Handy Wake-up Utility Succeeds Where RDC Fails

When you want to access a Vista machine using Remote Desktop Connection (RDC), you may sometimes encounter difficulties if the target machine is asleep. Though Sleep Mode is a great way to conserve energy when a PC is idle, but unless you go through some contortions to enable RDC to access a sleeping machine, you may have to walk over to the target and rouse it manually (on my Dell notebook, for example, a quick press of the power button kicks that machine awake). Although many sources claim you can simply instruct the NIC to respond to “Wake on LAN” (aka WoL) requests via interaction with RDC, I have not found this to be the case on all the sleeping machines I occasionally seek to access using RDC. No worries: there is another way to get there from the default Vista state. I’ll explain how in two parts:

  1. A preamble that explains what settings you must change on the target machine
  2. A description of a software tool you can use to send a wake-up packet to rouse a sleeping machine

Not every single element of the preamble may apply to all PCs, but they did apply to mine.

Preamble: Enable WOL on the Target PC

  1. Reboot the target machine, and enter Setup to check and possibly change the BIOS configuration as it reboots. You want to inspect settings for your network interfaces, and make sure Wake On Lan is enabled for the machine in the BIOS. I usually choose only to enable WOL on wired interfaces, because when I’m using wireless I’m usually away from my home network and don’t want my machine to wake up unless I tell it to do so myself.
  2. Right-click the Network item in the Start Menu, then click Manage network connections. Right click the icon for the network interface through which you wish to wake your machine, then click the Configure button to open its Controller Properties window. Then click on the Power Management tab, and make sure the checkbox next to “Allow this device to wake the computer” is checked.

Check out WakeOnLanGui.exe

  1. Visit www.depicus.com, then click on the Wake On Lan button in the left-hand column; download whichever version of the program is best for your OS and configuration. I used the WoL for Windows download myself, which downloads a GUI version of the program in a file named wolgui.zip. Unzip the file named WakeOnLanGui.exe to the directory of your choice, then launch the program. Don’t forget you need to download this program to the machine from which you wish to wake the target up, not to the target machine itself.
  2. You must supply the MAC addresss, IP address, and subnet mask for the interface on the target machine through which it connects to your LAN. I used the Local Subnet option in the Send Options: setting, and set the Remote Port Number to 7 (it’s usually either 7 or 9, so if one doesn’t work, try the other). Then, when you click the Wake Me Up button at the bottom of the program’s diminutive window, you should be able to wake your target machine across the LAN. You’ll be able to tell if it starts running, assuming you can see the target’s indicator LEDs; otherwise, wait a minute, then try running RDP and see if it establishes a connection (if it doesn’t something isn’t working properly, or perhaps a configuration setting is missing or mis-set).
Use dashes between the MAC address fields, and grab all this data from the target machine or use ARP -a

Use dashes between the MAC address fields, and grab all this data for the target machine with ipconfig or ARP -a

I tested this setup on a Dell Latitude D620 and it works like a charm. No more getting up to walk across the room to hit the power button. Now I can just fire off Wake On Lan using a Magic Packet to coax that machine back to life. Hopefully, this approach will work for you, too. If you hit any snags, please consult the excellent Wake on LAN FAQ or see the Windows Vista Forums posting entitled “How WAKE computer to use Remote Desktop?” If you find you no joy from either source, try a Web search on “wake on LAN <vendor make model>” where you replace <vendor make model> with the information for your target machine (for example, “wake on LAN Dell Latitude D620” for the target machine I used to drive this blog posting). I must admit to a certain perverse pleasure in waiting for the machine to fall asleep and then using the program to wake it up. I’m sure I’ll tire of this soon, but it’s a pleasant diversion at the moment!
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