is set on the Linux PC or the router, so that may be responsible.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

@Greg Shultz @lehnerus2000 

Hi Greg

We had a power outage recently, which gave me the opportunity to try out your suggestion.

With only the W7 PC connected, the IP Address and MAC Address details still didn't appear (View > Details).

 It's not an important issue, so I won't worry about it.

Thanks for your suggestions though. :)
Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

@lehnerus2000 If the only two PCs on your network are a Windows 7 PC and a Linux PC, I suspect that issues you are encountering are caused by the fact that the only other computer on your network is a Linux system.

If that is not the case and you do in fact have more than one Windows 7 PC connected to the network, I would suggest that you take the  Linux PC off the network temporarily and see what results you end up with just Windows 7 PCs on the network. Then put the Linux PC back on the network and see what happens.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

@lehnerus2000If the only two PCs on your network are a Windows 7 PC and a Linux PC, I suspect that issues you are encountering are caused by the fact that the only other computer on your network is a Linux system.

If that is not the case and you do in fact have more than one Windows 7 PC connected to the network, I would suggest that you take the Linux PC off the network temporarily and see what results you end up with just Windows 7 PCs on the network. Then put the Linux PC back on the network and see what happens.