The Network Map - Access Your Network Computers in a Fun Way

One of the less known features of Windows 7 is the network map. This features does what its name implies: it shows you a complete map of all the computers connected to your network at a specific point in time. It was first introduced in Windows Vista and it was kept pretty much unchanged in Windows 7. In this guide I will show you how to view a network map, explain what information it shows, how to use it and what to do in case of issues.

How to View the Network Map

First, open the Network and Sharing Center. On top of the window, you will see a basic network map, showing if and how your computer is connected to the internet.

To view the full network map, click on 'See full map'.

Network Map

The network map should look somewhat like this.

Network Map

If you are connected to more than one network, you can switch between network maps. Go to the 'Network map of' section and click on the drop-down menu to select the network you desire.

Network Map

What Information Can You Get from the Map?

On first view, the network map just shows how your computers are interconnected. However, the network map can tell you much more. For example, if you hover your mouse over a computer name, you will see some useful information: computer name, IP address and MAC address.

Network Map

Depending on how the lines are shown, you can tell which computers are connected via cable or wireless signal. All computers connected via cable have a line for each of their connections. The ones connected via wireless have an interrupted line showing their connections.

Network Map

Depending on the model of your laptop and the type of wireless network card, Windows 7 can also show you the signal strength for each of the computers connected via wireless.

Network Map

You can also do some actions on the computer map:

  • Click on a computer - this will open a Windows Explorer window showing you all the shared files, folders and devices on that computer.
  • Click on the router icon - it will open the administration page of that router in a new browser window.
  • Click the Internet icon - it will open the Internet troubleshooting wizard.

Why are there Computers Missing from the Network Map?

Some of the computers on your network may not show up in the network map or, they may show up in a separate section, like the one shown below.

Network Map

If that's the case, it means that your Windows 7 computer cannot detect it properly and place it on the network map. This can occur for the following reasons:

  • You are connected to a Public network - on public networks computer discovery is not enabled, so your network map will not include other computers.
  • Network discovery is turned off - to learn how to turn it on, follow our guide on How to Customize Network Sharing Settings.
  • The computer is running Windows XP - in this case you need to install this update on the Windows XP computer and follow the instructions documented by Microsoft.
  • A firewall is blocking the network discovery - you need to check the firewall settings on the computer which is not showing up and make sure it allows for network discovery and sharing.
  • The computer runs non-Microsoft operating systems - if you have a Mac or a computer with a Linux OS, chances are it will now show up on the map.

What to Do in Case of Errors

It can happen that your computer displays an error message that the mapping process did not work. Personally it never happened to me, no matter how much I tried. However, if it happens to you, try the following:

  • Press F5 to refresh the network map. If the error persists try the suggestions below.
  • If you are connected to a wireless network and the signal is poor, move closer to the wireless router providing the signal.
  • The router can be incompatible with the protocol used by Windows 7 (Layer Topology Discovery - LLTD) to show the map. If that is the case, the only thing you can do is to replace the router with a newer model.

Conclusion

Even though this feature is not well known, it can prove to be very useful. After playing with it for a while, I really love it and use it surprisingly often to access the computers on the network and check which computers are turned on or off.

Related articles:

What is the Network and Sharing Center in Windows 7 & Windows 8?
How to Customize Network Sharing Settings in Windows 7
The HomeGroup Feature & How it Works