none
Traveling Laptop Problems

    Question

  • In several of our WSE 2012 R2 networks, one or more of the workstations are laptops, which serve dual purposes.  They function as a network workstation on the Essentials domain office network.  In that environment, the laptops are set up with the standard Essentials configuration (e.g., DNS service provided by the Essentials server, which has a fixed IP address, etc.).  That works fine until the second laptop purpose is invoked.

    The management personnel that have laptop workstations also need to use them when they travel.  When used this way, they primarily connect to wireless networks.  Unlike the office Essentials domain network, when traveling, the laptops obtain everything (including DNS) from the wireless router in each location.  The first problem we encountered was that the traveling laptop could not access the Internet, although it was connected to the wireless network with strong signal strength.  Apparently the laptop was trying to reach the fixed IP address of the domain server, which of course was nowhere to be found.  Without working DNS, the laptop was unable to reach any destination on the Internet (such as google.com, msn.com, etc.).  The only way we were able to work around this was to manually change the DNS source setting from "always obtain DNS" from the server to having DNS automatically assigned by the wireless router.

    On the flip side, when the laptops returned home to the WSE domain office network, they experienced frequent problems with mapped server drives (red X, could not be accessed, etc.).  In fact, the workstations had problems finding the server at all on numerous occasions.  Again, this required extensive manual tinkering on our part to get things (more or less) working again.

    The users of these laptops are not technical and have no interest in dealing with manually reconfiguring things like DNS settings.  Surely many laptop users want to use their computers both in domain office networks and with wireless networks that are available when traveling.  Given the common dual use, there must be a simple, easy way to switch the laptops from office to traveling and back again.  If anyone else has dealt with this and found a good solution, we would greatly appreciate any assistance you can offer.  Thanks


    John

    Wednesday, April 17, 2019 1:38 PM

Answers

  • Hi John. I am basically leveraging the work of others. It's been an issue with Windows Server Essentials since the 2012 product.  Here's a relevant search that shows some of the history of this:

    https://www.bing.com/search?q=windows+server+essentials+2012+prohibit+client+connector+from+setting+dns&FORM=AWRE

    I'll try to answer your questions.

    1. "What is your process for switching a laptop from using the wired vs. wireless connection?"

      You can just unplug. Windows can handle mutliple network adapters simultaneously, and automatically prioritizes wired connections. No need to reconfigure anything.

    2. "I assume you use automatically assigned DHCP from the router (both in the office or when traveling). In that case, do you still assign a fixed IP to the office server to so its IP can be specified as the DNS server for the internal network?"

      Yes, the router in our network supplies DHCP. The server does in fact have a static IP (though our router also reserves that address to eliminate conflicts). The server's IP is used on the clients' wired connections as primary DNS server, with the router IP specified as secondary DNS. The server's own primary DNS is set to itself via loopback: 127.0.0.1. 

    3. "If you use the server's fixed IP address in the office (for both the server and workstations), do you have automatically assigned DNS for the traveling workstations (laptops)?"

      Yes, that's exactly how it works. The wireless adapters all use Windows' default settings to obtain the IP address automatically, and to use automatic DNS. When the laptop returns to the office, wireless still works (it gets an address from the router like everything else), but certain server resources are inaccessible until the laptops are plugged back into the wired LAN.

    I think it's important to point out that none of our machines are domain-joined. Using the server for DNS is not a requirement for non-domain joined machines. However, it really is if the machines are joined to the domain. If that's the case for you, then at least while the machines are using wireless, this may not work so well. 

    This is an article that explains it all very definitively:

    https://windowsserveressentials.com/2013/06/17/unravelling-the-mystery-of-client-dns-with-essentials-family-servers/

    Near the end it explains how you can disable the client connector from automatically reconfiguring the DNS settings on the client. There is also a server setting that you can make that fixes this behavior for future clients. I'll update this post if I can find it.

