Automatically Turn On/Off Computer at Specified Time

I’m like a mercenary at times. Ask me to do a job or how to accomplish something and I’ll comply without asking any questions as to the “why” part. So, when a friend asked me how to have his computer automatically turn on and off at a specified time everyday, I granted his wish without bothering with why he would want to do so in the first place. Initially, he thought that this could only be accomplished with some sort of software, free or paid. After some thinking, I realized that both tasks could be accomplished without downloading and installation of any software. The method utilizes a feature/service in Windows that is very under-utilized in my opinion. That service is the Windows Task Scheduler. However, for folks that want a more simple solution, I’m also going to mention a free utility that aims to be an “alarm clock” for your computer.

Although I didn’t ask nor did my friend tell me the specifics of why he would want his computer to be turned on at a specific time each day, my guess is that it has to do something with either remote control needs or wanting the computer to perform a specific function at that specified time such as recording a show or having it scan for malware (although it’s a bit drastic to do that everyday). Whatever the case, I’m sure that a lot of computer users have once or twice thought about having their computer automatically turn on or off at a specific time. For example, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could have your computer automatically turn on at seven in the morning every Monday-Friday so that you can immediately begin using it as soon as you wake up? Whatever the reason you may have, the Windows Task Scheduler (TS) service can help you accomplish this with a little customization.

Before proceeding, please understand that the below method is used to wake up and shutdown your computer at a *specific* time. It is not on-demand. Such a feat can only be accomplish with a feature called Wake-on-LAN and I’ve written a specific article on that issue here. However, WoL can be a pain to configure especially if you aren’t that computer literate and even if you do have it configured correctly, it still might not work as expected. Besides WoL, I really don’t know of any other way of being able to turn on a computer on-demand when you don’t have physical access to it. You must remember that by using either of the methods listed below, you must put your computer either in the hibernate or standby mode in order for them to wake your computer up! If your computer is in the shutdown state, it will not work. Putting your computer to the hibernate stage saves you almost as much energy as if you did a shutdown. There’s a big debate whether it’s more appropriate to hibernate or shutdown a computer but my personal recommendation is to use both. Basically, it doesn’t matter. But if you configured a timed event to wake your computer up, please be absolutely sure to hibernate it!

Enabling Timed Events to Wake Computer

Before being able to have your computer wake up from a timed event (whether via a utility or through TS), you actually have to enable this feature on your computer! By default in Windows 7, timed events cannot wake your computer from sleep. I believe that a lot of users got frustrated when they couldn’t get their computer to wake up from either hibernation or standby even though they’ve set up the timed event correctly. So, before configuring a timed event, we need to enable this feature in Windows 7.

  1. Head over to Control Panel and open the Power Options applet.
  2. Click on the Change Plan Settings link.
  3. In next window, click Change Advanced Power Settings link.
  4. Under new Advanced Settings window, expand Sleep option and then expand Allow Wake Timers option. Under Plugged In, change Disable to Enable.
  5. Not necessary but to be thorough, you can choose to restart your computer after making the changes above.

Power Options AppletChange Plan SettingsAdvance SettingsAllow Wake Timers

WakeupOnStandBy

You can download WakeupOnStandBy here. It is a self-executable so no installation is necessary. Simply extract and use.

A very simple utility I found that allows us to set a schedule of when to wake your computer from either sleep or hibernation is called WakeupOnStandBy. At first, the GUI interface makes the utility seem very simple. However, upon looking at the included manual, you’ll see that WakeupOnStandBy is very feature-heavy. It allows you to set up specific tasks for the computer to perform when woken up, set conditions to have the computer go back to sleep, many command line options, export to a batch file and many more. You can read the manual if you feel like you would want to use these special features. The GUI interface should suffice for most users. All of the options have a help tip explaining what the option will do once you hover your mouse over it.

WakeupOnStandByWindows Task Scheduler

Using the TS to configure when to automatically shutdown and turn on your computer from hibernation/standby requires a bit more labor. We need to first separate the shutdown and wakeup events as two separate tasks. I’m going to go over the wakeup event first.

Wakeup Timer Event with TS

OK, so let’s first create an event that will wake our computer up from its slumber. Open up TS by typing in the word task in your Windows Start Menu search bar. The first result should be Task Scheduler.

Windows Task Scheduler

Once opened, we can now create a task. Click on Action | Create Task from the top menu. In the new Create Task window, you’ll see five different tabs that relate to different settings and options for our custom task. Let’s go over each one. Keep in mind that our main goal here is to wake our computer from sleep. Nothing else. If you want to have the computer perform a certain task and whatnot after it’s woken up, you’ll want to definitely do more research on this topic as it’s beyond the scope of this article. On the General tab, simply give your task a name and optional description.

General Tab of Task SchedulerThe Triggers tab is next and within, click on the New button. Here is where you get to specify a schedule for the task. Under Settings, you have the options of one time, daily, weekly, and monthly. In my example, I want my computer to wake up at 7AM every Monday-Friday. So, I’m going to specify the time and select the weekly option. Next, I will only place a checkmark next to Monday-Friday. This is all we have to set in this tab. If you want your computer to wake up at 8AM instead on Saturday, you will need to create a new task. Once finished, hit the OK button.

