Network discovery is a network setting that affects whether your computer can see (find) other computers and devices on the network and whether other computers on the network can see your computer.

There are three network discovery states:

  • On

    This state allows your computer to see other network computers and devices and allows people on other network computers to see your computer. This makes it easier to share files and printers.

  • Off

    This state prevents your computer from seeing other network computers and devices and prevents people on other network computers from seeing your computer.

  • Custom

    This is a mixed state in which some settings related to network discovery are enabled, but not all of them. For example, network discovery could be turned on, but you or your system administrator might have disabled a firewall exception that affects network discovery.

    Network discovery requires that the dnscache, fdrespub, ssdpsrv, and upnphost services are started, that the Windows Firewall exception for network discovery is enabled, and that other firewalls are not interfering with network discovery. If some but not all of these are true, the network discovery state will be shown as Custom.

Picture of the Sharing and Discovery section in Network and Sharing Center
The Sharing and Discovery section in Network and Sharing Center

Network locations

When you connect to a network, you must choose a network location. Based on the network location you choose, Windows assigns a network discovery state to the network and opens the appropriate Windows Firewall ports for that state. For more information about network locations, see Choosing a network location.