Keeping tabs on computers on your network can be quite a task. Many of the networks operating today are segmented, meaning they have routers that split them into smaller sections, or segments. To locate computers on a given segment of your network, you can use the browser service.

The browser service uses broadcast packets (or datagrams) to display the status of shared resources available on a particular segment of the network. As simple a process as this may seem, it is still possible to have problems with the browser service itself. To assist in wading through the problems that may arise with the browser service, Microsoft has provided the browstat.exe utility.

Why do I need browstat?
The browser service allows users to be able to find other computers on the network and the shared resources those computers contain. Network Neighborhood, or My Network Places in Windows 2000, is the utility that puts a GUI on the browser service. If it weren’t for this front-end browsing tool, most users wouldn’t know that the browser service even existed. When your PC looks to the network for another computer, it passes a request via the browser service to the master browser, which can send out a request to locate the resource. When this browsing tool is functional, this is invisible to the user, but this is seldom the case.

When problems pop up, they are normally in the form of extreme delays in finding network services. This is where the browstat utility can come in handy. Browstat can help you troubleshoot these delays by showing the status of the master browser as well as which PCs can be elected master browser if the current master browser is unavailable. Browstat can also force browser elections within your domain, if needed.

Browstat works only on local area networks (LANs) within a single subnet. If your domain spans subnets, normally by making use of routers within the domain, you’ll have to use the browstat independently on each subnet.

Running browstat
Browstat isn’t installed by default when you install Windows 2000. However, you don’t have to go far to find it. Microsoft includes browstat on the Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit tool. You can install it from the Support\Tools folder by running Setup. Just follow the Setup wizard to install browstat and the other tools in the folder.

You’ll run browstat from the command line. There are several command line options you can include to customize how browstat performs. These options include:

  • Dumpnet (DN): Display transports connected to the browser
  • Elect (EB): Force election
  • GetBList (GB): Get the backup list from the domain controller
  • Getmaster (GM): Find out what computer is the master browser
  • GetPDC (GP): Find out the primary domain controller
  • ListWFW (WFW): Find computers running the browser service
  • Stats (STS): Display browser statistics on current machine
  • Status (STA): Display statistics across the network
  • Tickle (TIC): Force a remote master to stop
  • View (VW): View information about specific protocols

You can either type out the entire switch or use the abbreviation listed above. For example, to determine which PC is currently the browse master, run the browstat command with the getmaster switch and the protocol name. You will also need to include the transport name and finally the workgroup name. This command will look like:
Browstatgetmaster netbt_e190x1 workgroup

where netbt is the protocol you are monitoring, e190x1 is the transport name, and workgroup is the name of the workgroup.

If you want to view all of the browse masters as well as the backup masters, you can type browstatstatus -v -workgroup name and press [Enter]. This will also display the number of servers in the provided workgroup. If the workgroup is omitted, the utility will display information for the current workgroup.

If you’re not sure what the PDC for your domain is, browstat can help there too. Just type browstatgetpdc -transport-name – -domain name. This will return the current PDC for the domain specified. If no domain is specified, the PDC for the current domain will be returned.

That’s all there is to it
As you’ve seen, there are several advantages to using browstat.exe in your daily network administration chores. Keep in mind that browstat will not cross subnets. It can, however, still make management easier and less tedious.