What is a Wake-on-LAN tool?

Wake-on-LAN (abbreviated as WoL) is an industry-standard network protocol that is used to remotely bring a computer out of low-power modes – that is, Sleep or Hibernate modes.

A Wake-On-LAN tool, therefore, is a network administration tool that is used to wake machines on a local area network (LAN) by sending the WoL protocol or “magic packet” to select machines that have the Wake-On-LAN feature enabled in their BIOS configurations. Of course, as we are just about to see, the Network Interface Card (NIC) should also support the feature and have it enabled.

See also: 11 Best LAN Monitors

Meanwhile, the magic packet is a simple, light broadcast frame that holds in its payload of 102B: 6 bytes of all-255 subnet mask (FF FF FF FF FF FF in hexadecimal) and the target computer’s 48-bit MAC address repeated sixteen times.

The above image is a diagram representation of a WoL magic packet being sent from 192.168.2.26 to 255.255.255.255:9.

If you just want a quick overview, here is our summary list of the 5 best Wake-on-LAN tools:

  1. SolarWinds Wake-on-LAN with Engineer’s Toolset (FREE TRIAL) Generates magic packets for waking remote network-connected computers from sleep or hibernate mode. One of 60 networking tools in the set.
  2. Aquila Technology Wake-on-LAN Provides access to the WoL feature in an intuitive GUI which lists network-connected PCs and status by MAC address.
  3. EMCO WakeOnLan Good for network discovery can detect computers in domains and workgroups by performing a comprehensive network scan.
  4. NirSoft WakeMeOnLan Can scan sections of a network and detect computers with WoL feature enabled and display MAC and IP addresses.
  5. Wake on LAN X Includes batch reboot capabilities which is great for working with updates.

Setting up Wake-on-LAN on a PC

Let’s take a look at how you can enable WoL on a PC computer and make it available for remote booting:

  1. Enter the BIOS – sometimes known as the setup menu – using the method that is specific to your computer.

  1. Enable WoL– you will probably have to dig a little deeper to find the exact sub-menu that holds the options (it is usually under advanced power options and the default setting is “Disabled”).

  1. Next, enable the NIC’s remote awake options – go to the Device Manager, expand “Network Adapters,” right-click on your NIC, go to Properties, click on the “Advanced” tab, and enable “Wake on Magic Packet”.

  1. The OS should also be configured to only allow WoL – On the “Power Management” tab enable “Allow this device to wake the computer” and “Only allow a magic packet to wake the computer.”

And that’s it; your PC is now ready to accept WoL packets and power on or off depending on the instructions. Don’t forget, the settings on MAC or Linux machines are a bit different from what we have seen here. And also, remember to enable broadcast packet handling on your routers.

NOTE: You can install a third-party WoL packet sniffer on your computers to keep track of WoL packets.

Why would you need Wake-on-LAN tools?

Here are two scenarios that would require the services of a WoL tool:

  • Perhaps, you can’t come into the office, but need some data from your computer; the easiest way around this issue would be to turn it on using a WoL tool, and then access it remotely.
  • Administrators can work on a computer or server that is in other location as if they were next to it – even if they were on another continent.

All it takes in both instances is to wake the computers up with a few clicks on a good WoL tool.

So, what are the best Wake-on-LAN tools?

Below, we have the 5 tools we have found to be the best-in-class WoL tools that are effective, easy-to-use, and have a light footprint.

1. SolarWinds Wake-on-LAN with Engineer’s Toolset (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds - WoL menu

SolarWinds Wake-on-LAN is one of the most popular WoL tools out there and is constantly given great reviews by satisfied network administrators. Perhaps what makes it appealing to most of its fans is the fact that it delivers on what it is supposed to do – remotely power on a networked PC; no muss, no fuss.

But, one thing is for sure, the tool takes its job seriously: it sends out multiple WoL packets – at intervals – to make sure they reach their destination. This can be appreciated on larger networks or those with high traffic where the administrator can even create batch files that automate the job.

SolarWinds Wake-On-LAN is a pleasant tool to use with an easy-to-navigate interface that can be used to control the computers that are on the same LAN as the administrator’s computer. It can work as well as remote ones that can be accessed remotely – even over the Internet.

This WoL tool can be downloaded as a standalone tool or can be acquired as part of SolarWinds’ powerful premium suite of tools: the Engineer’s Toolset and is available on a 14-day free trial for download and evaluation.

SolarWinds Wake-on-LAN with Engineer's ToolsetDownload 14-day FREE Trial

2. Aquila Technology Wake-on-LAN

AquilaWOL WoL menu

From Aquila Technology we get a WoL tool that is rich with features that can really help administrators by, for example, pinging computers and performing remote desktop access, and emergency shutdowns.