    Edit: here is the relevant information for how to update your server so that the automatic DNS configuration on the clients is skipped in the future:

    https://tinkertry.com/windows-server-2012-essentials-update-rollup-3-has-arrived-with-dns-fixes



    • Edited by Gary Voth Saturday, May 4, 2019 3:51 PM
    • Marked as answer by JN92 Thursday, May 9, 2019 4:30 PM
    Saturday, May 4, 2019 3:32 PM

All replies

  • hi,

    1 can you enter winver in command prompt on client computers and look the os version and os version number ?[for example windows 10  enterprise 1809 (os build 17763.316)]
    2 what's DNS setting on WSE2012R2 ? "obtain DNS server address automatically" or "use the following dns server" like picture
    3 what's DNS setting on your physical router?
    4 what's DNS setting on client computer? is setting "use the following dns server addresses" ?
    5 what's your DHCP server ? do you install DHCP role on WSE ?or do you use physcial router to act DHCP server?
    6 "In several of our WSE 2012 R2 networks " do you mean there are multiple WSE2012 R2 servers in your environment and they are in different network segment .

    7 in general,
    on wse2012r2 server side
    we need static ip and static DNS ip setting for WSE2012r2 .setting "preferred DNS server" as wse ip address and setting "alternate DNS server" as isp dns ip address on WSE2012R2
    on client computers side
    client laptop computer are configured auto obtain ip address and dns ip address.
    on DHCP server side
    you can set "preferred DNS server" as wse ip address and set" alternate DNS server" as isp dns ip address on physical router or DHCP server.
    (note: this is forum ,when you want to post ip address ,y
    ou need to use virtual information instead of your real private information . thank you for your cooperation )



    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help.
    If you have feedback for TechNet Subscriber Support, contact tnmff@microsoft.com.






    Thursday, April 18, 2019 5:26 AM
    Moderator
  • Is there any progress on your question?

    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help.
    If you have feedback for TechNet Subscriber Support, contact tnmff@microsoft.com.

    Monday, April 22, 2019 5:33 AM
    Moderator
  • I will be working on this again this week. I will report back with findings. Thanks. John

    John

    Monday, April 22, 2019 8:13 PM
  • ok, thanks for your reply .

    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help.
    If you have feedback for TechNet Subscriber Support, contact tnmff@microsoft.com.

    Tuesday, April 23, 2019 2:13 AM
    Moderator
  • Andy,

    I was finally able to spend some time with the often-traveling laptop and have some answers to your questions:

    1). can you enter winver in command prompt on client computers and look the os version and os version number ?[for example windows 10  enterprise 1809 (os build 17763.316)].  Windows 10 Pro, version 1803, build 17134.706.

    2 what's DNS setting on WSE2012R2 ? "obtain DNS server address automatically" or "use the following dns server" like picture.  The server uses a specified DNS address (not automatically assigned).  "Use the following DNS server address: 127.0.0.1."  I believe that is the loopback IP address for the server itself.

    3 what's DNS setting on your physical router?  As far as I know, it is turned off.  However I will need to double check that, which involves obtaining the router password.  I will report back with the answer to this question in the very near future.

    4 what's DNS setting on client computer? is setting "use the following dns server addresses"?  I originally set the client up to use the server's fixed internal IP address (10.1.10.2) ("use the following DNS server address").  However, when I checked the laptop this morning, DNS service is being provided by the Comcast router ("obtain DNS server address automatically").

    5 what's your DHCP server ? do you install DHCP role on WSE ?or do you use physcial router to act DHCP server?  The DHCP role has never been installed on the WSE server.  It has always been provided by the router.

    6)."In several of our WSE 2012 R2 networks " do you mean there are multiple WSE2012 R2 servers in your environment and they are in different network segment .  No, this is a single server network.  I meant that we have set up a number of WSE networks, but they are all separate, single server systems.

    7). in general, 

    on wse2012r2 server side
    we need static ip and static DNS ip setting for WSE2012r2 .setting "preferred DNS server" as wse ip address and setting "alternate DNS server" as isp dns ip address on WSE2012R2.  That is exactly how the server is configured (static IP and a static DNS (loopback) address for the "preferred DNS server."  Unfortunately we cannot use a specific alternate DNS server IP because when the laptop is traveling, the IP of the routers will not be the same.  This suggestion would be fine for a non-traveling office setting that had the server IP as the primary DNS source, followed by a non-changing "alternate DNS.  In the office, the Comcast router can provide an alternate DNS source, but its IP address *75.75.75.75" or "75.75.76.76" would not apply to a router elsewhere unless that wireless network happened to be from Comcast.

    on client computers side
    client laptop computer are configured auto obtain ip address and dns ip address.
    on DHCP server side,  That works fine when the laptop is traveling and connects to various external networks.  It is the usual setting for devices that obtain their DHCP and DNS from various routers when traveling.  However, when the laptop then returns of the office, it does not obtain DNS service from the server.  That is probably why the laptop cannot access the server (because the router DNS service is external to the network and cannot get machine names - surch as "server" - from the devices on the internal network.  That is not the case with the server-supplied DNS, which does have the computer names of the machines on the local domain network.

    you can set "preferred DNS server" as wse ip address and set" alternate DNS server" as isp dns ip address on physical router or DHCP server.  This does not work for traveling laptops - please see comments above.


