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Smart Home

Use Alexa to turn on your PC

If you've been looking for a way to power on your PC using just your voice, the search is over. The answer is a marriage between Alexa, Android and IFTTT.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Alexa gets smarter and more useful every day. I've talked extensively about how you can control your lights and thermostat, brew coffee and even order pizza using only your voice.

But reddit user garyngwind has come up with a simple and clever way to power on your computer using Alexa. Here's how it's done.

What you will need

The sheer number of components to this setup may seem daunting at first, but it's actually quite simple. If you're familiar with Tasker and IFTTT, it shouldn't take more than 10 or 15 minutes to have everything up and running.

To get started, you obviously need an Alexa-enabled speaker and a computer. This will work with Windows and macOS, and it should work with most Linux computers. This setup also requires an Android smartphone or tablet, and you need to download two applications to the Android device: Tasker and Wake On Lan.

Finally, you need an IFTTT account with the Alexa and SMS or Android SMS channels activated.

Step 1: Enable Wake on LAN

Once you have all the required devices, applications and accounts ready, there is a small amount of setup that needs to be done on the Android device and the PC.

On the PC side, you will need to enable Wake on LAN. This allows you to bring the computer out of a low power state, such as Sleep or Hibernate, using another device connected to the same network. Enabling this is a little different per computer.

Windows

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Screenshot by Taylor Martin/CNET
  • Click Start, type "Device Manager" and press Return.
  • Locate Network adapters and double-click to expand.
  • Double-click the device name or right-click and select Properties.
  • Click the Power Management tab and check all boxes.
  • Click the Advanced tab, click Wait for Link and select On in the dropdown menu.
  • Click Wake on Magic Packet and select Enabled in the dropdown menu.
  • Click OK.

macOS

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Screenshot by Taylor Martin/CNET
  • Open System Preferences.
  • Click Energy Saver.
  • Click Power Adapter.
  • Click the check box to the left of Wake for Wi-Fi network access.

BIOS

  • Shut down the computer and boot into the BIOS menu. How to get into BIOS varies by computer, but the hotkey -- usually Del or F2 -- is listed on the boot screen.
  • Locate WoL settings. It isn't always in the same place, as every BIOS menu differs, but it typically resides in the Power Management or Advanced Options sections. And the labeling of the feature sometimes varies, as well. In my BIOS, for example, it was listed as Power On By PCI-E/PCI under APM (Advanced Power Management).
  • Once the feature is enabled, save and reboot.

Step 2: Setup the IFTTT recipe

The IFTTT recipe is the pivotal part of this entire setup. You will be connecting the Amazon Alexa channel to one of the two SMS channels offered on IFTTT.

IFTTT Recipe: Alexa, trigger PC on connects amazon-alexa-us-only to android-smsIFTTT Recipe: Alexa to turn on PC connects amazon-alexa-us-only to sms

The first is Android SMS, which will use your phone to text itself. It requires the IF app to be installed. The second is the IFTTT SMS channel, in which IFTTT will text you from a designated number. The latter is limited to 100 text messages per month.

For these recipes, you can customize the trigger phrase, which I have set to default to "PC on."

Step 3: Tasker and Wake On Lan setup

For those who are not familiar with Tasker, it's a lot like IFTTT but for native functions on an Android phone.

You can create Profiles, which are similar to the This portion of an IFTTT recipe. These Profiles trigger on certain events, times, locations or the status of an application, and fire off any Tasks that are associated with them. Tasks are a lot like the That part of an IFTTT recipe.

To bridge Alexa and your PC, you need to connect Tasker and IFTTT through an SMS, your Android device and PC using the Wake On Lan app. It's actually much easier than it sounds.

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Taylor Martin/CNET
  • First, connect your Android phone to the same network as your PC and open the Wake On Lan app.
  • Click the plus sign in the lower right corner of the app and select your computer from the listed network devices.
  • Next, open Tasker and swipe over to the Tasks panel.
  • Click the plus sign at the bottom and give the task a name, such as PC On or WoL.
  • Click the plus sign again and select Plugin. Select Wake On Lan.
  • Click the pencil icon in the upper right corner of the app, to the right of Configuration.
  • Select your computer from the listed devices and click the back navigation button.
  • Swipe back to the Profiles panel and click the plus icon at the bottom of the screen and select Event.
  • Tap Phone and select Received Text.
  • Tap the search icon to the right of Sender.
    • If you used the Android SMS channel, find and select your own contact info.
    • If you used the IFTTT SMS channel, run the recipe once by saying, "Alexa, trigger [trigger phrase]" and add the IFTTT number to your contacts. Search for and select the IFTTT contact.
  • Press the back navigation button to finish the Profile and select the PC On (0r WoL) task from the dropdown menu that appears.
  • Make sure the Profile is toggled On and back out of Tasker.

Turning on your PC with Alexa

Something to note is that this setup does not work when the connected computer is fully powered down. It should be in a low power state, such as Sleep or Hibernate. It also will not work if the connected phone is not on the same Wi-Fi network.

With those things in mind, when you say "Alexa, trigger PC on," your phone will receive an SMS and Tasker will tell the Wake On Lan app to wake your computer.

There is a short pause before the SMS is sent, but in my testing that delay is typically only between 3 and 10 seconds, making this solution perfect for powering on my computer while I make coffee in the morning, before I ever open the door to my office.