Network name games

TechRepublic readers had very specific suggestions for how to name network devices. One lucky reader won a TechRepublic T-shirt.

What’s in a name? Apparently, when it comes to your Windows NT/2000 network, a lot. Two weeks ago, I asked for your help in finding alternatives to the cumbersome machine names that Windows 2000 automatically assigns during Setup. Interestingly, not a single respondent suggested even one reason for keeping the mind-numbingly complex auto-assigned default names (are you listening, Microsoft?). But there’s a wide range of opinions on the best alternative.

The name in the inventory number
Is it all right to match the computer name with the name of the primary user of that computer? Just under 30% of respondents said, in essence, “Sure, why not?” Most of the readers who recommended this strategy pointed out that this naming scheme makes it easy to match users and computers, especially on small networks. Jallhiser earns 250 TechPoints for this persuasive point of view:

“Windows 2000's main networking aspect is Active Directory and Dynamic DNS. The ideal installation will eventually rid itself of WINS, NetBIOS, LMHost files, and their respective chatty broadcasts and static naming. A DDNS naming convention with the user's name (i.e., identifies the user, the location, the e-mail address, etc., for that PC. Changing the name when the user leaves can be done from a domain controller. This flexibility goes a lot farther towards that single point of administration goal. In a mixed node environment, Windows 2000 converts the host name to a working NetBIOS name.”

However, the majority of respondents argued against this simplistic solution, especially on large networks. The most common argument is the administrative headache of changing a machine’s name every time a new employee is hired. Instead, readers use all sorts of naming schemes that allow administrators to identify machines easily and track them in databases. Marc Goldhaber makes the case for a centralized naming scheme (and earns 250 TechPoints in the process):

“In our organization, users and PCs are fairly mobile. Users change divisions frequently, and when PCs are replaced by new machines they are redeployed elsewhere, sometimes even in a different building. This fact makes naming by location, user, group, subnet, etc., impossible. Our desktop machines are all named by their PC inventory number. This way, we simply cross-reference the inventory database to find out everything we need to know about the machine.”

 Want suggestions for machine names? Try these:
  • PC serial/inventory numbers or asset tags
  • Office location code plus last three digits of the IP address (NYC191, for example) obviously won’t work on DHCP-based networks
  • Internal telephone number
  • Last six digits of MAC address, preceded by single letter identifying the network segment—C234567, for example

And the winner is…
Finally, a big tip of the hat and a TechRepublic T-shirt go to tiawilliam, who explains how to change the default machine naming scheme to one that works for you:

“The random machine naming you refer to is performed by Win2k's Remote Installation Services (RIS). And yes, you absolutely CAN change the random names RIS assigns to client computers during remote installs:
  1. Go to the Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in.
  2. Locate and right-click your RIS server's Computer Object.
  3. Choose Properties from the context menu.
  4. Click the Remote Install tab.
  5. Click the Advanced Settings button.
  6. On the New Clients tab, use the Client Computer Naming Format area to define how clients are assigned names. Use the Customize button to build a custom naming format that fits in with your current naming strategy. You can choose to automatically name client machines based on any combination of the following: portions of usernames, complete usernames, MAC addresses, and incremental numbers.”

Thanks—you’ve just saved a lot of network administrators a lot of time!

Here's Ed's new challenge
Are you ready for yet another new version of Internet Explorer? Microsoft may call it IE 5.0, but this browser has a few features you won’t find in earlier versions of IE. What’s the best way to set up Windows 2000’s IE version for use on a corporate network? If you think you’ve got the answers, follow this link to tackle this week's Microsoft Challenge .

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