WINS and Exchange 2003 Dependencies

Exchange 2003’s Dependency on WINS

If you want to investigate the relationship between WINS and Exchange 2003 you have 3 choices:

  1. Just install WINS and get on with life.  Configure records for ALL the Exchange servers and Domain controllers.
  2. Ignore WINS, everything IS working fine on MY small network.
  3. The thinking man’s approach.  Try to make sense of Exchange’s dependency on WINS.  If you go down this route, you may find that the waters get muddier before you see clear bottom.


Clarifying Exchange 2003’s Dependency on WINS

I had been labouring under the delusion that Windows and Exchange 2003 servers no longer need WINS, it seems that I was wrong.   However, what I now believe is that Exchange 2003 does not absolutely need WINS.  What various Exchange 2003 processes absolutely need is, NetBIOS name resolution.  On simple networks, like mine, Exchange 2003 can resolve NetBIOS names simply by just broadcasting.  Now I expect that you are ahead of me on why big networks still need WINS, because broadcasts are limited to the local subnet.

Let us consider a quote: ‘Microsoft tries to make sure all programs work without NetBIOS, but this may only apply to future products.’ From the Microsoft source knowledgebase article: PSS ID Number: 837391.

The above article points out problems with these configurations:

  • Exchange Setup needs WINS.  (Setup works fine on my simple network without WINS.)
  • ExMerge the Mailbox Merge Wizard requires WINS.
  • Changing the password from an OWA client needs WINS.
  • Outlook 2002 and earlier, versions need WINS.  Outlook 2003 and future versions will not need WINS.  This typifies Microsoft’s approach to NetBIOS.
  • Exchange System Manager loses some (unspecified) functionality.
  • Exchange 2003 needs WINS to contact Exchange 5.5.  (Especially if there is any NT 4.0 around.)
  • There are consistent reports that clustering needs WINS.  Particularly for setup.
  • SMS 2003 needs NetBIOS, but SMS 2003 with SP1, no longer uses NetBIOS.
  • Messenger and Alerter services require WINS.  However, they both work for me without WINS, provided I start the services and send messages to computers on the same subnet.

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Solutions to Exchange’s need for NetBIOS Name Resolution.

  1. WINS (Best).
  2. LMHosts – Troubleshooting.
  3. Broadcast – Local Subnet only.


Associated programs – DNS, DHCP, Outlook and possibly SMS.

Exchange 2003’s Dependency on WINS – Summary

Exchange 2003 still makes NetBIOS calls.  So either configure resource records in WINS, or else rely on broadcasts to resolve the NetBIOS requests.