Network Components

In Windows the networking is implemented by four primary types of Network Components represented by their generic Network Device Setup Classes.

Network Component Device Class Class GUID Description
Network Adapter Net {4D36E972-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318} A device that allows computers to communicate over a network.
Network Protocol NetTrans {4D36E975-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318} A set of rules that governs the communications between computers on a network.
Network Client NetClient {4D36E973-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318} Provides network services to the user applications.
Network Service NetService {4D36E974-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318} Provides some functionality for members or users of the network.

The registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Network enumerates the various networking components installed on a computer under the respective Network classes sub keys.

Network Adapter. A network adapter is a physical or a logical device that allows computers to communicate over a physical network like LAN or a virtual network like VPN. This Network class includes NDIS miniport drivers (excluding Fast-IR miniport drivers), NDIS intermediate drivers (which export virtual network adapters).

Network interface cards (NICs) are the physical devices by which computers connect to the networks for e.g. Ethernet, Wireless, Infrared

A few network adapters are purely software packages that simulate the functions of a network card. A virtual network adapter is a program (instead of a physical network adapter) that allows a computer to connect to a network. These so-called virtual adapters are especially common in virtual private networking (VPN), which is a network that uses a public telecommunication infrastructure, such as the Internet, to provide remote offices or individual users with secure access to their organization's network. A virtual network adapter can also be used to connect all the computers on a local area network (LAN) to a larger network such as the Internet or a collection of LANs.

Network Protocol Network protocols serve as a language of communication among computing devices. A network protocol facilitates device identification and data transfer. Specifies a network protocol, such as TCP/IP, IPX, a connection-oriented client, or a connection-oriented call manager. This class includes NDIS protocols CoNDIS stand-alone call managers, and CoNDIS clients, in addition to higher level drivers in transport stacks

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol

NDIS Usermode I/O Protocol

Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)

Point to Point Protocol Over Ethernet

Remote Access NDIS WAN Driver

Message-oriented TCP/IP Protocol (SMB session)

Point to Point Tunneling Protocol

WINS Client(TCP/IP) Protocol

Network Client NetClient components are considered to be network providers because they provide network services to user applications such as the Microsoft Client for Networks or the NetWare Client. If it provides print services over the network, it is also considered to be a print provider.

Network provider: A network provider is a DLL that supports a specific network protocol and enables the Windows operating system to interact with several types of networks without knowing their network-specific implementation details. The network provider wraps the network-specific functionality in a DLL, which exposes a standard interface to Windows. This enables it to interact with the Windows operating system to receive standard network requests, such as connection or disconnection requests. To handle these requests, the network provider then calls the network-specific API that is appropriate to the network protocol the network provider supports.

  • Webclient: Enables Windows-based programs to create, access, and modify Internet-based files.
  • LanmanWorkstation (Client for Microsoft Networks): Creates and maintains client network connections to remote servers.

Print provider: Print providers are responsible for directing print jobs to local or remote print devices. They are also responsible for print queue management operations, such as starting, stopping, and enumerating a server's print queues. Print providers define a high-level, machine-independent, operating system-independent view of a print server. Microsoft provides the following print providers with Windows 2000 and later:

  • Local print provider. (Handles all print jobs directed to printers that are managed from the local server. Localspl.dll
  • Windows network print provider. Handles print jobs directed to remote Win32 (NT-based-operating system or Windows for Workgroups) servers. When the job arrives at the remote server, it is passed to the server's local print provider.Win32spl.dll
  • Novell NetWare print provider. Handles print jobs directed to Novell NetWare print servers.Nwprovau.dll
  • HTTP print provider. Handles print jobs sent to a URL.Inetpp.dll

Network Service: A network service is a service hosted on a computer network and provide some functionality for members or users of the network. Network services are hosted by servers to provide shared resources to client computers. examples of a network services would include Domain Name System(DNS),DHCP, NetBIOS, HTTP, E-mail, printing, network file sharing services.