    John

    Tuesday, April 30, 2019 5:10 PM
  • 3 what's DNS setting on your physical router?  

    The DNS server values in the Comcast router (Cisco DPC3939B) are the IPs of the standard Comcast DNS servers (75.75.75.75 and 75.75.76.76).  On both the WSE server and the workstations, the primary DNS address is the local server.  That is the case on both the server itself and the workstations.


    John

    Tuesday, April 30, 2019 7:17 PM
  • Hi John. This is a well known issue. Microsoft's recommendation--to set up the clients to use the server IP as primary DNS, and router IP as secondary DNS--is not a satisfactory solution for mobile PCs, since neither of those addresses may be applicable on other networks.

    You can leave the clients set to dynamic DNS and they will use whatever your router is set up to use. Using some registry edits on the server, you can prevent the Client Connector from reconfiguring your clients' network settings automatically. This will work fine for the Internet but may bring some loss of access to local domain resources.

    If that's not acceptable the most straightforward "solution" I have found for my own environment is to use different network adapters while in the office and away. We use wired adapters configured as per Microsoft's recommendations, while the device's own wireless adapter obtains the DNS address dynamically. 

    My wife and I both use various Surface devices with Surface Docks which have built-in 1Gb Ethernet, but you could also just use a cheap USB Ethernet dongle if no such dock is available. If you do not have wired Ethernet, then you could use a USB wireless adapter to accomplish much the same thing. Just unplug it when you leave the office and you are good to go.

    In any case, it might be worth a test to see if something like this will work for you.

    Good luck.

    • Edited by Gary Voth Wednesday, May 1, 2019 5:56 AM
    Wednesday, May 1, 2019 5:42 AM
  • Another solution is to setup DHCP on the server. That will fix all the issues TS has.

    Mariëtte Knap [alumna Microsoft SBS MVP]
    www.server-essentials.com | Linkedin | Migrations done the easy way
    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help and unmark them if they provide no help.

    Wednesday, May 1, 2019 5:45 AM
  • Thanks Mariette. Sure, that is the configuration Microsoft expects customers to use, and it probably works well enough in an enterprise environment when there are backup domain controllers.

    However, this is unworkable in a SOHO network where WSE is the sole infrastructure component, in my opnion.  My server is down for maintenance or reconfiguration on a fairly regular basis. If it were the DHCP server, the rest of my network would grind to a halt in short order.

    In a SOHO ernvionment, it is far better to leave the appliance tasks to the actual appliances.

    • Edited by Gary Voth Wednesday, May 1, 2019 12:22 PM
    Wednesday, May 1, 2019 12:20 PM
  • Not so sure about that Gary. I have a ton of small customers and downtime is not an issue. Anyway, seems to be  chicken or the egg question. Whatever solution suits you should be used.

    Mariëtte Knap [alumna Microsoft SBS MVP]
    www.server-essentials.com | Linkedin | Migrations done the easy way
    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help and unmark them if they provide no help.

    Wednesday, May 1, 2019 12:25 PM
  • Fair enough. It may come down to how you use your server. If your customers use it strictly as intended, I agree downtime is probably not an issue.

    My wife and I run our own small businesses out of our home, which the server supports. But we don't have the luxury of dedicated application servers, so our server also runs several VMs as well as additional entertainment apps, like Plex DVR. It's just less convenient for us to have the server also handle DHCP.

    But perhaps we are the exception rather than the rule.


    Wednesday, May 1, 2019 12:37 PM
  • Gary, that looks a lot like my environment :)

    Mariëtte Knap [alumna Microsoft SBS MVP]
    www.server-essentials.com | Linkedin | Migrations done the easy way
    Please remember to mark the replies as answers if they help and unmark them if they provide no help.

    Wednesday, May 1, 2019 12:39 PM
  • Haha! Well then, okay.

