What Is WINS (Windows Internet Naming Service)?

WINS Assists Networks With Clients That Use NetBIOS Names

WINS is a name resolution service for Windows networks that maps host names on a network to their network IP addresses. Short for Windows Internet Naming Service, WINS converts NetBIOS names to IP addresses on a LAN or WAN.

WINS is required in any network with clients that us NetBIOS names. This applies primarily to older applications and machines running older Windows versions, those released prior to Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003.

Like DNS, the WINS employs a distributed client/server system to maintain the mapping of computer names to addresses. Windows clients can be configured to use primary and secondary WINS servers that dynamically update name/address pairings as computers join and leave the network. The dynamic behavior of WINS means that it also supports networks using DHCP.

WINS Architecture

WINS system is made of up two main components:

  • The WINS server, which manages the NetBIOS name map.
  • The WINS clients, which use NetBIOS names for their resources that are mapped in the WINS server for mapping to IP addresses, and which query the WINS server for addresses to other NetBIOS resources on the network.

In addition to these components, there is also the WINS database, which is the name "map," the dynamically updated list of NetBIOS names and associated IP addresses.

In special cases, there may a WINS proxy, which is another type of client that can act on behalf of computers that are not WINS-enabled.​