Use Wake On LAN with a Mac and iPhone

Using a handy network feature built into OS X and supported by most modern Macs, you can remotely wake a Mac from sleep using an iPhone (or iPod touch, iPad, and Android too). This is done using something called Wake On LAN (WOL), and it’s easy to set up in Mac OS X and use from a smartphone with the help of a free app. The result is basically the total opposite of the remote sleep tricks we’ve covered before, and instead of remotely sleeping a machine, you can remotely wake it instead, having the Mac ready for general network access or just quicker use. Let’s go over how to set this up.

First: Set Up the Mac for Wake On LAN Support

Enabling Wake On LAN support on supported Macs is simple:

  1. Make sure the Mac is connected to a network
  2. Open System Preferences from the  Apple menu and go to “Energy Saver” control panel
  3. Go to the “Power Adapter” tab and check the box for “Wake for Wi-Fi network access” (may be “Wake for network access” if device has multiple networking options) – this enables Wake On LAN in OS X
  4. Enable Wake On LAN in Mac OS X

  5. Now go back to the primary System Prefs window and choose “Network”
  6. Select ‘Wi-Fi’ from the sidebar and note the machines IP address provided to the right

If you don’t see the “Wake for network access” option in the Energy Saver control panel, the Mac probably does not support the feature.

It is also possible to get the Mac’s IP address from the Sharing control panel or command line, you will need this to match the ID of the Mac in question when you’re setting up WOL from iOS in a moment.

Second: Configure the iPhone App for Waking the Mac

Now you’ll want to preconfigure the iOS app (or Android app, more on that below) to have the Macs network information on hand, allowing for the remote wake trick to be used:

  1. Download an iOS app with WOL (Wake On LAN) support – Fing is multi-use and free which is what we’ll cover here (we like it for other uses too), but Mocha WOL is also free and does the job, or you can use a paid app like NetStatus
  2. Join the same wi-fi network as the Mac, then run Fing and tap the refresh button to scan the network and locate the Mac you want to wake up
  3. Select the Mac based on IP address, and give it a name, like “Wake On LAN Home”
  4. Scroll down and tap on “Wake On Lan” (yes do this even though the Mac is not yet asleep) – now the Mac should be saved in the list based on the hardwares MAC address, even if the IP address changes

Using Wake On LAN in iOS

You should be good to go now, so let’s test it out and make sure everything works.

Wake the Sleeping Mac with WOL from the iPhone

With everything configured, doing a quick test to confirm WOL is working is simple:

  1. On the Mac, pull down the  Apple menu and choose “Sleep” as usual, give the machine a minute or so to make certain it’s actually sleeping, or watch for the pulsating indicator light if the Mac has one
  2. Now open the Fing app on the iPhone, locate the “Wake On LAN Home” (or whatever you called it) machine that you configured in the second set of steps, and choose “Wake On Lan” again – this time the sleeping Mac will be woken up

Wake On LAN waking up a sleeping Mac from the iOS Fing app

This is easiest to test if you have another machine or device that you can run ping from to detect the WOL Mac has been woken up by network access, but it’s not necessary. The reason being, using the WOL protocol to wake a Mac this way does not necessarily wake the devices display to the standard locked login screen which greets a Mac user if they were to hit a sleeping Macs spacebar. Instead, the display typically stays black, but the hardware is awake and active, able to receive network connections, pings, and whatever else you want to do with the machine.

Now that it’s configured and confirmed to be working, you can remotely wake up the sleeping Mac using just the Fing app on the iPhone, so long as you are on the same wi-fi network. This is great for situations like upon arriving at home your Mac can be awake and waiting for you when you walk in the door, or for waking up a distant computer for an SSH connection, or for waking up your work computer when you step into the office door or, assuming wifi goes far enough, when you’re in the parking lot.

Troubleshooting iOS to OS X Wake On LAN

If you’re having troubles with setting this up or getting it working, you can try a few different things:

  • Double-check that the Mac and version of OS X supports Wake On LAN and it’s enabled (older machines and versions do not)
  • Be sure the iPhone (or other iOS device) is connected to the same wi-fi network as the Mac
  • Check to make sure the IP addresses are accurate, and more importantly, that the proper MAC hardware address is detected and used
  • Consider setting a static IP address on the Mac rather than using a random DHCP assigned IP
  • Try using a different app on the iOS side: if you used Fing and it didn’t work, try Mocha WOL… if you don’t mind paying for the app, you can also use NetStatus which lets you add hardware for WOL based upon MAC address rather than IP address alone
  • Be sure there are no network IP conflicts

You may want to run through the configuration process again too, making sure not to miss any steps.

Can you use WOL from an Android Smartphone to wake a Mac or PC?

Yes, Android phones can also wake Macs (or Windows PC’s) using the same Wake On LAN protocol, so if you don’t have an iPhone don’t sweat it. The initial OS X side setup is the same, but you must obviously use an Android app to wake the Mac and complete the second set of steps. The Fing app is actually available for free for Android users too, downloadable from the Google Play store, which would make the setup virtually identical to the steps outlined above, or you can use something called Mafro WakeOnLan, and it’s also free to use with a slightly different interface.

And optional setting that is available through the NetStatus app allows you to use Wake On LAN through the broader internet, this means you don’t need to be on the same wi-fi network to get it to work beyond initial setup. That is done by configuring the routers IP address and an open port that forwards to the Mac with WOL support – again this is optional, and other free WOL apps may support the feature as well, but you would have to check yourself. Because this sometimes requires router configuration, it’s really beyond the scope of this article.

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