What do you do when you need to turn on a computer at a remote site that’s been shut down? You could call somebody on site, but that only works if they’re actually there. If you need access to a computer on off hours, during the weekend, or in another situation where having somebody turn it on for you is inconvenient or impossible, there is a simple solution. This solution is called Wake on LAN, and it is an effective way to improve your remote access abilities.

What is Wake on LAN?

If you have a Wake on LAN adapter on your network router, that means that you can remotely turn on any computer that you have set to work with the adapter. The network reads an incoming ping from a remote computer and then executes a command to start the sel ected computer. This turns on the computer but doesn’t execute any other operations. When doing work on a network or making software upgrades, you will usually only need to have the remote computer turned on in order to perform whatever tasks you have scheduled. If you have something more complex in mind, you might need to log in to the newly awakened computer remotely in order to perform the tasks you need to do.

How do you set up a Computer for Wake on LAN?

Most modern network adapters support Wake on LAN functions. If you have an older adapter, you might need to upgrade your software. Once you have an adapter that supports this function, you will need to enter a command prompt into the computer that will be booted up. This will allow you to designate which IP address can activate the computer. For most computers, the command string will be “ping” followed by the IP address that you plan to access the computer through. Once you have entered this command string, be sure to note the port number if listed. You can then use the “wolcmd” command string fr om the other computer to access the newly set up machine remotely.

Alternatives to the Command Prompt

If you don’t want to wrestle with the command prompt on multiple computers, there are other alternatives to activate a Wake on LAN option. Several software companies have free downloadable programs that set up this functionality automatically for you, freeing up your time to do things that you are more comfortable with. Two good free programs that you might want to check out in this regard include WOL and Fusion WOL, both of which give you visual prompts to help you through the process. If you choose to use a Wake on LAN program in order to configure things, you should do a little extra research. Specifically, you should make sure that any program you use is “magic packet” compliant.

Pros of Using Wake on LAN

A Wake on LAN setup can be an extremely easy way to access important office files and equipment remotely. It is an extremely flexible system thanks to the usage of the “magic packet.” This is a small packet of information that can be sent through a variety of different means and which always reads as a ping that will activate the Wake on LAN. This system is especially useful for network administrators or other IT personnel who are working remotely, because it allows them full access to a computer as if they are in the room with it. When combined with a good set of remote tools, Wake on LAN technology can be an almost perfect substitute to actually being in the office.

Cons of Using Wake on LAN

There are some security concerns that you should be aware of when using this tool. First of all, most Wake on LAN compatible adapters don’t differentiate between which computer is sending a magic packet. That means that anybody on a network with a compatible IP address can potentially access the remote computer. This means that you should be extra sure about your network security not only on site but also remotely. Wake on LAN can also have some unusual interactions with certain software protocols, especially those that require authentication. Usually, you can avoid these problems by making sure that all hardware drivers on both machines are fully up to date.

As a whole, Wake on LAN is a useful tool that can help give you a lot of versatility in your business interactions. Keep the information above in mind when you use it, and you should be able to get the most out of this helpful tool.


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