    Perhaps I should try your suggested configuration. :-)

    Wednesday, May 1, 2019 12:48 PM
  • Thanks Gary.  Sounds like you have experienced the exact problems i have described and have worked to find a solution.  To clarify one thing, in our case all of the machines in the office use Gb wired Ethernet.  We have Pluggable docks with Ethernet for the laptops (and of course built-in Ethernet with the desktops).  When traveling, the laptops' connections are strictly wireless.  So your idea about setting different configurations for wired and wireless connections sounds very appealing.  One question that comes to mind is, what is your process for switching a laptop from using the wired vs. wireless connection?

    Do you disable the non-used network interface in Control Panel, or do you just unplug the Ethernet cable or shut off the wireless function (via keystroke combinations on the laptop)?

    I assume you use automatically assigned DHCP from the router (both in the office or when traveling).  In that case, do you still assign a fixed IP to the office server to so its IP can be specified as the DNS server for the internal network?

    If you use the server's fixed IP address in the office (for both the server and workstations), do you have automatically assigned DNS for the traveling workstations (laptops)?  In that case, those machines would be getting both IP and DNS from a wireless network router.  What happens when the laptop returns to the office?  In our case, we end up with a (largely) unusable mishmash of both systems (e.g., the laptop is set up for router-assigned DNS service, but then cannot locate the server a few feet away).

    If you can provide me with details of how you set the DNS of the wired office computers (including the server) and the wireless adapters of the traveling laptops, I would greatly appreciate it.  As mentioned above, I am also interested in how you "switch" from one environment to the other.

    Thanks again.


    John

    Thursday, May 2, 2019 8:32 PM
  • Hi John. I am basically leveraging the work of others. It's been an issue with Windows Server Essentials since the 2012 product.  Here's a relevant search that shows some of the history of this:

    https://www.bing.com/search?q=windows+server+essentials+2012+prohibit+client+connector+from+setting+dns&FORM=AWRE

    I'll try to answer your questions.

    1. "What is your process for switching a laptop from using the wired vs. wireless connection?"

      You can just unplug. Windows can handle mutliple network adapters simultaneously, and automatically prioritizes wired connections. No need to reconfigure anything.

    2. "I assume you use automatically assigned DHCP from the router (both in the office or when traveling). In that case, do you still assign a fixed IP to the office server to so its IP can be specified as the DNS server for the internal network?"

      Yes, the router in our network supplies DHCP. The server does in fact have a static IP (though our router also reserves that address to eliminate conflicts). The server's IP is used on the clients' wired connections as primary DNS server, with the router IP specified as secondary DNS. The server's own primary DNS is set to itself via loopback: 127.0.0.1. 

    3. "If you use the server's fixed IP address in the office (for both the server and workstations), do you have automatically assigned DNS for the traveling workstations (laptops)?"

      Yes, that's exactly how it works. The wireless adapters all use Windows' default settings to obtain the IP address automatically, and to use automatic DNS. When the laptop returns to the office, wireless still works (it gets an address from the router like everything else), but certain server resources are inaccessible until the laptops are plugged back into the wired LAN.

    I think it's important to point out that none of our machines are domain-joined. Using the server for DNS is not a requirement for non-domain joined machines. However, it really is if the machines are joined to the domain. If that's the case for you, then at least while the machines are using wireless, this may not work so well. 

    This is an article that explains it all very definitively:

    https://windowsserveressentials.com/2013/06/17/unravelling-the-mystery-of-client-dns-with-essentials-family-servers/

    Near the end it explains how you can disable the client connector from automatically reconfiguring the DNS settings on the client. There is also a server setting that you can make that fixes this behavior for future clients. I'll update this post if I can find it.

    Edit: here is the relevant information for how to update your server so that the automatic DNS configuration on the clients is skipped in the future:

    https://tinkertry.com/windows-server-2012-essentials-update-rollup-3-has-arrived-with-dns-fixes



    • Edited by Gary Voth Saturday, May 4, 2019 3:51 PM
    • Marked as answer by JN92 Thursday, May 9, 2019 4:30 PM
    Saturday, May 4, 2019 3:32 PM
  • Thanks very much for taking the time to thoroughly answer my questions.  I believe that I now understand the process.  It's remarkable (and not in a good way) that such a basic situation (using a laptop both as a wired office workstation and as a traveling wireless device) should cause so many problems and be so complex to resolve.  Just to add to the fun in my case, all workstations (including the laptops) are domain joined (via the Microsoft recommended Essentials "connect" process).

    John

    Thursday, May 9, 2019 4:35 PM