Over the years, I’ve accumulated a number of computers, mobile devices and streaming boxes in my household. But I still like to keep my photos, music, movies and documents centralized on my main computer. Thanks to Windows HomeGroup sharing and iTunes Home Sharing, I don’t have to walk all the way up to my office every time I want to access those files. However, I do have to ensure that my main computer is powered on. Now, I could leave my PC on 24/7, or even schedule my computer to sleep and wake automatically at a certain time of day. But the method that’s easiest on my electricity bill is to only turn my computer on when I need it. Thanks to wake-on-LAN, I can do that without getting up off the couch.
The wake-on-LAN (WOL) protocol has long been used in IT settings to remotely manage computers, and it’s just as handy at home. With wake-on-LAN enabled, your computer will “listen” for a “magic packet” containing its MAC address while it is in sleep mode. The computer can be woken up by sending it a magic packet from another device on the network.
There are some caveats to this: First, wake-on-LAN only works with a wired Ethernet connection. There is such a thing as “wake on wireless LAN” (WoWLAN) but it’s much more complicated, and depending on your hardware, perhaps not even possible. Secondly, wake-on-LAN typically only works on your local area network. There are ways to configure wake-on-LAN to work via a magic packet sent from outside your home network via the Internet, but there are additional security considerations to factor in.
That all being said, WOL can be very useful for a house with many computers. Read on to learn how to set it up in Windows 8.
Enable Wake-on-LAN in Windows 8
Open Device Manager by pressing Win + X and clicking Device Manager.
You can also find it by right-clicking on the Start screen, choosing All Apps –> Control Panel –> Windows System –> Device Manger.
Expand Network Adapters. Look for your wired Ethernet network adapter (not to be confused with your wireless LAN adapter), right-click it and choose Properties.
Click the Power Management tab and check the boxes Allow this device to wake the computer and Only allow a magic packet to wake the computer. Click OK.
Find Out Your System’s MAC Address and IP Address
Next, you’ll need to know your computer’s MAC address (physical address) and IP address. To find the MAC address, make sure your computer is connected to your router via a wired Ethernet connection. Disconnect any wireless connections you may have been using.
Now, open the Network and Sharing Center from the Settings menu. In the upper-right pane, click on the Ethernet connection.
In the Ethernet Status window, click Details…
Your MAC address is listed next to Physical Address.
Your IP address will be the IPv4 address or IPv6 address, whichever is applicable. Note that this is the local IP address assigned to your machine by your router—it’s not the IP address that your computer will show up with on the Internet.
Write both your MAC address and IP address down and use them in the next section.
Send a Magic Packet
Any device connected to your local area network can send a magic packet. My favorite way to wake my computer remotely is from my iPhone. I use Mocha VNC Lite, which is free. I also use Mocha VNC to remotely control my computer once it wakes up (note: I run TightVNC Server on my computer to allow that to work).
To send the magic packet from Mocha VNC Lite, simply configure a new VNC host by plugging in your computer’s IP address (or computer name) and the MAC address.
Once you’ve given the program the correct IP and MAC address, you can send a magic packet using the Wake feature.
You may not get any confirmation that the WOL magic packet was received successfully, but if you try to initiate a VNC session, you’ll be able to tell if your computer is on or not.
If you want to wake a computer from another computer, you can use WOL Magic Packet Sender, a free Windows-based program.
Notes and Troubleshooting
Wake-on-LAN can be a little bit finicky, depending on how your system is built and configured. If you are having trouble with this tutorial, try some of these fixes:
Disable Fast Startup
One of Windows 8’s claims to fame is its fast startup, which uses a “hybrid shutdown” similar to hibernation whenever you “turn off” your computer. This hybrid shutdown / fast startup does speed up your boot times, but it has been known to interfere with wake-on-LAN. Personally, I didn’t have to do this step to get wake-on-LAN to work on my Windows 8 laptop. But if you have trouble, you might want to try this.
To do it, go to Control Panel –> Hardware and Sound –> Power Options and select Choose what the power buttons do.
Uncheck the option Turn on fast startup (recommended). Note you may have to click Change settings that are unavailable at the top. Otherwise, the option will be grayed out.
Enable Wake-on-LAN in the BIOS Setup
If you are running Windows 7 or earlier, you may need to tweak your BIOS settings to allow wake-on-LAN. Windows 8’s boot loader precludes any tinkering in the BIOS, but for earlier versions of Windows, you can press F2, DEL, F10 or whatever key is displayed when your PC first boots up to enter the BIOS setup. In the BIOS setup screen, look for an option such as “Wake from PCI device” or “Allow wake from Ethernet” or “Enable wake-on-LAN.”
IP Address vs. Computer Name
The easiest way to send a WOL magic packet to the right destination is to reference the computer name (“JACK-LAPTOP”). But if that doesn’t work, try typing in the IP address assigned by your router. You can use the method from above for getting your computer’s IP address, or you can check your router’s status page. Just make sure you are getting the IP address for the active wired Ethernet connection, and not a cached wireless LAN connection.
Still having trouble? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to help you out.