What Is the Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS)?

This legacy computer name registration service has fallen out of favor

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The Windows Internet Naming Service, commonly known as WINS, was a name registration and resolution service for Windows networks. Its purpose was to map computer NetBIOS names to IP addresses on a LAN or WAN.

WINS is now considered a legacy system, replaced by Domain Name System (DNS). LIke WINS, DNS provides computer name registration and resolution services, while incorporating additional benefits, such as integration with Active Directory Domain Services.

Microsoft advises users not to deploy WINS on their networks, and opt for DNS instead. For users with WINS deployed on a network, Microsoft says to first deploy DNS and then decommission WINS.

How WINS Worked

The Windows Internet Naming Service was part of Microsoft Windows NT and 2000 Servers. It was made of up two main components: the WINS server, which managed the NetBIOS name map, and the WINS clients, which used NetBIOS names for their resources.

WINS also utilized a WINS database, which held the name "map," the dynamically updated list of NetBIOS names and associated IP addresses.

In special cases, systems utilized a WINS proxy, which was a client that acted on behalf of computers that weren't WINS-enabled. This allowed users to potentially use WINS with devices that would otherwise not have access to the program.

Legacy WINS systems pose a security risk to networks due to a known vulnerability, so it's important to decommission these systems and use DNS instead.