ethtool, WOL: What does "wake on physical activity" actually mean and (how) can I use it?


I fighting with the WOL settings of my Ubuntu box at the moment. The idea is to have an HTTP/SVN server to sleep while it's unused and wake up when it's accessed. So far, wake-on-LAN works and is activated on startup:

Settings for eth1:
        Supported ports: [ TP ]
        Supported link modes:   10baseT/Half 10baseT/Full
                                100baseT/Half 100baseT/Full
        Supports auto-negotiation: Yes
        Advertised link modes:  Not reported
        Advertised pause frame use: No
        Advertised auto-negotiation: Yes
        Speed: 1000Mb/s
        Duplex: Full
        Port: Twisted Pair
        PHYAD: 0
        Transceiver: internal
        Auto-negotiation: on
        MDI-X: Unknown
        Supports Wake-on: pg
        Wake-on: pg
        Current message level: 0x0000003f (63)
        Link detected: yes

As you can see, I also set the wol p flag ('wake on physical activity'). My assumption was that I could convince the device to wake up not only on magic packets, but on any network access. This, however, seems to be wrong.

What does this flag mean then, and: (How) can I misuse this for my evil plans?

-- Markus (cross-post)

asked on Server Fault Oct 31, 2010 by sunside • edited Mar 20, 2017 by Community

1 Answer


WOL typically requires a "magic packet" to actually "wake-up" a WOL system when it is "sleeping" or in an "off" state. The "magic packet" is a specific "message" instead of just any casual network activity.

Some NICs have advanced power management features where it can "wake" a system based on network activity, but like WOL not all models necessarily have this capability.

answered on Server Fault Oct 31, 2010 by user48838

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