Q&A Monday: Remotely Turn on Computer?


I constantly turn off my home office computer when I am not using it to save energy.  I don’t think this is possible, but I thought there would be no harm in asking you the question anyway.  Is there a way for me to remotely turn on my computer when I am not in the office?  I find that, a few times a month, that when I am not in the office, that I need file on the computer, or I need remote access to a program that resides on that computer and its off.  Is there a way that I can turn on my computer from anywhere with an internet access without having someone physically turn the device on.

Howard Hernandez
Baton Rouge, LA


    This is a great question.  It’s a little known secret that some computer are actually capable of being turned on remotely.  To accomplish this there is some configuration that you need to do, but after initial set up it’s pretty easy.  Let me take a moment to explain how this works.  I’ve gotten calls from people in the past that after their computer is shut off a light remains on, on either the power supply or network card, and wanted to know if the computer is off.  The computer is off, but technically it’s not completely off.
    The computer may be waiting for a special command, called a “magic packet” to spring the computer to life.  Once the command is received the computer turns back on and is accessible, just like you went home/office and turned the computer on itself.
    To set this up, you’ll need to do some configuration.  You’ll need to go into the BIOS settings of your computer and see if the Wake on Lan setting is on, and if it isn’t then turn it on.  This will make the computer listen for the magic packet sent to it.  The next thing you are going to want to do, is decide what program you are going to use to send this magic packet, because it affects how you are going to configure your router.
    I suggest that you find a online Wake on Lan website, so that even if you don’t have access to a computer with pre-installed software, you can still be able to wake up your computer, now the downside to that is usually these sites already have a port then send the packed to, and you’ll need to configure your router to match.  In the one I have in this entry, you need UDP Port 9 opened.
    If like me, you carry a laptop around everywhere, then you can install a program, and then send the packed from that program.  The advantage there is that you can choose your own port to send to the magic packet to.  I would suggest that if you do that, you choose a higher port number so that you don’t conflict with anything currently running on it, or something you might need later.
    Another suggestion that I would like to make, is that if you haven’t already, sign up with a service like DynDNS.com, so that you’ll have an easy to remember hostname, then your current external IP address.  Also this gives you the advantage that if you ISP changes your IP address, the DynDNS software updates automatically too, and you wont have interrupted ability.  If you have a static IP address for your business or just pay for that luxury, and you don’t want to download and install DynDNS updating software, then you can find out your external IP address online.
    Once that is all configured then all you need to do is test out and make sure everything is set up correctly and make sure you computer comes online when you command it to.  To do that, you’ll need some information, like the MAC address of your computer and the external IP address (or the hostname), and test it out.  It’ll help you save energy and still give you the ability to get file or website stored on your computer.

NOTE:  If you have a Linksys router and you followed the steps above and you still couldn’t get it to work, then try the steps listed here, and use the work around.  Apparently Linksys has a setting that will conflict with the Wake On Lan request from getting to you computer.

If  you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question.  Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and check back Wednesday and Friday for other technical insights.


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