Question Windows network file sharing will not work with passwords off

Feb 20, 2019
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Hi guys,

I posted a similar question previously and received some help, although none of the answers solved the issue unfortunately. I got around the problem by just decomissioning the offending PC for a bit and not worrying about it. However unfortunately it became necesery to use the offending PC again (which still has the same problem). We also have an entirely new PC on a different network with the same problems. In a bid to minimise the scope of the problem as much as possible and not waffle in what I have tried (probably what I did in my last post) I will keep this brief.

Network 1) 10 PC's (W10) all networked with the same domain/workgroup. 3 PC's have password file sharing turned off. PC's 1-9 can connect to any PC (with a username and password login prompt for those still requiring a password and without for the 3 PC's not requiring it) just fine. PC 10 can connect to any PC with file sharing requiring a password (if you give it a username and password). It cannot connect to any PC that shares files without a password. Instead it just spits out the "Windows cannot access \\PCName". This PC (PC 10) has been formatted and had windows 10 reinstalled multiple times without resolving the issue.

Network 2) 8 PC's (W10) all networked with the same domain/workgroup. 1 PC has password file sharing turned off. As you may have guessed, 7 PC's can connect to all PC's without problem. PC 8 can only connect to PC's with file sharing requiring a password. Trying to connect to the PC that doesn't require a password for sharing again gives "Windows cannot access \\PCName". This PC is brand new out of the box.

Importantly, if I change the PC's that currently have password sharing turned off, to instead require a password to share, on both networks the offending PC's can connect absolutely fine to the PC's. Therefore in my mind, it has to be some sort of windows security setting or something which is messing this up? Both PC's see the PC's with file sharing password turned off just fine, can ping it, see it on the network etc. It just won't connect while the PC does not require a password. As soon as you change the setting to require a password, connection is made no problem.

However we really don't want to require a password. I have been scouring group policy settings and other obscure windows authentication settings trying to work out what needs to change, but so far have not been able to find anything. Does anyone know definitively what causes this and what setting needs to change to fix the connection on these two offending PC's to allow them to connect over network to PC shares not needing a password?
 
Feb 20, 2019
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Hi Ralston, I don't know what you want me to check there exactly? I can confirm all settings are correct. I can also confirm settings on the PC's that don't work are identical to the settings on the PC's that do work. It is definitely not a case of an obvious setting being wrong. Sharing is set up identically on all PC's and works in all cases except the two computers on two seperate networks which cannot access any PC which has password protected sharing turned off. It works fine if password protected sharing is turned on.
 

Ralston18

Titan
Moderator
No problem. The intent was to have you look at and check the settings.

Per @Ketchup79 - is SMB 1.0 enabled? That is something I was not aware of so check that.

If SMB is not enabled, then enable.

If enabled then SMB 1.0 may be eliminated.

Afterwards, if necessary:

https://windowsreport.com/windows-10-turn-off-password-protected-sharing/

Note Step 2. in the preceding link.

Registry edits thereafter but only as a last resort. Registry editing is risky and you will need to be ready to do a full registry restoration.

So hold on regedit pending other ideas and suggestions.
 
Feb 20, 2019
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Hi Ketchup, thanks for weighing in as well. I don't believe SMB 1.0 has anything to do with it. When I checked it we have a mix across the network of machines with SMB 1.0 turned on and some off. I enabled on all the machines relevant to this problem and nothing changed. I disabled on all machines relevant to this problem and still nothing changed.

Ralston, I'm happy to try anything from that link you supplied. However that link does not describe the problem at all. Windows turns off password protected sharing just fine, that isn't the problem. It even turns it off and 90% of the network can access just fine. However as I said, we have 2 machines on different networks that cannot connect to any PC that has password protected sharing turned off.

Maybe I'm not explaining very well. Let's call our machine we have the share on (and are trying to access) PCMain. Let's call the problem PC PCProb. PCMain has password protected sharing turned off. Every PC on the network other than PCProb can connect no problem to the share on PCMain requring no password. PCProb cannot connect. It can ping fine from a cmd prompt, it can see fine, but when connecting you get an instant "Windows cannot access \\PCMain" error message. Doesn't matter if you click the PC in network, type the pc name and share directly into file explorer, or even use the IP address, it just doesn't connect. However if I turn password protecting sharing to on (on PCMain) PCProb can connect to it no problem, obviously if you give it the log in credentials. All other PC's on the network still work as well if given the log in credentials.

