I use a remote desktop program (usually Microsoft's Remote Desktop) to connect to a Windows machine everyday. The remote computer has a fixed IP address, and if the computer is on and responsive, I can access it and even reboot the computer remotely if necessary.

Unfortunately, if the remote computer freezes (for example, if it gets a blue screen), as far as I know, I can't use a remote desktop solution to restart it. Similarly, if my computer is off, I can't use remote desktop to boot it.

I know that one solution is to ask somebody who is physically near the computer to press the reboot or power on button, but I am opening this thread because I am interested in solutions that do not require the physical presence of people to turn on or reboot a remote frozen computer.

Is this possible? If so, what are my options?

  • by the way, it is impossible to turn on a computer without pressing the power button; this is due to well, turning the computer off. A computer can only accept data over the network if it is turned on Aug 6, 2011 at 18:05
  • 8
    Nate, true, but you can still wake it from sleep with Wake-on-lan or Wake-on-modem. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wake-on-LAN
    – RJFalconer
    Aug 6, 2011 at 22:10
  • 7
    @Nate Koppenhaver your terminology is a bit wrong 'cos I think people often call that on/off switch on the front, a power button. Though one could also call the mains switch a power button. The correct term for what you refer to, would be the switch at the wall, at the mains, or the mains switch. Obviously nobody is stupid enough to think that a computer not plugged in / not getting any electricity from the wall, is going to turn on.
    – barlop
    Aug 6, 2011 at 22:11
  • 5
    @Nate Koppenhaver No, computers for years and years like 13+ years get power even when the computer is off, not sleeping. OFF. One of the power supply's wires is called 5VSB it feeds 5V in always. Try plugging a Ps2 keyboard into a ps2 socket and lights will flash. or a usb torch. wake on lan is in the BIOS and turns it on from nothing like you hit the power switch on the front.
    – barlop
    Aug 7, 2011 at 1:50
  • 2
    @Nate Koppenhaver ATX PSUs have all had 5VSB(the purple wire). And came out in 1995. So for your entire life they've been out! You have to go back to AT PSUs, before you were born, to find otherwise! They had a cord with a power button on the end, and a socket so the monitor plugged into the computer for power. I don't think computers even turned off with a command, you had to push the button, "It's now safe to turn off your computer"! and the monitor turned off with it . I don't know what you mean about different computer types power switch.
    – barlop
    Aug 7, 2011 at 2:01

16 Answers 16


Server-grade computers by most major manufacturers have provided these types of management capabilities for many years. Watchdog timers in the BIOS, COM-based Telnet console redirect, IP based COM, remote KVM, etc.

For a desktop-grade computer you have a few options:

1) Replace your system with one that has these types of management features (out-of-band management).

Intel offers their AMT (Advanced Management Technologies) on the desktop as well, which when adhering to the certain requirement is branded as vPro. (Basically a vPro-compatible board and CPU).

AMD has DASH; with similar requirements I'm sure. I've never used it, and haven't seen any 3rd party support for it.

I prefer Intel's AMT personally. All versions (that are 'vPro') allow shutdown, power-on, reset (hard), as well as a textual BIOS and boot view. The newest versions include a VNC-based "KVM" that allows you interact with the boot process as well as the OS, so it can be used to diagnose boot problems (BIOS, POST, Bluescreens, etc.) as well as end-user and OS support.

2) Get a remote-controlled power strip:

As echoback mentioned, there's products by DLI (Digital Loggers Inc.): Web Power Switch

I looked into this, and it was too expensive for small-time use. Perhaps the price has come down though. It was feature rich, but I've never actually used it.

Another option is Technology On Demand's recent iRemoteReset product: iRemoteReset

It is aimed mainly for auto-rebooting a router/modem combo (we use them mainly for that), but it shouldn't have a problem dealing with a desktop computer as a load. You can hit it by HTTP and reset the sockets manually (individually), as well as have it auto-reset due to lack of Internet connectivity, schedules and such.

3) Build an Interent-enabled robotic arm.

