Getting your home network set up for ease of use is a highly desirable goal to achieve, but what do you do when the computer you want to use as a media server lacks remote desktop support? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has some helpful advice for a frustrated reader.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Screenshot courtesy of TightVNC Software.

The Question

SuperUser reader regularmike wants to know how to remotely shut down a Windows computer lacking remote desktop support on his home network:

I have an older Dell Dimension desktop that originally had Windows XP running on it but has recently been upgraded to Windows 8.1. I plan on using it as a media server running Plex so that I can easily move files onto it over my home network and update the library through the Plex web administration interface.

I also want the ability to shut the computer down when I am not using it. I do not want to plug a monitor and keyboard into it, so I am not sure how to do this since remote desktop support seems to only be available in Windows 8.1 Pro for some reason.

The only thing I can think of is to set up a web server that runs some highly-trusted code that can invoke the shutdown command on the host, but I believe there must be a simpler way to do this.

How do you remotely shut down a Windows computer lacking remote desktop support on a home network?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor GeraldB has the answer for us:

VNC (TightVNC or one of the many other flavors available) is a freeware graphical remote control solution like the remote desktop feature you wanted to use and it supports Windows 8.x. VNC via an SSH tunnel is recommended for usage across the Internet.

Alternatively, if you enjoy the command line, try running an SSH server on your media server. You can then run an SSH client (like PuTTY) which would allow the automation of file transfers and access to the command line with high security. You can use the shutdown command inside of an SSH session or even directly from another Windows machine. This allows you to shut down or restart a local or remote computer.

For a low-tech solution, try holding the power button down quickly for a second or less (not the five seconds for a hard power off). Windows should shut down gracefully or go into standby mode (depending on the configuration).

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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