Windows 7 Cannot Access Shared Drive; Network Path Not Found

I had two computers running Windows 7, connected to one another via Ethernet cable through a modem.  I had been using that Ethernet connection to investigate networking security, examining one system’s files from the other system.  These two computers were an Acer Aspire, on which I had set up one drive as a shared drive, and a Lenovo ThinkPad, which I was using as the remote machine, to try to view files on the Acer.

I had been successfully viewing the shared drive on the Acer while logged in as Ray, the regular administrator user, on the ThinkPad.  Then I logged out of the ThinkPad and logged back in as Guest.  I tested a few things in the ThinkPad’s Guest account, and then logged back in as Ray and turned off the Guest account.  Then I tried to view the shared drive on the Acer, as I had been doing just a few minutes earlier.  Sadly, it was not to be.  Instead, I found myself staring at an error message:

Network Error

Windows cannot access \\ACER

Check the spelling of the name.  Otherwise, there might be a problem with your network.  To try to identify and resolve network problems, click Diagnose.

When I clicked the “See details” option, I got this:

Error code:  0x80070035 The network path was not found

I clicked Diagnose.  It seemed to indicate that the ThinkPad was not detecting its Ethernet port.  This was odd; I had just been using it.

A search led to the claim that the problem was not a matter of firewalls or antivirus software, as a number of people seemed to believe, but was rather a matter of a failure, by Windows 7, to resolve the shared computer’s name to its IP address.  The suggested solution was to give the shared computer a static private IP address, so that the remote computer could be told exactly where to look for the shared computer.

There were some suggestions that dynamic (also called DHCP) IP addresses were more secure, but after some browsing, a search led to the seemingly informed view that the dynamic approach did not add much to security — that, unexpectedly, there were actually some security advantages for the static approach.  Either way, it seemed, my computer’s IP address would be shielded from the Internet by my router or modem.  I decided to go ahead with the suggestion to give the shared computer a static IP address.  The steps I took to do that are detailed in another post.

For posterity, I should mention that I’d had Ethernet (but not wireless) connection problems on the ThinkPad previously.  I had tried Control Panel > Troubleshooting > Connect to the Internet > Troubleshoot my connection to the Internet.  It had said, “Your broadband modem is experiencing connectivity issues.”  But that wasn’t coming up this time around.  Back then, the problem really had been a defective modem.  I ran the troubleshooter this time around, a couple of hours after getting the “Windows cannot access \\ACER” error quoted above.  Now it was saying, “Troubleshooting couldn’t identify the problem.”

Once I had configured the static IP address, I thought I had to tell the remote computer where to look for it.  But apparently not:  by the time I was finished screwing around with the troubleshooter, I saw that the remote machine was recognizing the folders on the shared machine, and was letting me move files around and delete files, without any problem.  For the moment, at least, it appeared that switching to a static private IP address on the shared machine had solved the network problem.

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