You’re quite right: you are the network administrator of your own home network.
In many ways, this terminology is a manifestation of the fact that in many ways, Windows is designed for large businesses, which feature larger and more complex networks managed by real, honest-to-goodness network administrators.
At home, you have no one to contact but yourself.
Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!
- There is no separate network administrator on your machine.
- Exactly what steps you need to take depend on the specific situation you facing.
- Network administrators are used in larger installations to protect the network and keep it running smoothly.
Disabled by the network administrator?
I laugh a little every time I see that message, because it’s so silly at home. No network administrator walked in while I wasn’t looking to change my network configuration. I’m the network administrator, and I didn’t set, change, or disable whatever it’s telling me I did.
Most of the time, these are simply the default settings in Windows.
… but certainly not by some network administrator who doesn’t really exist.
There is no separate network administrator, and there is no separate login for a network administrator. There is an “administrator” account, but it’s the administrator account for your entire machine. It’s normally hidden, because on most current machines, your normal log-in account already has administrative privileges.
As a result, you already have access to everything that might be used to administer your network (as well as your entire machine).
Administering your network
The best tool — next to having a friend who’s well-versed in administering Windows networks — is a search engine, like Google.
There is no one place, no one setting, and no one tool to control everything that falls under the purview of this mythical network administrator.
Depending on the situation that has brought this to your attention:
- You might need to make changes in the network section of the Control Panel or the Settings app.
- You might need to run the Group Policy Editor, if your version of Windows has it, to change settings therein.
- You might need to make changes directly in the registry for settings that aren’t exposed in any other way.
- You might need to use a third-party tool.
As you can see, there’s no simple answer. It all depends on the specific situation that’s causing Windows to blame the “network administrator”.
That’s why I strongly recommend you use a search engine. Search for the exact text of the error message you’re seeing, or a concise description of what you were attempting to do. Chances are you’re not the first person to encounter whatever you’re seeing.
Why even have a “network administrator” at home?
Here’s what I think is going on: in larger corporations, network administrators need to exert control over the network in the form of assorted configuration settings, policies, and more. It’s an important part of controlling the security, functionality, and acceptable use of their networks.
They don’t want individual users on their networks making changes to the configuration, or accessing certain functions at all.
Rather than pointing at the specific configuration setting preventing you from doing something, Windows simply reports that your “network administrator” has disabled — or whatever — that particular item.
If you’re working in a larger institution that actually has one, you then contact the network administrator or IT person.
If you’re at home and somewhat network-savvy, you’ll know what to fix or how to research a solution on your own.
And if you aren’t … you won’t.
Misleading wording aside, that’s kind of a good thing.
Networking is frustratingly difficult and complex. It’s hard to get it working and easy to break. If you’re not network savvy, it’s good to have that extra barrier in place to prevent you from making changes that could make the situation worse.
At the very least, I hope 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 — for a moment at least — your network administrator.
Subscribe to Confident Computing! More confidence & less frustration -- solutions, answers, & tips -- in your inbox every week.
I'll see you there!