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Services Utility: Computer Browser Service

Display Name (?): Computer Browser
Short Name (?): Browser
Executable (?): svchost.exe
Library (?): browser.dll
Depends On (?): Workstation, Server
Supports (?): None.
Description (?): Maintains an updated list of computers on the network and supplies this list to computers designated as browsers. If this service is stopped, this list will not be updated or maintained. If this service is disabled, any services that explicitly depend on it will fail to start.
OS (?): NT4 Workstation, 2000 Professional, XP Home/Professional, Vista Home/Business, NT4 Server, 2000 Server, Server 2003, Vista Server
Startup (?):

Explanation (?):

The computer browser service is a very integral part of Windows file sharing. The computer browser is used in maintaining a list of the computers in a domain or workgroup, and keeps track of the protocols that each computer on the network segment is using. This service also performs the election of a computer on the local segment to become the master browser. The purpose of the master browser is to not only collect and maintain a list of all computers but also to supply the master browse list with computers that request it and to designate backup browsers in the situation that the master browser becomes inaccessible. For every 32 computers on the network segment a backup browser is assigned. On a Windows NT domain a primary domain controller (PDC) is always designated as the master browser. The priority of a computer browser is given by how recent (ver/build) or important (professional versus server) the Windows operating system is. Network broadcasts of the existence of a computer are given 4, 8 and then every 12 minutes after a computer's network access is activated.

Since this service is how the Windows NetBIOS network is propigated it is very important to use this service in a computer environment. In situations in which file sharing are not needed or are a security risk this service should be disabled. The average broadband or dialup user will not need this service and could offer a security risk if they are not running a firewall as it allows other computers on the local segment to view the shared contents of their computer. This is especially a risk for computers on cable modem networks where all users of that local ISP normally can see each other, and the risk is increased since all NT based machines automatically share the entire contents of their hard-drives through their administrator password. Please note that there are ways to secure your computer without the need for a firewall and without the need of turning off this service.

As it such the best recommendation would be to leave this service set to manual if you use Windows file sharing. That is, if you browse other computers on your network and downloading through NetBIOS services. Please note that this service controls both the access to your computer as well as your ability to access other computers. Also note that this does not affect Internet service in the most standard sense and will not affect file sharing applications such as KaZaA, eMule, etc.. In the event that you need security and do not use Windows file sharing through NetBIOS then it is completely safe to disable this service.

Please visit /tools/services/ for the complete Services utility.