Windows Users Readying for World IPv6 Day
The world will move to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) for one day on Wednesday, June 8, but just a small percentage of Internet users might be adversely affected.
World IPv6 Day, led by the nonprofit Internet Society organization, will be a global collaborative test effort by device manufacturers, operating system providers, Web site operators and Internet service providers to see if they are ready, after years of planning, to accommodate IPv6. The Internet Society estimates that 0.05 percent of Internet users could experience problems on June 8.
A preliminary test that all users can use to check if there might be connection problems before World IPv6 Day begins can be accessed at this IPv6 test site.
If users do experience problems on World IPv6 Day, it likely will be due to "misconfigured or misbehaving network equipment, particularly in home networks," according to the Internet Society. The organization recommends that individual users contact their ISPs if they have connection problems on June 8.
Windows Support for IPv6
IT pros running networks in organizations likely aren't prepared for World IPv6 Day, according to a recent survey. Even new routing equipment may experience problems, since some manufacturers have lagged in integrating IPv6 support. However, Microsoft has been preparing Windows for the IPv6 transition for nearly a decade, all of the way back to Windows XP Service Pack 1.
Those running newer Windows operating systems likely will experience "probably nothing" on World IPv6 Day, according to one Microsoft blogger.
Windows 7 and Windows Vista, as well as Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008, all use an "integrated IPv4 and IPv6 implementation known as the Next Generation TCP/IP stack," according to a Windows IPv6 FAQ. Other Windows versions have IPv6 support too, but Microsoft doesn't use that terminology. Those other IPv6-supported operating systems include Windows XP with SP1 or later, Windows Server 2003 and Windows CE .NET 4.1 or later.
Organizations or individuals using Windows 2000, Windows 98 and even older Windows OSes are out of luck. Microsoft isn't planning to support IPv6 on those operating systems.
Windows-based systems have some specific technologies that rely on IPv6. For instance, DirectAccess, Microsoft's remote client connection technology that shipped with some versions of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, uses "end-to-end global IPv6 addressing and connectivity," according to a Microsoft TechNet publication.
Another IPv6-dependent Windows 7 technology is Microsoft's HomeGroup, which helps connect computers in home networks to share multimedia files. HomeGroup relies on IPv6 and the Windows "Peer-to-Peer Networking Platform," according to the TechNet publication.
"Fix It" Support
Should users get into a bind with Internet connectivity issues on June 8, Microsoft provides a temporary remedy that will disable IPv6. Users that implement a "Fix it" solution described in this Microsoft support article will cause Windows to prefer the earlier IPv4 protocol. The fix goes away on June 10, however, allowing Windows to revert back to its default preference for IPv6.
"On June 10, 2011 at 12:00AM, your computer will be configured to prefer IPv6 again after your next reboot," the support article explains.
Microsoft's FAQ also describes a method to alter the Windows registry to disable IPv6 in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. IPv6 cannot be uninstalled in those OSes, unlike Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, according to the FAQ. However, disabling IPv6 will also disable any peer-to-peer Windows technologies, such as Windows Meeting Space, the FAQ cautions.
Microsoft itself will be participating on World IPv6 Day, specifically testing its Bing.com, Microsoft.com and Xbox.com domains, according to a Microsoft blog.
Benefits of IPv6
IPv6 is beginning to arrive just as the availability of Internet address numbers based on the current IPv4 scheme are starting to disappear.
Without IPv6, peer-to-peer connections could have problems, which might affect multiplayer games, according to the blog. Location-based services also could also get tripped up as IPv4 addresses dwindle. Security tools that use IP addresses could have problems if IPv4 addresses stop being available. Finally, businesses seeking to create new Web sites might be affected by an IPv4 address shortage, Microsoft's blog explains.
Microsoft provides guidance on setting up an IPv6 test lab, as described at this Microsoft blog, which involves setting up a network with five computers using Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7. Microsoft's guidance is part of its overall Test Lab Guides series, as described at this TechNet wiki.
A list of resources about Windows and IPv6 can be found at this Microsoft TechNet page. Another compendium of help resources is available in the "IPv6 Survival Guide." Finally, check this Windows Server forum for questions and answers on IPv6.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.