Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Restoring Computer Description in the Network Folder on Windows Vista and Windows 7

OK, this is definitely a rant. One of the biggest UI changes made to Vista and 7 that really gets my back up is the inability to add the Computer Description as a column to the Details view in the Network folder. A lot of organisations name their PCs by asset number, service tag, or use an auto-increment through RIS/WDS/etc.
I suppose Microsoft consider that small businesses will name their PCs on a personal or role-based model and that Enterprises will use an appropriate Service Desk application for finding PCs in the network, but apparently removing a folder view that was available in XP is definitely a regression in my books.
A picture paints a thousand words, so here’s a folder view from XP:

Name provides the NetBIOS/DNS Name of the PCs in the network and Comments provides the Computer Description field found in the Computer Name tab in the System Properties window.
Here’s the corresponding default view from Vista/7:

Try as you might, you can’t add the Computer Description column to that view.
After much cursing, wailing and gnashing of teeth I managed to find a way of getting around this, thanks to “Rico Dog” at this Windows Vista IT Pro Forum post. The solution is to use an existing Windows XP PC to get a shortcut copied across to your Vista/7 machines. if you don’t have an XP machine, consider using Virtual PC and XP Mode on Windows 7 or running up a Windows XP virtual machine using Virtual PC 2007 on Windows Vista.
Here’s the process for getting the shortcut:
  • Open up My Network Places
  • Open up Entire Network
  • Open up Microsoft Windows Network
  • Drag the required workgroup/domain icon to the Desktop
  • A shortcut for the workgroup/domain will be created on the Desktop
  • Copy the shortcut from the Desktop over to your Windows Vista or Windows 7 PC
  • Open up the shortcut
You’ll now have a window looking like:

The Comments column contains the Computer Description fields for the corresponding PCs.
There must be a way to do this through the GUI, or even create the script via VBScript/Powershell but I haven’t worked it out yet.
Hope this helps anyone else trying to achieve the same thing.

EDIT: an anonymous commenter (thanks!) mentioned that creating a folder named "Network.{208d2c60-3aea-1069-a2d7-08002b30309d}" without the quotes will enable this functionality without a need for an XP/2003 system. The reference for the source is the following TechNet Forum post.


Hilton Travis said...

G'day Chris,

There's a much easier way to achieve the result you have here.

1. Win 7 Start
2. Type in \\yourdomain.local in the "Search programs and files" box
3. Hit Enter

Another option is to right-click on the desktop, New\Shortcut, type \\yourdomain.local into the location box, give it a name, and away you go.

I do agree that removing the abiliity to see the Computer Description in the Win 7 Network is annoying.

stryqx said...

Hi Hilton,

\\yourdomain.local results in the share list of the closest DC.

Anonymous said...

That shortcut trick did it. That issue was driving me crazy for awhile now so thanks a lot.

Unknown said...

thank tge shortcut has done the work

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your instruction. It really makes me easier now.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me it also works if you just type the NETBIOS domain name into the top bar of Windows Explorer. If your DNS name is "mydomain.local" and your NetBIOS name is "mydomain" then, just put that!

stryqx said...

@anonymous - you either get the share list of the closest DC, or a "network path not found", depending on your network + security configuration.

Anonymous said...

thanks, christ. The shortcut works miracle.
ps.\\yourdomain.local wouldn't give the result I want which is diplaying the computer description along side the computer name.

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Daniel Cormier said...

When you create the shortcut from XP and copy it over, what's the target? (You can see this in the properties of the shortcut.)

Anonymous said...

the target of the shortcut is what you copied from the XP is "Your Domain", but you cannot type this into a new shortcut. Even the copied shortcut target location is "Microsoft Windows network" what you cannot set into a new shortcut.

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Anonymous said...

You can create the link directly by creating a folder and naming it "Network.{208d2c60-3aea-1069-a2d7-08002b30309d}" (without quotes). I found the answer here http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itpronetworking/thread/22516e39-9ac4-4841-874e-564bac87049f

Brian Hart said...

Chris, your post was very helpful. Your update from the anonymous commenter is exactly what I have been looking for. Thanks!

Unknown said...
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Les said...

Just,... Thank You!

The "Network.{208d2c60-3aea-1069-a2d7-08002b30309d}" folder is exactly the answer.