Trigger Tab for Task SchedulerNext is the Actions tab. It’s weird but we need to specify an “action” for our task even though our desired action is to wake the computer up. However, there isn’t an action where we can pick to say just that but it doesn’t matter as you’ll see later on. In this tab, hit the New button. You basically can specify the task to open up any program of your desire. It doesn’t matter what it is. Heck, you can specify for the task to open up Notepad if you wish.

Action Tab for Task SchedulerNext is the Conditions tab and equally the most important. There is only one option that you need to absolutely be sure to enable and that is “Wake the computer to run this task”. As the name implies, having this enabled allows TS to wake your computer up to run the task you’ve set in the Actions tab. So you see, it doesn’t matter what program or action you’ve specified to run. You just have to make sure that you enable this option to allow TS to wake the computer up. If you forget this one setting, your computer will not wake from hibernation or standby.

Conditions Tab of Task SchedulerIn the last Settings tab, there is only one setting that you need concern yourself with and that is deciding whether to delete the task if it’s not scheduled to run again. For example, if you created a task only to have it wake your computer at a certain time but never need to do it again, you can have TS immediately delete the task since you don’t need it anymore.

Settings Tab for Task SchedulerOnce the task has been created, it will now be listed under the Active Tasks summary window.

Obviously, you’ll want to test this out by first creating a task with a time trigger close to your current local time. Once created, simply hibernate your computer and wait for the magic to happen.

Auto Computer Hibernate/Shutdown

Now that we’ve created a task to automatically wake our computer from slumber, how do we do the opposite and put it back to sleep? For that, we need to create a simple batch file using the built-in Windows shutdown command. Don’t worry, it’s nothing hard. If you open up a command prompt and type in shutdown /?  you’ll see all the arguments that goes with the command.

Shutdown CommandBy using the shutdown command, we can either hibernate or shutdown the computer. Remember, a shutdown’ed computer cannot be woken again with TS. So in this example, I’m going to go with the hibernate option instead. The first thing you want to do is open up an instance of Notepad. Next, simply copy and paste this into it:

shutdown /h

The -h argument specifies to hibernate the local computer. Without providing any further arguments, the hibernation will take place immediately. If you wish to perform a computer shutdown instead, replace /h with /s instead. Next, simply save the file with whatever file name you wish to give it but be sure to give it an extension of .bat. For example, hibernate.bat. The batch file is now created. If you double click on it, your computer will immediately hibernate. Test it out!

Now, all we need to do is open back TS and create a new task similar to what you did above for waking up the computer. Configure the specific schedule you would want your computer to automatically hibernate. In the Actions tab, rather than selecting any program to open, browse to your shutdown batch file instead. As you can guess, once the task is scheduled to run (your computer should be turned on at this point), the batch file will be executed and your computer will now hibernate. Your computer will then awake again at the next scheduled timed event, if any.

So in this article, you’ve learned how to automatically turn on and off your computer at a specified time and date. There are probably numerous other ways of accomplishing the same thing but with different techniques. Now, why you would want to turn on your computer at a specified time is not for me to question. Just know that it is possible and with a little research, you could even come up with new ways to have your computer automatically do things for you that you normally wouldn’t be interested in doing yourself!

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Comments

  1. my cpu is going on and off automatically and the monitor screen is also not appearing…..whenever i turn on d cpu it is just going on and off after 4,5 sec and nothing else is happening….wt is the solution….pls help!

  2. Great blog. Helped me out loads!

    Cheers,
    Theo

  3. Thanks for the post. I got the laptop to turn itself on automatically after hibernate using Task Scheduler. But after about 10 seconds, it turns itself off. When I turn it back on, it’s as if it was turned on from shutdown. Any tips for making it stay turned on after waking up?

    • Hey Eric. That is a bit weird. Before continuing, can you try using the utility I’ve mentioned on the blog post? It’s called I believe WakeUpOnStandby. Try see if you can get that utility to wake your computer up from hibernation and similarly, see if the shutdown problem occurs again.

  4. Hi guys,

    We have this completely free software that can do the job, extremely easily :

    http://varyc.com/pcscheduler.html

    Hope you will try it, and please give us some feedback if you have the time,

    Thanks!

  5. Nice post, I have a media server which turns on and off automaticly turning off is achieved via Windows Task Scheduler but as i dont want to use standy or hibernate (just want the server off) i cant use the task scheduler to turn it on. I got past this problem thought by sending a MagicPacket to turn my media server on from a complete state of shutdown.

    Good thing my router supports scheduleing of MagicPackets :) . I think most modern hardware support magicpackets but they need to be enabled in the motherboard BIOS.

    • Hey Shane. You’re very lucky to have a router that supports WoL. As for many others, they either have to install a third-party firmware (very risky) or get a new router that explicitly supports this feature. I can’t do either unfortunately, because I have a special Linksys router that I need to insert SIM cards into for my house telephone. I can’t replace it and third party firmwares don’t support it (rare router model).

      But yeah, for the most complete control of being able to turn on a computer from anytime and anywhere is through WoL.

  6. Bit complicated procedure, but definitely useful sometimes. Though I find problems if hibernate too much 

    • Using Windows Task Scheduler might be a little difficult for some but it’s not too bad if you follow the steps. All you have to do is configure a schedule for when to wake up and hibernate the computer. Once configured, you don’t have to do anything else. I’ve also listed a free utility that aims to do the exact same thing but with a more easier to use GUI interface.
      Hibernate issues can be a pain to fix. There’s just so many things that can cause it to act weirdly. I would definitely check to make sure first that every device is up-to-date with the latest drivers, especially the video driver.

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