If you are trying to exchange files between computers on the local network but cannot establish a connection, this may indicate a problem with your network configuration. You can be connected to your network, but access to other computers and devices on your network may be blocked.
This often happens due to incorrect settings on your device or a disconnected network connection. Fortunately, this is usually easy to fix if you cannot see other computers on the network. Windows, macOS, and Linux PCs suffer from this problem from time to time, but here are some quick solutions that you can use to fix the problem.
Enable Network Discovery in Windows 10
For most Windows users, the main reason for hidden computers on the network is due to the network discovery settings in Windows. When this option is disabled, your computer is hidden from the local network and other computers are hidden from you.
- You can check if network discovery is enabled by opening Windows Explorer. In the left navigation pane, click the Networking tab.
- Windows will immediately alert you if network discovery is disabled. You can go to Settings> Network & Internet> Sharing Options> Turn On Network Discovery to turn this back on, but Windows will always provide a shortcut to turn it on at the top of the File Explorer window. Tap the yellow bar at the top to open the quick options menu.
- In the options menu that appears, click Turn on Network Discovery and File Sharing.
- If your network is currently configured as public, Windows will ask you if you want to switch your network to private or otherwise allow network discovery on public networks. This is usually not recommended – if you are on your own network, select the No, make the network I’m connected to private network option.
After enabling network discovery, you can see other computers on the Networks tab, but only if network discovery is also enabled on those devices. You can also access devices directly by entering their IP address or hostname in the address bar at the top of the explorer window.
Configure the firewall to allow file and printer sharing
Windows Firewall is designed to block unnecessary traffic to and from your computer. If network discovery is turned on, but you still cannot see other computers on the network, you may need to whitelist File and Printer Sharing in your firewall rules.
- To do this, right-click on the Windows Start menu and click Settings. In the Windows Settings menu, click Update & Security> Windows Security> Firewall and Network Protection.
- From the Firewall and Network Protection menu, select the Allow application through firewall option.
- In the Allow Applications to Communicate Through Windows Defender Firewall window, click Change Settings to allow access. Scroll down the list until you find the Seed and Printer Sharing and File and Printer Sharing via SMBDirect options, and select the check box for each option in the Private column to allow this through the firewall.
You can also check the boxes in the Public column if you want to allow access to public networks, but this is not recommended. When finished, click OK to save your changes.
You will need to repeat this process for any other third-party firewalls you may be using, including your network firewall (if you are using one).
Enable Computer Browser Service in Windows 10
This is unlikely to be the cause of your problems, but if you run out of software solutions to try, you should see if the computer browser system service is enabled and running on your computer. This is used by Windows to list local computers on your network in File Explorer.
- First, press the Windows + R keys on your keyboard. In the Run dialog box, enter services.msc and click OK to start.
- In the Services Management Console window, find the Computer Browser service and view its current status in the Status column. If the current status is Stopped or Disabled, you will need to re-enable it – right-click and select Properties.
- Click the Start button to enable it in the Computer Internet Options, then select Automatic from the Startup Type drop-down menu to start automatically in the future. Click OK to save.
Verify your local network configuration
If you still cannot see other computers on the network, you need to double check if your computer is properly connected to the local network. Do a physical check of the router cables if you are using a wired network, and if you are using a wireless network, make sure your connection to the wireless access point is active and stable.
One way to test this is by using the ping command from PowerShell or the command line. This will allow you to see if your computer is properly connected to your network and if it can detect other local network devices, but for that you need to know the local IP address or hostname for the other local PC.
- To ping, right-click the Windows Start menu and click Windows PowerShell or Windows PowerShell (Admin). In a PowerShell terminal, enter ping x.x.x.x or ping the hostname, replacing x.x.x.x and the hostname with either the local IP address or the hostname of the PC.
If the ping command responds, a network connectivity issue should not prevent you from seeing other computers on your network. This could indicate a software or network configuration problem elsewhere.
