Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Some Windows messages indicate something was set by your network administrator or just the administrator. That's probably you, even if you didn't do it.

Windows XP often advises that you “contact your network administrator” or it has a feature that has been disabled by the network administrator. But on a home network, one is the network administrator! How does one login as the “network administrator” (as opposed to a normal administrator account) or override these settings?

You're quite right. On your own network, you are the network administrator.

Whether you realize it or not. Smile

In many ways, it's a nod to the fact that Windows is designed for larger businesses where there's a great deal of network configuration and control in place.

Configuration and control managed by real, honest-to-goodness network administrators.

At home, you have no one to contact but yourself.

Disabled by the network administrator?

I actually laugh a little inside every time I see that message, because it's so silly in the home environment.

“Most of the time what you're faced with are simply the default Windows settings.”

No network administrator walked in while I wasn't looking and changed my network configuration. I'm the network administrator and I didn't set, change, or disable whatever it is that it's telling me I did.

The message lies.

Most of the time, what you're faced with are simply the default Windows settings. It came that way.

Frequently, these messages may pop up as a result of changes made by software (perhaps anti-malware tools) installed on your machine, or not uncommonly, by malware itself.

But not by some network administrator who doesn't really exist.

There is no separate login for network administration. If you can login using the administrator account or any account that has administrative privileges, you have access to everything that might be used to administer your network.

The question then becomes what to use?

Administering your network

To be honest, the best tool - next to having a friend who knows how to administer Windows networks, that is - is a search engine, such as Google or Bing.

There is no one place, setting, or tool to control everything that might fall under the purview of this mythical network administrator.

In other words, as much as I hate to say it, it depends.

You might need to make changes in the network section of the Control Panel.

Or you might need to run the Group Policy Editor - if your version of Windows has that, that is.

You might even need to dive in and make changes to the registry for settings that are exposed no other way.

You might need to use a third-party tool.

Heck, if it's malware related, you may end up needing to use your anti-malware tools to remove whatever caused the problem in the first place!

As you can see, there's no simple answer.

That's why I tell you to use a search engine. Take a concise description of your symptoms, what you were doing, any specific software involved, and take to the 'net. Chances are that you're not the first person to encounter whatever it is that you're seeing.


Why is always difficult to answer? In all honesty, I don't know.

But that doesn't stop me from guessing...

Here's what I think is going on: in larger corporations, network administrators need to be able exert control over the network in the form of assorted configuration settings, policies, and so on. It's an important part of how they control the security and acceptable use of their networks, as well as keeping corporate networks running smoothly. Things may have changed, but it used to be possible for a single misconfigured machine to wreak havoc on a large network segment, impacting all of the other computer users on it.

They don't want the users of individual computers on their networks making configuration changes. Period.

So, rather than saying, "Hey, this configuration setting over here is what's preventing you from doing whatever it is that you're doing," Windows simply reports that your network administrator has disabled - or whatever - that particular feature or access.

Folks in corporations will contact their actual network administrator or IT person.

Folks at home who are savvy will know how and what to fix, or will know how to research a solution on their own.

And those who aren't ... won't.

Misleading wording aside, that's kind of a good thing.

Networking is difficult and complex. It's hard to get working and easy to break. If you're not network savvy, then it's good to have that extra barrier in place. At the very least, it'll cause you to pause and carefully research the solution for your particular situation.

Or find someone knowledgeable who's willing to help out and become - perhaps for a moment at least - your network administrator.

Article C4865 - July 6, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

July 12, 2011 12:52 PM

I run my machine as Administrator so I have control, so to speak, over most of what happens.
Anybody else runs in Guest Account so they can't screw stuff up, on purpose or by accident.
Who do you trust? In my case, me, myself.
It's MY computer and if I screw up who can I blame.
"Contact the the network administrator."?
Ok, I can do that; I'm not running a network and I be the Administrator.
This might not help, but it's the way I do it.

July 12, 2011 1:46 PM

I mainly use XP Pro (though I have other Windows versions on other machines). This situation came up on my XP machine, so I decided to include a logon password at boot prompt a half year ago and have never received the error since it was done.

Mikey Kelliher
December 1, 2011 5:56 AM

I had Microsoft 2010. Until my computer was sent away to get washed and it got deleted and i was only left with the standard Microsoft 2000 any way i could get the product key back and get it working again?

Mark J
December 1, 2011 11:10 AM

I assume you mean MS Office 2010. The product key would either be on a card or sticker which came with the installation media, or if you bought the program on-line, it would be in the confirmation email you received when you bought it. Otherwise, you'd have to buy it again to get it.

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