Robotic Arm


  • 21
    Don't forget ITAPPMONROBOT: thedailywtf.com/Articles/ITAPPMONROBOT.aspx
    – Fake Name
    Aug 7, 2011 at 5:10
  • 3
    If I happened to be walking past a computer as it was being turned on by a robotic arm, I think I'd mistake it for Skynet.
    – Maxpm
    Aug 7, 2011 at 20:01
  • 2
    +1 for a great answer, and because the suggestion about creating a robotic arm made me laugh (plus it's also a valid solution because it really could work). Aug 14, 2011 at 2:03
  • For the solution 3 - what happen if the robotic arms is damaged or not working? Sep 26, 2011 at 1:04
  • @LarryMorries Build another robotic arm that can doctor the first one, of course!
    – Suncat2000
    Apr 15, 2020 at 19:57

There's an option in sysdm.cpl -> Advanced tab -> Startup and Recovery section (settings) -> called "Automatically restart" that will automatically restart the machine upon a blue screen.

Machines that depend on remote access for configuration/support need to have this enabled. You can then check eventvwr.msc or use a utility like NirSoft's BlueScreenView to later determine the STOP code and find why it crashed.

There are many types of freezes. A "hard freeze" where even the mouse stops working has a high percentage of defective hardware as the cause and needs to be physically looked at when that occurs. I've had users say their systems are frozen, but the system is just "stuck" at some point and they can still move the mouse. I've been able to use Sysinternal's PsExec sometimes to get a remote command prompt and issue a shutdown -r -t -0 command which reboots it.

At my place of work, we are a Dell shop. A lot of newer "high-end" Dell computers (T5400 and T5500 specifically) have a feature called AMT (that we don't use for some reason...). Supposedly it is a component that lets you remote reboot (even if the system is hung or powered off) and access the BIOS remotely. I don't know if you can get something with similar capability on a PCI card. I'm sure other manufacturers have a similar feature in their higher-end workstations and something like this is likely what you want.

  • 1
    HP servers have a separate system within them called the Integrated Lights Out that has it's own power supply and everything and that polls specific system services at regular intervals. If certain conditions are not met (services don't respond in allocated time frame) the server is rebooted. It's a simple and very effective tool. I've often wondered how difficult it would be to integrate such a system into a desktop or home server system. Aug 6, 2011 at 19:01
  • "Machines that depend on remote access for configuration/support need to have this enabled." And it's useful for servers. For a techie not needing that would be better off with the crash than a crash and automatic restart.
    – barlop
    Aug 6, 2011 at 22:14
  • 1
    @music2myear Many Intel machines already come with similar technology. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Active_Management_Technology for more info.
    – Kibbee
    Aug 7, 2011 at 1:51

I haven't found a way to reboot a computer that is hung up besides a remote power switch device. I use this one ip-p3 and it supports rebooting over the LAN or telephone. It's $200 though.

If you need something a little simpler, you could check this one out this. It's only $100, but the features of the IP-P3 are a lot better.


Another option can be using a virtual machine. It might take some time to move your server to the a virtual machine but it is free anyway. (VMWare is very nice for this and is free.)

Once you manage to migrate your server, you can install remote desktop server to virtual machine and a text-based (ssh-like) server to the real machine. I don't really know it VMWare has support for console commands, but I bet they have. So, you will use the same desktop software and you will connect directly to the virtual machines, your using habits wouldn't change and in case of system failure, you can easily restart, reboot or even reinstall windows to the machine.

It also provides a wall of security as virtual servers cannot access the data above as long as you don't give permission explicitly.

But also, if the windows machine is used on regular basis on local(w/o remote) using a virtual machine can be, disturbing.

Another budget option which solves the hardware failures as well. You can buy a 2nd hand cheap phone which has a vibration motor. Dissamble the phone and remove the vibration motor, throw it away, open your mainboard connect the reset pins to the remaining vibration pins on the phone by a relay contact. (requires soldering)

So when you call the phone, it will try to vibrate and eventually activate the relay which will hard reset the computer.

There a chance that you can break the cell phone completely while trying to dissamble and solder it, but so long as you use relays correctly, it is nearly impossible to do damage the mainboard.

