Turning another PC on or off in your house remotely (Wake On Lan)

My large desktop PC with its dual monitors is nestled comfortably in the loft conversion. On paper this room is amazing with its clean laminate flooring, funky paint colours, a large Ikea desk, office chair, comfy futon for power naps, a book case and space to swing a cat. The trouble is,  I’m too lazy to go upstairs and the lack of decent insulation means it’s too stuffy in Summer and super cold in Winter. I prefer to develop code using my Ubuntu OS laptop using Remmina to remote desktop, whilst sitting comfortably on the sofa, near both toilet and kitchen! The trouble then is shutting down the computer and starting it up again without travelling upstairs.

Shutting down the Windows PC is relatively straight forward.

  • Save the data you want
  • Close your programs.
  • In a command prompt type
    shutdown /s
  • The computer will shut down in about 60 seconds

Starting the Windows PC back up again was a different matter. I’ve heard about Wake On LAN in passing, and thought I’d give it a go, and share how I managed it.

My setup is a very typical. I have a standard router supplied by a major ISP. My PC in the loft connects to the LAN via some powerline adaptors, so is nicely ‘hard wired’. My laptop is ubuntu, and connected to the LAN via WiFi.

Enable the BIOS on the PC

Your computer’s BIOS screen may contain a configuration to enable the Wake On LAN functionality of your inbuilt Ethernet card. I took a photo of my BIOS settings for reference. You can usually access the BIOS by holding F2 or DEL on your keyboard at initial boot time. It may take a few goes if you’re not quick.

Bios

Testing from the laptop was easy, search “Wake on LAN” in the Ubuntu Software Center and you’ll find gWakeOnLAN. If you’re interested in doing this from a Windows Laptop, there’s a link to software  at the end of this blog. The installation was painless. The only downside to this package is that it provides no feedback whatsoever, so you have no idea if there’s a problem or if you’ve succeeded. This is because the program simply sends a fire-and-forget ‘magic packet’ across the LAN to your device.

To use gWakeOnLan you need to MAC address of the network card of the target PC. Typically this looks like 6 pairs of alphanumeric digits  with colons separating them. e.g. 4F:DD:80:C0:FF:2D . You can discover this magical number on Windows by using a command prompt and typing

 ipconfig /all

Write down the ‘Physical Address’ line of your primary network adapter – we’ll need this later.

After typing in the MAC address in gWakeOnLAN and clicking ‘Turn On’, I was sadly disappointed that my PC didn’t turn on. However, I forgot to tick the checkbox next to the entry….. But that didn’t help either. Then I discovered a forum post that suggested I log into my router and make sure that the PC was given the same IP address every time it asked for one. It makes little sense to me, as I’ve specified the MAC address, but maybe this enables undocumented voodoo magic juju.

Hey presto! I can now turn my PC on and off and be a real couch potato! There are some caveats and further help I think you might find useful.
1. The PC doesn’t seem to want to start from cold. Only after I’ve had it running then shut it down, does this work.
2. The PC does consume some power while in this state, so be mindful of cost/fire/death/apocalypse.
3. Just a heads-up – If you’re doing this with a USB WiFi dongle attached to your PC, you may face a blocker. Wake On WiFi might be enabled on your PC, but I’ve read this only works if it’s a proper feature of your board/card. I may be wrong about this.

Here’s some extra screenshots of configurations in Windows that might assist you in troubleshooting.

Power settings Magic Packet Configuration

Here’s some web sites I used in my journey.

WakeOnLAN tools for PCs.
Wake On Wireless LAN
Topics on Microsoft’s TechNet
Ubuntu Community Topic
This forum topic was a wealth of information

I also came across a few mobile apps which can send the magic packet. Woot.

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