If you use remote desktop, remote file access, or other server software, you may leave your computer on at home or work when you leave the house. This uses more power. Instead, you could simply remotely power on your PC whenever you need to use it.
This takes advantage of Wake-on-LAN. In spite of its name, it’s possible to set up Wake-on-LAN so that you can send “magic packets” that will wake a computer up over the Internet.
Set Up Wake-On-LAN
To make this work, you’ll first have to set up Wake-On-LAN normally. You’ll typically find this setting in a computer’s BIOS. Enter the BIOS and ensure the Wake-On-LAN option is enabled.
If you don’t see this option in your BIOS, check the computer or motherboard’s manual to see if it supports Wake-on-LAN. The computer may not support Wake-on-LAN or WoL may always be enabled with no related options in the BIOS.
You may also have to enable this option from within Windows, whether there’s a WoL option in your BIOS or not. Open the Windows Device Manager, locate your network device in the list, right-click it, and select Properties. Click the Advanced tab, locate “Wake on magic packet” in the list, and enable it.
Wake-on-LAN isn’t enabled in Windows 8’s default hybrid shutdown mode, so you’ll need to disable the “Fast startup” option if you’re doing this on Windows 8.
To access this option, open the Control Panel, click System and Security, click Power Options, and click “Choose what the power buttons do” in the sidebar. Click the “Change settings that are currently unavailable” link at the top of the window, scroll down, and uncheck “Turn on fast startup (recommended).” Your PC will start up a bit slower, but you’ll be able to use Wake-on-LAN.
The Port-Forwarding Method
Wake-On-LAN uses UDP. Many utilities use ports 7 or 9, but you can use any port you like for this. You’ll need to forward a UDP port to all IP addresses behind your router — you can’t just forward to a specific IP address. The Wake-on-LAN packet must be forwarded to every device running behind your router, and a device will only wake up if the information in the WoL packet matches it. This is known as a “subnet directed broadcast.”
To do this, you’ll need to forward the port to the “broadcast address,” which will broadcast the packet to all computers on a network. The broadcast address is 192.168.*.255. For example, if your PC has the IP address 192.168.1.123, you’d enter 192.168.1.255 as the broadcast address. If your PC has the IP address 192.168.0.123, you’d enter 192.168.1.255 as the broadcast address.
Access your router’s configuration page and locate the port-forwarding screen to configure this.
Some routers may not allow you to forward ports to this IP, so you may need to trick your router into allowing you to do this another way. You may want to look up information about forwarding Wake-on-LAN packets or forwarding packets to the broadcast address with your router.
You may also want to set up dynamic DNS on your router. Even if your IP address changes, you’ll be able to send a Wake-On-LAN packet to your router’s dynamic DNS hostname and it will arrive at your computer. Having a consistent hostname also makes it easier to remotely access services running on your PC.
Next, choose a tool for sending that magic packet. There are many, many different options for sending Wake-On-LAN packets. We previously recommended depicus, whose website offers a variety of free Wake-On-LAN utilities for any platform you might want. For example, you could use the graphical Wake on LAN Windows program, a web interface that allows you to send a packet from your browser, or an Android app. Free Wake-on-LAN utilities are available for every platform you might want one for — here’s one for iPhone.
When using any of these tools, you’ll need to enter four bits of information:
- MAC Address: Enter the MAC address of the network interface listening for the Wake-On-LAN packet.
- IP Address or Domain Name: Enter your router’s IP address on the Internet or a dynamic DNS address like you.ddns.com.
- Subnet Mask: You’ll also have to enter the appropriate subnet mask for the computer behind the router.
- Port Number: Enter the number of the UDP port you forwarded to the broadcast address .
The tool can then send a “magic packet” with the correct information and — if you’ve configured everything correctly — your PC will wake up.
There’s an easier way to do this. Remote access programs like TeamViewer and Parallels Access now have Wake-on-LAN support built-in, so you can skip some of the more tedious setup process and wake your PC with the remote-access program you already use. We’ll use TeamViewer as an example here because it’s the best solution for remotely accessing a PC’s desktop or even the files on its hard drive in our opinion.
You’ll find these options under Extras > Options in TeamViewer. Click the Configure button next to Wake-on-LAN to set them up.
TeamViewer allows you to use “TeamViewer IDs within your network” to wake a remote PC. For example, let’s say you have five different PCs at home. Four of them are powered off, and one is powered on with TeamViewer running. You can then “Wake” the other four PCs from within TeamViewer if you’ve set this up correctly. TeamViewer will send the Wake-on-LAN information to the one PC running TeamViewer, and that PC can send the Wake-on-LAN packets from within the network. You won’t have to set up port-forwarding, use third-party tools, or worry about the remote IP address. You will still have to enable Wake-on-LAN in the BIOS and device manager, however.
TeamViewer also has the ability to set up “Public address” Wake-on-LAN. This just allows you to initiate a Wake-on-LAN packet from within the TeamViewer application, even if all remote PCs are powered off. You’ll have to go through the port-forwarding process to ensure the PC running TeamViewer publicly reachable. You can then wake the PC from within TeamViewer rather than relying on additional third-party software.
The networking bits can be a bit complicated, especially if your router gets in your way and prevents you from changing the settings you need. A third-party router firmwares may be more helpful — in fact, DD-WRT even provides an integrated way to wake your PCs on a schedule by sending Wake-on-LAN packets.