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Remote control for a personal computer

Arduino Computers & Mobile Technology
Remote control for a personal computer

Need remote access to your computer once in a while, but don’t want to leave it on and wasting power the rest of the time? Then you might want to check out this Remote PC Startup System by MAKE subscriber Blake Foster. He used an Arduino, Ethernet shield, and homebrew relay board to add a internet-enabled switch to be able to turn his computer on from anywhere he has Internet connection. He estimates that the savings on his power bill will pay for the hardware cost in about 3 months.

6 thoughts on “Remote control for a personal computer

  1. David says:

    Neat hack, but why not just use Wake-on-LAN?

    1. Blake says:

      Thanks for blogging my project!

      David, there are several reasons, namely (1) my motherboard doesn’t support WOL, (2) I want to be sure that only I can start up my computer (this system uses some rudimentary cryptography), and (3) I occasionally crash my system while working remotely (my research consumes a huge amount of memory), any if that happens, I need the ability to force the system to reboot when it isn’t responding.

      You’re not the first to ask this question, so edited the project page slightly to explicitly answer it.

  2. Cosmo says:

    Some motherboards support an add-on IPMI card ( which is designed for this purpose. Sometimes also called Lights Out Management (LOM). If supported these IPMI cards can be added often for $50. (Supermicro ones are nice)

    Anyway most home computers don’t support it, and I think you are right, an arduino + ethernet shield would easily be paid for by power savings… I think my server uses $10 of electricity per month.

    Now how would my wife get to her music collection is my only problem…

  3. says:

    My first thought after reading about this was…what about wake on lan? I investigated my own computers and found all but one of them support it. I can start those computers easily be logging into my router (via my NAS which is a low power Atom system) and initiating a WOL command. The one that didn’t support it was my high end gaming machine which has no option in it’s BIOS for WOL. Since it’s the one that uses the most power, I figured this would be a good project to implement for that.

    Between my gaming machine and my other high performance system, I should see quite a bit of power savings so long as I stick to shutting down my computers when not in use.

    The only wrinkle is getting them to auto-shutdown after their nightly cloud backup session with Jungledisk.

  4. says:

    Btw, the issue of the vulnerability of anyone in the world sending a magic packet to use WOL on your computer (either intentionally or accidentally) is easily taken care of by putting your computers behind a NAT router. The router can also help in the power savings by serving as your way of sending the WOL signal. SSH into the router and send the command and you can wake up all of your computers without needing to expose your computers via port forwarding. I personally use TomatoVPN firmware on my router which has the WOL functionality.

    1. Blake says:

      WOL is the first option I considered as well. Unfortunately, my motherboard doesn’t support it. Even if it did, the force shutdown option is important, since it’s fairly easy to crash a computer in my line of work.

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