Boot Camp Mac Mini – S3/S4 WOL Solution

Well, I finished documenting the “device hack” to emulate some sort of S5 solution for the Mac Mini, but most of you probably do not know that Boot Camp Windows does not support S3/S4 WOL (Wake-on-LAN). Say what?! Yes, it seems Apple’s Boot Camp Windows drivers do not support WOL properly, which means once your machine goes to “sleep” you are locked out. You can always move your mouse or hit your keyboard, but what if the Mac Mini is an HTPC being controlled by your Android phone or you are “remoting” in from work? Well, fortunately I have wasted several hours perfecting my own Mac Mini HTPC so you don’t have to, but it is basically another “device hack”. So although Apple gets kudos for the quality of their hardware, they seem to have some problems with the quality of their software although they are probably not really concerned with Windows drivers.

So getting right to the solution, it is basically emulating “movement” of your mouse or keyboard to wake up the machine; because these devices are usually connected via USB which becomes your WOL. To accomplish this, I decided to make use of the StarTech USB to Gigabit NIC adapter, which can stay powered on while the machine “sleeps” and then receive a WOL packet over the network.

StarTech USB NIC

StarTech USB 3.0 to Gigabit NIC with USB Port

I have the Mac Mini 2012 model, so it is sporting USB 3.0 ports but it does not really matter for older models and this particular adapter has a pass-through port, which means I do not lose a USB 3.0 port. Schweet!!! Now you just plug it into the back of the Mac Mini while still connected via Ethernet/WiFi and download the drivers, although Windows 8.1 should automatically install its own. You can also run Windows Update, which will also check for any updated Windows drivers and then you should see an additional adapter in your Network Connections.

StarTech USB Network

Windows 8.1 – Network Connections

Once you finish installing the drivers and the USB adapter appears in your Network Connections list, then you can DISABLE your other connections, if you want. If you are not a networking expert, then it would be best to only have a single network connection handling all your traffic; but if you know what you are doing then feel free to customize your network setup. As for me, I keep only a single connection, since I set up static IP assignment as all my traffic will be going to a single IP for RDP, IIS, etc so there is less confusion (for now). Now right click on the USB connection and click on the Properties option and then click on the Configure button, so we can make sure WOL is configured properly.

StarTech USB Configure

StarTech USB Adapter – Configure

After you click on the Configure button, select the Advanced tab and make sure the last few options labeled “Wake on” or “WOL” are all set to ENABLED. Once that is done, then select the Power Management tab and make sure all the checkboxes there are SELECTED. This will then ensure that your new USB adapter will respond to WOL commands from your network, which will wake up your Mac Mini from any “sleep” state. You can always further customize your Power Options so the machine sleeps after any amount of time you configure, but the important thing is that you now have “hybrid” sleep support.

StarTech USB Power Options

Windows 8.1 – Power Options

Remember, S3 is the “sleep” state. but with newer Windows versions you can reach an S4 state, where the machine goes to “sleep” but also prepares itself for hibernate mode. This is useful for when the machine is “asleep” and then the power goes out or you decide to turn off your HTPC remotely using the S5 WOL solution in my previous post. The S4 state is basically an enhanced version of the S3 state, so that your machine will not incur any data loss in the case of power loss, which can come in handy. So you want to make sure you go to your Control Panel in Windows and then open Power Options, where you then click on Change advanced power settings which will give you access to  Now you can use any number of WOL tools on your phone, tablet, etc to wake your Mac Mini so you have total control of when you want to use your machine without having to reach for a button.

Mac Mini HTPC

Mac Mini HTPC with 60″ Samsung Plasma and Scorpion accessory.

So there you have it. I have been using my Mac Mini as an HTPC, but some of you are probably wondering why I am bothering spending “extra” on accessories just to have a WOL solution. Well, the reality is that the Mac Mini’s role will expand beyond just an HTPC and probably become a central home server, so it behooves me to have WOL support in case I need to work on it remotely. I already have another Mac Mini running as an ESXi server, so I am able to run virtual machines for development purposes but I would rather have an all-in-one machine. Plus, it is possible that manufacturers will eventually release 16GB DDR3 memory chips; so then the Mac Mini 2012 can go up to 32GB. I really hope so, but now that I have finished documenting the WOL solutions I will be looking to document some of the virtual and software solutions I have running around here. I hope this entry helps someone else out there hoping to use the beautiful Mac Mini as their HTPC or home server solution. 🙂

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