Why does Explorer sometimes show my server name in parentheses?

A customer wanted to know why Explorer showed one of their servers in the folder list the normal way:

⊞ servername

but another server showed up "where the server name is parentheses and the node name is in front."

⊞ nodename (servername)

"Where is Explorer getting that information, and why are the two servers showing up in different ways?"

It's all in the server comment.

From the command line, you can view the server comment by typing net view \\servername. For example,

Shared resources at \\servername

Printer server next to the third floor bathroom

Share name  Type  Used as  Comment


You can set the comment with the command line

net config server /srvcomment:"Printer server next to the third floor bathroom"

If a server has a comment, then the comment is shown to the user on the expectation that the comment is something that is more meaningful to the user than some cryptic server name. Microsoft's own server names are hyper-cryptic, like TK5EX14MBXW603. Of course if you talk to a support technician, they'll tell you that the name is clear as day. "The TK means that the server is physically in our Tukwila data center. The 5 means that..." (I never manage to stay awake long enough to learn what the 5 stands for.)

I guess this created more confusion than clarification, because the comment-name-followed-by-parenthesized-server-name convention appears no longer to be in use starting in Windows Vista.

Communications breakdown: When we provided this information back to the customer, the customer liaison simply replied back, "Thanks, we figured that out on our own."

That was not a very clear reply. Is the customer liaison saying, "That's the information we were looking for, thanks. We managed to figure that out on our own in the meantime." Or maybe the customer liaison was trying to say "Thanks for the information, but we already knew that. We were looking for something else."

I asked the customer liaison whether they needed any more information from us, and there was no reply. I guess that's passive-aggressive way of saying, "No."

Comments (27)
  1. Joshua says:

    We had a machine called the water just so the login screen would say turn off the water.

  2. Brian_EE says:

    If your domain account is not part of an administrator group on the server in question, the the command to set the comment fails with the error:

    "System error 5 has occurred." I didn't manage to learn what the 5 stands for.

    It appears that the server comment is a global-only property, and Windows doesn't support a user storing locally a comment for that server resource that makes sense to him or her (stored as part of the user profile for instance). At least it doesn't allow this with Windows XP.

  3. winbase.h says:

    System error 5 is ERROR_ACCESS_DENIED. msdn.microsoft.com/…/ms681382.aspx

  4. Sean says:

    "Tukwila-5" is the name of the datacenter. Bing maps actually has a label for "Microsoft Building Tukwila-3" (and from there you can guess at what "-3" and "-5" mean). So that is an Exchange 14 server running in TK5 serving mailboxes ("MBX") in the Windeploy forest ("W"). In a fairly short space you get the server location, what it's purpose is, and who is using it.

    Cryptic, but probably more helpful than a naming scheme like "RAINIER", "SHASTA", "HOOD".

    [Yawn. Sorry, did you say something? -Raymond]
  5. Mark says:

    And then of course, there's the bizarre "feature" that hides any computer with a description deemed too long from the browse list. Helpful and intuitive! (NOT! High five!)

  6. Joshua says:

    … when I tell you that hosts must have three different names …

  7. [Yawn. Sorry, did you say something? -Raymond]

    You are my hero :-) .

  8. xpclient says:

    shell:::{208D2C60-3AEA-1069-A2D7-08002B30309D} is the old network namespace extension which still shows the comment. I remember many corporate users wanted the "Comment" field in the new Network namespace (shell:::{F02C1A0D-BE21-4350-88B0-7367FC96EF3C}) but like the auto sorting request, MS ignored this one too.

  9. dave says:

    >I didn't manage to learn what the 5 stands for.

    net helpmsg 5

    Access is denied.

    (which indicates that error 5 is "access is denied", not that your quest to determine the meaning of error 5 has been denied)

    This is semi-convenient when you're using some 'net' command to do the thing that said '5', though one wishes that they'd taken the teeny next step of calling the error-looker-upperer directly.

    If you're using some gooey, then I don't know what you do.

  10. JM says:


    >though one wishes that they'd taken the teeny next step of calling the error-looker-upperer directly.

    That works for number 5. Not so much for the higher numbers with the facility whatchamajiggits. Few things are worse than someone doing the error lookup and getting back the wrong message because "these are not the error codes you're looking for". This can send you on a wild goose chase that takes a lot longer than pasting a number into G… Bing. It's even more hilarious if the error reporting code contains a more basic bug (which is depressingly more common than you'd think) meaning it reports nothing meaningful at all — if only they'd simply printed the number directly!