  • 2
    This will not help if there is a hardware problem.
    – yakatz
    Aug 7, 2011 at 2:39
  • 1
    True. But we should know our limits, hardware failures are not much common and OP claimed that he can call someone closer to computer to force a restart. Hardware-based solutions are, kind of, expensive. And I still think this is a nice workaround which is completely free. Aug 7, 2011 at 3:33
  • It now helps if there is a hardware problem as well =) Aug 7, 2011 at 12:41

Another option, though not exactly what you're asking for, is a "watchdog timer". This is an add-in piece of hardware that reboots the system if the timer is not reset in a given interval of time. (The reset is performed from a loop in a software module that continually checks system health.)

A few years back when I checked there were a number of different types of these being made, though I haven't checked recently.


They are not cheap, but many companies offer remote power switches which provide a web interface to toggle power to a given outlet. These are typically used in data centers and server rooms to simplify maintenance, so if you can find a place nearby that is getting rid of equipment, you might be able to work something out for considerably less.


In the case of Windows Remote Desktop Connection (RDC), which you appear to use, assuming it's not the blue-screen-of-death and just a frozen program causing RDC to hang, which is typically the case, I highly recommend PsTools. PsTools is free at Windows Sysinternals, the location of Mark Russinovich's developer tools for Windows. It's like using telnet in Linux, which you could also use in Windows for this by installing/enabling a telnet client locally and remotely. The nice thing about PsTools is that it requires no remote software installations.

After downloading PsTools and unzipping the executables into a folder, open a Windows Command Prompt and navigate to that folder. Using PsExec from the Command Prompt, execute the following command using the parameters that you normally use for Remote Desktop Connection (if you use VPN, you must login to that first to use the internal network syntax shown here, otherwise replace \\remotecomputername with the remote Windows computer's IP address):

psexec \\remotecomputername -u username -p password cmd

This will log you onto your remote Windows machine at the Command Prompt. You can then execute the following command, as if you were sitting at the computer:

shutdown -r -t 1

You can optionally add -f to the command to force the restart. To watch the whole shutdown and restart operation, before issuing that command, open another local Command Prompt window and ping the remote computer continuously for 99 seconds:

ping -t99 \\remotecomputername

If it is a properly frozen blue-screen-of-death situation, I'd use a networked AC power switch, power over LAN or auto-restart upon shutdown in the BIOS settings on the remote computer, and a networked RaspberryPi2 in an industrial-grade metal case installed near the power switch. That way, it should be trivial to issue commands to the RasPi2 over telnet to control the physical power to the remote computer for ~$150. You can obviously do other many interesting things by having a RasPi2 installed locally too, such as issue a shutdown command to the remote computer on weekends or at night or if there hasn't been any activity in the room for an hour, using a light sensor, range sensor, or the RasPiCam.

The original short version of this solution is posted here.


Check if your motherboard have watchdog timer. If it does (many do) then just install and configure proper software. Motherboard will reboot your computer if OS hangs.


Kind of an odd way to do it, but I have a home-made watchdog timer.

My Linux server instructs a PLC to perform various automation tasks in my house, but unfortunately freezes from time to time. I set my Cron scheduler to send a command to the PLC to tell it that it's still alive. If the PLC doesn't get the keep-alive command within its preset time, it clicks a relay that I wired up to the reset pins on my server.


Quite expensive, but it could be done cheaper. Get yourself an on-delay timer, and set it to say, a few minutes. Have your computer apply power to it (via printer port, breakout board) to keep the delay at a high value. If there is no power from the printer port, and the timer elapses, it resets the system.


  • Whats a "PLC"? Also, answers generally shouldn't have a "signature" or tagline.
    – Heptite
    Apr 22, 2014 at 2:16
  • @Heptite You can always suggest an edit (i.e. improve grammar, remove signature, etc). If you don't have the rep, other users can vote yay or nay to your edits, but makes our jobs easier here. Apr 22, 2014 at 2:30

Since you say your IP remains the same and is known to you, you can use this from the command prompt of your PC:

shutdown -r -m \\IP-Address

For example:

shutdown -r -m \\

The only limitation is that the remote machine should have been last logged in with the same user account as the user from whose PC you are running this command.


