In the realm of computers, a network is an interconnected group of computers and peripherals, which may be linked by software or communications hardware. In a home or office, the network is likely to be a LAN (Local Area Network) or a WLAN (Wireless LAN). Windows® Network Map, first made available in the Vista® release and also available in Windows® 7, shows a graphical depiction of the network of the computer on which the operating system which contains Windows® Network Map is deployed. The map works through Link Layer Topology Discovery (LLTD), but because not all devices have the LLTD protocol, it is likely that older devices will not show up on the network, and wireless access points may not show up without an active client.
To find the Windows® Network Map feature on Vista® or Windows® 7, begin by opening the ‘Control Panel.’ Click on the ‘Network and Internet’ link and then click on the ‘Network and Sharing Center’ link. When the ‘Network and Sharing Center opens, a partial map of your network will be visible, showing the computer, the name of the home network and the Internet. On Vista®, the link to the full map is in the upper left, and may require a network administrator’s intervention to become operational. On Windows® 7 the link to the full map is ‘See full map’ in the upper right. A list of devices that are detected but cannot be included in the map is also supplied.
The Windows® Network Map is meant to be useful for keeping track of all elements connected to the network, and this can be useful for at least three types of task. For one thing, in addition to icons for each device — such as a computer, switch, router or Xbox 360® — the Network Map will display tool tips for the device, indicating its name, MAC address, and IP address. Another use of the Windows® Network Map is in troubleshooting. When problems arise and there is a suspicion that there is a problem in the operating environment, the map gives a quick look at an important portion of that environment. Finally, when the device is a computer, right-clicking reveals its shared resources and allows one to begin a Remote Desktop session.