- You can check your network configuration for problems with Windows settings – right-click the Start menu and click Settings to access it. From there click on Update & Security> Troubleshoot> Network Adapter and click on Run the troubleshooter.
If Windows detects any problems with your network configuration, it will automatically try to fix them. This can detect, for example, that your network device is using a static IP address – if not configured correctly, you won’t be able to communicate with other devices on your network.
- To change this, right-click the start menu button and select Settings. In the Windows settings menu, click Network & Internet> Status> Change adapter settings.
- On the Network Connections menu, right-click your network device and click Properties. In the Properties window, click Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP / IPv4) and click Properties.
- Make sure Obtain an IP address automatically and Obtain DNS server address automatically are set and enabled in the IPv4 Properties window, then click OK> Close to save.
You may also find that the problem is not with your PC’s configuration, but with your network. For example, a feature called Wireless Isolation (sometimes referred to as Client Isolation or Access Point Isolation) on some routers will hide wireless devices from each other on the local network, preventing you from connecting to them from your PC.
You may need to refer to the user’s manual of your wireless router to find out how to disable this feature, but you should be able to find it in the wireless settings of your local router.
How to see other macOS networked computers
Apple devices are usually very good at detecting other Apple devices thanks to Apple’s Bonjour network service, and can also usually detect other Windows and Linux PCs. If you want to see other computers on macOS, you can do so by clicking the Networking tab in the main macOS Finder app.
- If you do not currently see other computers on the network, you may need to connect to them manually. To do this, open the Finder app and click Go> Connect to Server.
- In the Connect to Server window, enter the IP address or hostname of the PC you want to connect to in the Server Address field. Click “Connect” to connect to the server by following the onscreen instructions to provide the correct connection credentials.
- If you can’t see your networked computer after connecting directly, make sure the Finder has the option to view it enabled. To do this, click Finder> Preferences on the menu bar.
- Make sure Connected Servers is checked in the Finder Preferences in the sidebar tab.
Once verified, you should see the Connected Servers tab in Finder, where your connected computer will be shown for access. If you are unable to view or connect to another PC or Mac, or if no devices appear on the Networks tab in Finder, this might be due to a macOS network connection issue.
You can double check this by clicking Apple menu> System Preferences> Network. In the network settings menu, check the connection type in the left menu – the icon next to your connection should be green.
If this is not the case, you will need to perform some obvious checks (physical wiring, Wi-Fi connection, etc.) to re-establish the connection, then repeat the steps above.
How to view other computers on Linux
Linux software packages vary from distribution to distribution, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach unless you can see other computers on the network from a Linux PC – at least not with a graphical user interface.
To check if your computer sees other devices, you can use the arp-scan network scan tool to scan your network for devices. This is a list of all available devices on your network.
- The arp-scan package must first be installed to run this scan. On Ubuntu and Debian based operating systems, this can be done by opening a terminal and typing sudo apt install arp-scan.
- After installing arp-scan, type arp-scan -l in the terminal and press Enter. If that doesn’t work, try sudo arp-scan -l.
A list of available devices on your network will be displayed with IP addresses, MAC addresses and device types. If this command works, then network discovery is possible from your Linux PC and you will be able to browse and connect to other PCs using your Linux distribution’s file management tool or using a terminal.
If that fails, it most likely indicates a problem with your overall network configuration or firewall. You can take the usual steps (physical checks and connectivity tests) to try and resolve this issue.
If you are using Ubuntu, you can quickly view and connect to detected network devices by opening the File Manager app and clicking the Other Locations tab.
Set up your network properly
As the above fixes show, there are several ways to troubleshoot network connectivity issues if you can’t see other computers on the network. Most problems can be resolved with improved network setup, including making sure your device is properly connected to Wi-Fi or, if you are using Ethernet, wiring properly.
If your Wi-Fi connection is causing problems, switching to a wired network can fix the problem in the long run. Ethernet is better than WiFi in certain situations, but it’s not a miracle.
Share your tips and fixes for networking issues with us in the comments below.