I also use a WSL system in a windows machine, and I access it through the internet to do some development.

I fixed it with two things:

  1. A WiFi smart switch. You can find them from $20.
  2. A setting in my BIOS.

When the PC becomes unresponsive, I turn it on/off using the smart switch.

I use a GA-Z97X-UD3H board, and it has an option in the Power Options part that is called something like "AC recovery". It controls what happens when the motherboard power supply turns back on. By default, it is on "off" but there is a "memory" option that will start the computer if it was on and will not start it if it was off when the power went off unexpectedly (i.e., without pressing the power button or shutting down normally). There should also be an "on" option that will always turn on your computer when power is back on, regardless of the state it was in. Depending on what you want to do (reset when the computer freezes or turns on when it is turned off), you may want to use either "memory" or, most likely, "on".

Disclaimer: The names are probably not the same as I wrote, but they are easy to find.


easy no watchdog? why buy expensive eth-switches ??? you have an analogue phone line near the computer?

just give this line a number only you use, (perfect if you have a i.e. FritzBox near the machien with a free analogue line) attach a relais (with rect. and cap.) and connect the relais-close to the reset-switch, in parallel to the existing reset switch. Now it the machine hangs, just call that number, let it ring one time, the machine gets its hit in the neck and reboots.

just wait for finish all this scandisk crap till its finished booting and continue your work.

  • 1
    can you elaborate more on this - like an illustration - what if there is no phone line?
    – Prasanna
    Apr 5, 2015 at 13:17
  • @Prasanna “what if there is no phone line?” strikes me as a cheap shot.  If there is no phone line, install one.  If analog phone service isn’t available in the area, then this answer won’t work for this OP.  No big deal.  It could still be useful to other people with the same problem.  … … … … … … … … … … … …  P.S. Congratulations on reaching 1000 reputation points. Jun 16, 2015 at 20:14

I know this is an old post, and I hate to resurrect. But there is a thing called the Windows Emergency Management Services. It requires a USB connection to another computer on the network. (I've been thinking about trying to do this over a USB-server/network extender device.)

It is limited in its authentication requirements however, so I would recommend if you have two servers, or a server and a management computer, that you could have these systems monitor each other.


It isn't as robust as HP's iLO or Dell's iDRAC, but it is both cheaper, and more featured than an IP controlled power bar.

Of course, your mileage shoehorning this onto newer server OSes may vary.

Updated link to newer system set-up information. https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-ca/library/windows/hardware/ff542193(v=vs.85).aspx


I have a similar issue and have been thinking of trying a wifi light switch wired to a relay so when closed it "pushes" the reset button. This to me looks like the cheapest option with some wifi switches at or below $30. Sadly I am still travelling so I am still using my brother as the reset switch. Just thought I'd throw the idea out there, even if this is an old thread.

  1. using RealVNC and sending ctrl-Alt-Del may solve the issue if you can connect remotely (this is possible even if the PC is frozen - RealVNC can comment on this)
  2. using another remote PC on the same location and using RDP or pstools to reboot the remote PC
  3. in my case, i am using all the above including Intel AMT and I created a small C# program to restart the pc forcefully (this is to make sure that i don't turn off the pc but simply re-starting it) when the computer is awake. Just to make sure that PC will be fresh again.

We had a Qwest Actiontec PK5000 hang up while we were out of town for an extended month trip. We had a security camera running through the modem/router and of course we lost usage of the security camera as soon as the modem/router hung. A friend suggested the cheapest route would be to install a timer between the modem/router and AC power supply and have it be powered off each day for 5 mins. Of couse during a non-critical time frame.

  • How is any of that have to do with the question? If you can't post a comment, in the comment section, DO NOT POST A COMMENT. I have literally said, stop posting comments as answers, like 50 times today.
    – Ramhound
    Mar 30, 2016 at 2:14
  • Like Ramhound said, this has NO relevance at all to the question. Please read the question again and understand how this does not answer it.
    – Eric F
    Apr 1, 2016 at 17:47

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