However as soon as password protected sharing is turned off on PCMain. PCProb cannot connect at all. Therefore the problem has to be with PCProb and some weird security/authentication settings and not PCMain (if my understanding is correct). If that was what you thought I meant previously and you still want me to try something from the link you sent, then let me know. Happy to try anything! I probably also need to know if I am performing those steps on PCMain or PCProb (or both).

Thanks for your help guys!
 

Ketchup79

Notable
Aug 7, 2019
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"However as I said, we have 2 machines on different networks that cannot connect to any PC that has password protected sharing turned off. "

I believe that is the problem. I don't believe Windows 10 allows sharing across multiple network without passwords enabled. Now, you can play around (or disable) Windows firewall and try to prove me wrong :)

And for security reasons, I would recommend you go ahead and have Windows passwords on all machines. Just because it is giving in? No. What if, God forbid, your computer(s) are stolen? Without a password, it is cake for anyway to steal all of your data. With a password, at the very least someone would have to work for it, which then turns in to a probability of them not even bothering to do so.
 
Feb 20, 2019
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Ketchup, again, sorry I may not have explained this very well. There is no attempt to connect across different networks. The two PC's are on different networks but are only attempting to make connections within their network.

Example, PCProb1 cannot connect to any PC on Network1 which has password protected sharing turned off.
PCProb2 cannot connect to any PC on Network2 which has password protected sharing turned off.

The two different networks are isolated networks, no attempt is made to connect between them. I included both to highlight two completely different machines with roughly 6 years in age between them, in completely different networks, which have never been linked in any way, share the exact same problem. The problem survives even after reinstalling windows on the problematic PC's. However of 18 PC's our company uses, only 2 have this problem. The second PC to have this problem was bought as part of 4 PC's recently all of identical models/specs. This is the only one of the 4 to have this problem, the other 3 work as you would expect.

I understand the security reasons to not share without a password. However our network is protected and the shares do not contain anything of importance. We are sharing, for example, UPS remote workstation installation files. I would really like to fix the problem without having to enable passwords for all sharing. All our PC's require passwords to login, we just don't want passwords for sharing. Nothing being shared is of any importance. Everything of importance is password protected and not stored on a file share on a users PC. If someone was to steal all of our computers they would have access to all the hard drives directly. At that point passwords are completely irrelevant anyway.
 

Ralston18

Titan
Moderator
My thought is to compare Group Policy settings between PCProb1 and another known working PCNoProb on the same network.

You can use "gpresult /z" to obtain a verbose list of settings.

On PCProb1 run "gpresult /z" and direct the results to PCProb1-Policy.txt

Next on PCNoProb run "gpresult /z" and direct the results to PCNoProb-Policy.txt

You can compare the results visually, print them out to match, or use Word (for example) to compare the files.

More info:

https://www.kjctech.net/generating-various-types-of-group-policy-reports/

If "gpresults" is not detailed enough then Powershell may help.

E.g.:

https://blog.netwrix.com/2019/04/11/top-10-group-policy-powershell-commands/

While delving into Powershell options I came across the following link:

https://www.itechguides.com/group-policy-gpresult-group-policy-object-rsop/

RSoP was interesting....

Run rsop.msc
 
Reactions: Mandark
Feb 20, 2019
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Ketchup, tried method three on the link you provided, didn't help.

Ralston, ran gpresult to a log file as you mentioned on 5 of the PC's we have. the 2 that don't work and 3 that do. Honestly, I can see some differences but nothing that stands out as being relevant when compared across all 5. Ie PCProb1 has some differences to one that works, but not another that works. We don't use group policy for centrally managing anything so I can post the logs here if you want to take a look, they aren't that large. Maybe I've missed something?

Looked at RSop, ran on both PC's and compared the differences. Honestly couldn't really see anything again. Mostly all our policies/rules/whatever they are in RSop are undefined. Again, I'm sure I can probably send that to a log as well and post if you think it might help. I couldn't see anything though.

Not sure how best to proceed. I've created new users, reinstalled windows switched to a different workgroup and for whatever reason whatever this problem/setting is persists on these two PC's.
 

Ralston18

Titan
Moderator
No clue, per se, as to what is happening.

You mentioned seeing some differences and I cannot question your assessment of relevancy.

Do take a closer look if at all possible.

That said, I am going to climb out of the box a bit....

Is it at all viable to swap one each of the problem PCs between networks?

No changes, simple swap.

Just to see what, if anything, happens. Look at the log results again, etc..
 

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