With the help of its simple GUI, administrators can also send out WoL packets to MAC addresses via broadcast IP or to a fully qualified domain name. The reply received can then help discover and add computers to the tool’s directory, and it can also listen for WoL packages – meaning there is no need for additional software to keep track of the packages.

The configuration can be exported and stored offline for future use, while Aquila’s event logs can help with troubleshooting issues.

Aquila’s WoL allows both CLI (Command Line Interface) and GUI interfaces and can be used on both DHCP and static IP address networks, and can even be used to shutdown Linux machines.

3. EMCO WakeOnLan

emco WoL menu

Although EMCO offers free and premium versions of their WoL tool, the former one won’t disappoint administrators. As a matter of fact, this tool was purposely designed to be a heavy-duty tool aimed at larger or corporate networks with heavy traffic flow through.

A unique selling point for the EMCO WoL is that network administrators can wake up multiple remote computers at once and on a schedule; this saves time.

You can use the network scanning tool to detect computers in domains and workgroups. Once found, it can find their MAC addresses using one of four methods – Neighbor Discovery (ND), NetBIOS, WinAPI or WMI.

Another exceptional feature this tool brings to the table is its ability to monitor networks in real-time and its well-describing email alerts. And that’s not even considering its web-based reporting API and security event correlations.

4. NirSoft WakeMeOnLan

NirSoft WoL Menu

With NirSoft’s WoL, administrators have the power to choose what section – or subnet – of a network they want to scan and then work with. This is because the tool allows for ranges of IP addresses to be set before scanning begins.

Once done, the result of the scanned network can then be saved in a list that holds relevant information like MAC and IP addresses. It is with the help of this list that the tool sends out WoL packets the next time its services are required – all it takes to wake computers up is a click of a button. Of course, there’s also the option of running it from a CLI.

NirSoft makes sure it regularly updates its tool which is available for Windows 8 and Windows 10 and is also absolutely free.

5. Wake on LAN X

WakeOnLANx WoL menu

Wake On LAN X is a tool designed with administrators in mind and is quite a robust suite of features that let you perform tasks like turning PCs on or off, and even reboot them in batches if need be.

This is a WoL tool that can be run using GUI and CLI modes which can easily be configured for better performance and in-depth results.

A unique feature that comes with courtesy of this tool is that it can tell administrators the last time a computer was booted. If that doesn’t impress you, how about the fact that it can tell how much disk space is available on a computer and also what system services on it have been set to “Automatic” or are simply idle.

Still not impressed? Well, how about the fact that it can be used for remote access? All this, for free, and you get the picture of why it is on this list.

Although we promised to give you five of the best Wake-On-LAN tools, we have a couple more “goodies” for you:

Best CLI WoL

For those of us who prefer to do things by solely using command-line interfaces we have:

  • MatCode MC-WOL – this one is for administrators who want a no-nonsense WoL tool that can turn PCs on even if they are on the same or different LAN segments.
  • Gammadyne WOL – this WoL tool can be used on computers that require passwords before they can be switched on and can be accessed via a specific port.

Wake-on-LAN from your smartphone

Apart from using a computer or laptop to send out WoL packets, administrators can also use their phones to control the machines on their network. The following video will demonstrate how that is possible while also showing how to configure a computer to work with WoL packets.

Things you need to take into consideration with the best Wake on LAN tools

Before we leave you with our choice of the best Wake On LAN tools, let’s go over some important points to consider before you start using them:

  • A WoL packet is uniquely “addressed” to each computer and can only wake a single machine. The payload of the packet is deliberately kept light with brief instructions so it can be easily executed by the circuitry present on the NIC – which usually runs on minimal power requirements. This means you may need to send out more than one packet to ensure it is delivered and executed.
  • The minimum requirement for sending a WoL packet is the target MAC address. In fact, IP addresses and DNS names aren’t as important as the packet operates at a level that is independent of protocol layers.
  • Since the WoL packet is basically a UDP packet there are no delivery confirmations sent back after delivery; in fact, there is no guarantee that the packet is delivered at all. This, therefore, requires multiple packets (with the help of batch files) to be sent out to ensure that the target computer is indeed up – by, perhaps, using the ping command.
  • WoL magic packets are broadcast packets (due to the ‘FFFFFFFFFFFF’ node number) which are usually frowned upon a LAN. In larger, routed networks, it is, therefore, configurations that need to be made to allow UDP packets to cross over routers and wake computers in other segments.

Once these points have been taken into consideration, it is just a matter of choosing any one of the best Wake on LAN tools listed above and implementing it.