Fixing Pesky Network Drive Errors

By Ronald Pacchiano | Posted July 07, 2003

I recently purchased a new laptop computer that came with Windows XP Home Edition preinstalled. As soon as I got the PC online I proceeded to download and install all the available service packs and hot fixes. I use this machine primarily at work to access our Windows NT domain. Most of our data is stored on the network. So to gain access to it I needed to map a number of drives to the network servers. This brings me to my problem.

Each time I start my laptop I get an annoying error message that reads "could not reconnect all network drives." Yet when I go to the Windows Explorer and click on the drive that Windows reported as disconnected, it opens fine. I don't understand why I am getting this error. Also, I noticed that it isn't affecting all of the drives. I'm mapping to three drives, and while two of them map fine, there is a problem with the third.

My previous notebook was using Windows 98 Second Edition, and it had no problem retaining the mapping to the network drives. I've checked all the permissions/rights, domains, logins, passwords, etc. on the server and my laptop, but can't find anything wrong. Do you have any suggestions on what might be causing my problem?

This is actually a much more common problem than you might realize. The fact that it is more of an annoyance than anything else is the main reason that most people don't waste time trying to correct it. The cause of the problem is actually quite simple and basically boils down to just one factor — Windows XP Home Edition.

You see, when Microsoft set out to create Windows XP, one of their goals was to combine Windows 9x and Windows NT into a single operating system. As a result of this unification, Windows XP was marketed towards two different groups — home users and corporate users. Home users received (you guessed it) Windows XP Home Edition, while corporate users were given Windows XP Professional.

The biggest difference between the two is that Windows XP Professional is capable of accessing a domain-based network and allows you to join and be managed by a domain. Home Edition PCs can access files on a network share, but they don't have the ability to join and/or be managed by a domain. In their infinite wisdom, Microsoft decided that Home users wouldn't need this capability and thus removed this feature from the OS. Before Windows XP, all versions of Windows had the ability to be members of a domain.

This is the reason for the problem you're experiencing. When you first start your PC, your system is trying to map to a network drive without first being authenticated by the network. Due to this lack of authentication, Windows is incapable of making a successful connection to the drive. Then when you go to Windows Explorer and select one of the mapped drives that couldn't be mapped on startup, the domain prompts you for your network ID and gives you access to the mapped drive.

The reason that one or two of the drives might be mapping correctly is usually because during startup you have an application that is authorized to access one of those network drives, automatically giving it access to the network. Outlook is a good example of an application that would have this capability.

So the bottom line is that the only way for you to rid yourself of this problem is to upgrade your laptop to Windows XP Professional.

I currently have a HPNA (HomePNA phoneline-based) network made up of two PCs. Internet and file and printer sharing are all configured and are working fine. My Internet access comes from a cable modem which is connected to a Windows XP PC running Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). I recently purchased a laptop and wanted to add it to my home network, so I went out and purchased a D-Link 604 router, which I'm trying to connect to my ICS computer.

When I hooked up the router to the ICS system, everything went down. I no longer had access to my home network or the Internet. I tried calling D-Link's technical support for assistance, and they told me to try setting the IP address of the router to 192.168.0.2. The reason for this is because the ICS computer was configured with a 192.168.0.1 address, which is usually the default address of the D-Link. Unfortunately, this didn't work, and D-Link couldn't offer me any further assistance. Is there anything else I can try? Thank you!

I think the reason that D-Link's solution didn't work was because it just dealt with the conflict that the IP address was causing and didn't take into account the many variables involved in setting up a router on a network that is also running ICS. Routers are designed to isolate one network from another, which can bring them into conflict with Windows XP's ICS. When you introduced the router into your existing network, it obviously broke up your network, which is why nothing was working.

I think the solution is easier than you might think, and it sounds to me like you're making this a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Instead of fighting with all of the possible configuration parameters that could be causing your problem, why don't you just disable ICS and use the D-Link router as the Internet gateway/firewall for the entire network?

Simply remove ICS from the system, connect the cable modem to the router's WAN port, and then connect all of the PCs to the router's integrated 4-port switch. This is a cleaner configuration and should give you the results you're looking for.

Adapted from PracticallyNetworked.com.

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