    Besides, my geek cred would evaporate if I couldn't reply "oh, that means you're running into a permissions issue" when someone shows me an event log reporting that frobbing the fizzbuzzers failed with error code 0x80000005 — without knowing how exactly fizzbuzzers are supposed to get frobbed.

  11. 0x80000005 could mean anything.

    0x80070005, on the other hand, is HRESULT_FROM_WIN32(ERROR_ACCESS_DENIED).

  12. JM says:


    My geek cred transfer should arrive shortly.

  13. Joshua says:

    I did indeed see the 5 turn into 0x80000005 once.

  14. Anon says:


    http://www.microsoft.com/…/details.aspx , for most of your error-lookup needs.

  15. Brian_EE says:

    I can't believe how many people _missed_ _the_ _joke_ when I said "I didn't manage to learn what the 5 stands for."

    Refer to Raymond's statement "(I never manage to stay awake long enough to learn what the 5 stands for.)"

    In fact (had anyone actually tried the command themselves before delving into discussion about error message 5), the command: net config server /srvcomment:"Hello World"

    results in:

    System error 5 has occurred.

    Access is denied.

    if you have insufficient priveleges. So I already knew what the message meant, though I suppose "if you have to explain the joke, it's not funny" applies here….

  16. Brian_EE says:

    For those interested in the build out of TK5 data center, see this link: http://www.mckinstry.com/…/tukwila-5-data-center

  17. cheong00 says:

    Talking about yawn, I have a very strange dream last night.

    In the dream, everyone yawn continuously. Everyone yawn to each other and noone saw it as inappropiate. In real life, when I yawn at least I'll cover my mouth, but in the dream, I didn't even try to do that.

    Anyone can tell what such a dream means?

  18. JM says:


    Great stuff. I especially like that it lists the header files it actually takes the codes from.

    The only drawback with this one may be that it supports *too much*: "err 5" spits out a complete laundry list of everything that uses error code 5 for anything… and ERROR_ACCESS_DENIED is way at the bottom, since "winerror.h" is near the end of the alphabetic line. There may be room for an even better tool that incorporates some heuristics (like giving "winerror.h" more priority than, say, "dhcpssdk.h"). Yes, you can explicitly limit the module list, but still.

    If your application uses HRESULTs you're slightly better off, since 0x80070005 still matches a lot but it all boils down to "access denied".

  19. JM says:

    @Brain_EE: I count two people who explicitly missed the joke. That's not a bad score for a geek blog (where people are naturally predisposed to take confessions of ignorance at face value).

    Also, the discussion about error messages is more interesting than your initial joke, so you should be happy something good came out of it. It's a positive way of trolling.

  20. Anon says:


    It wasn't a dream, you're just in America.

  21. Neil says:

    net helpmsg doesn't work for messages with placeholders, except for message 3871 itself.

  22. Al says:

    Why did they stop showing the comment field in the detailed network views in Vista+ anyways?  I find it strange that even in the Windows 7 Start->Network view no comment column can be shown.  We use those comments a lot and found a strange solution to the issue – copy a shortcut to the "My Network Places" from an XP machine to your Windows 7 PC and use it instead and voila the comments column shows up!

  23. OldFart says:

    How can you tell whether the result of "net helpmsg 5" means error 5 is "Access is denied" or you are just not allowed to use "net helpmsg"?

  24. jtwillia says:

    I don't remember Microsoft's server names being that cryptic when I was there (\Products1).  Of course that was 18 years ago and I'm sure a lot has changed.

  25. Horst Kiehl says:

    It just dawned on me: Why is the datacenter called Tukwila 5? What about the other four ones? Were the first three ones destroyed before being completed and did the fourth disappear shortly after being commissioned?

  26. ErikF says:

    @jtwillia: I work at a company with tons of back-end servers and the geographical system of naming is quite helpful, particularly for physical servers in multiple locations. As much as it's cute to use Greek gods or Star Trek characters, it doesn't scale very well and can cause a lot of confusion (is the second CAS server called Juno or is it Aphrodite?)

    Given that you have to stick to a 15-character naming system for workstations, it's inevitable that you get cryptic names. At least Microsoft doesn't use Unicode characters in their naming system (yet…)!

  27. GregM says:

    Horst, yes, it was taken into the past and helped to defeat the shadows.  [This message brought to you by a workstation named Vir, because I've almost run out of names.]


Comments are closed.