A Duplicate Name Exists on the Network

What you can do to resolve duplicate network name issues with Windows devices

After starting up a Microsoft Windows computer connected to a local network, you may see one of the following error messages: 'A duplicate name exists on the network' or 'A duplicate name exists on the network (system error 52).' These errors prevent a Windows computer from joining the network. The device will start up and function in an offline (disconnected) mode only.

These errors are found only on networks with Windows XP PCs or Windows Server 2003.

Why Duplicate Name Problems Occur on Windows

Windows clients display "A duplicate name exists on the network" when two devices are detected with the same network name. This error can be triggered in several ways:

  • Two Windows computers use the same generic name.
  • The local network is set up to use a Windows Workgroup, and the name chosen for the workgroup is the same as the name of another device on the network, such as a home broadband router.
  • A Windows server on the network is configured with two different network names.

The computer on which these errors are reported is not necessarily one of the devices with a duplicate name. Microsoft Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 operating systems use NetBIOS and the Windows Internet Naming Service system to maintain a shared database of network names. Any or every NetBIOS device on the network might report these same errors. Think of it as a neighborhood watch where devices notice a problem down the street. The Windows error messages do not say exactly which neighbor devices experience the name dispute.

How to Resolve Duplicate Name Exists Errors

To resolve these errors on a Windows network:

  1. If the network uses a Windows workgroup, ensure the workgroup's name is different from the name (SSID) of routers or wireless access points.

  2. Determine which two Windows devices have the same name. Check each computer name in Control Panel.

  3. In Control Panel, change the name of one of the offending computers to a name that is not used by other local computers. The name should also be different from the Windows workgroup name. Then, reboot the device.

  4. On any device where the error message persists, update the computer's WINS database to remove any reference to the old name.

  5. If a system error 52 message appears, update the configuration of the Windows server so that it uses only one network name.

  6. Upgrade any old Windows XP devices to a newer version of Windows.

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