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I'd like to have a system at home to control my computer so I can boot it to different operating systems remotely and power-cycle it. Rack-mount servers have had this capability for years (IPMI). A few years ago I found an external system that you could plug in the computer power, video, keyboard, mouse, and network that would allow you to fully control the computer remotely over the network (just like IPMI, but for any PC), but IIRC that one was $200+ and I can't even find that one anymore.

I would like a device that transfers the following over the network to a remote computer for complete control from anywhere with an internet connection:

  • video
  • keyboard
  • mouse
  • power

it must be:

  • quiet (for home use)
  • less than $100

bonus points for:

  • CD/DVD drive remote emulation (mount image from remote computer)
  • General USB devices (plug device into controlling computer and use remotely)

Alternative solutions I'm already familiar with that don't fit the bill and why:

  • Remote Desktop and VNC do some of this, but cannot control power remotely, and can't function without the OS running, so they don't allow remote reboot to a different operating system or remote reboot when a system is not responding.

  • Smart Power Switches will allow remote power cycling but still won't allow selection of a dual-boot operating system.

  • You may be interested in Intel's Active Management Technology, the Management Engine and the vPro brand. Using a vPro mainboard with a vPro CPU should pretty much do what you need. – SEJPM Aug 26 '16 at 22:11
  • Teamviewer can be configured to automatically reconnect after power cycle but I think it has to reboot to the same operating environment. – Adam Wykes Aug 26 '16 at 23:17
  • @SEJPM: I'm familiar with the technology, I just haven't seen it in any reasonably-priced motherboards (ie. last time I checked, they were all way more than $100+ more than anything I'd consider for home use). – James Aug 27 '16 at 3:45
  • @AdamWykes: TeamViewer has no advantage over VNC or RDP. It also doesn't help when you 1. can't boot the OS, 2. want to reinstall the OS, or 3. want to switch which one boots without messing with the configuration every time. For example, I have an ASUS mobo that no matter what I do, forgets which drive I set it to boot from about 50% of the time when it restarts. It's very annoying to have to go into the closet with a screen and keyboard to reset the BIOS every time the power fails or updates get run. Yes I could get a new mobo, but again, another $100. – James Aug 27 '16 at 3:51
  • @James yes I know, that's why I made it a comment and not an answer. that's also why I literally said what you did, just in fewer words. – Adam Wykes Aug 27 '16 at 5:07
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Well, I'll tell you how I'd solve this problem. Not sure you're going to like it, but it does technically do everything you ask, so long as you have the right setup:

*What follows is mostly a software-based solution, with just a little necessary hardware. If that's off-topic for this site, I understand.*

  1. You buy a Raspberry Pi and install it on your LAN.
  2. On the Pi, you install some version of linux and configure it to support tunneling RDP over an SSH connection to another port in your network (this port will be open on your target machine). You also configure your network to support WOL from the Pi. If you like, you also configure it to serve as a PXE Boot Server, though you'll probably want to add a USB external drive to the Pi for that. If your target machine doesn't support PXE boot, you'll need to install a NIC that does.
  3. On your target machine, you install GRUB.
  4. On your target machine, you install whatever OSes you want, but it should have at least one on it.
  5. You boot into whatever OS is first in the boot list of GRUB.
  6. You reboot to the preinstalled OS of your choice using grub-reboot. This can probably be done from at least Windows 10, but should also be possible through more arcane means on older Windows OSes.

Some further tweaks: You can use PXE boot to boot to GRUB, which means you can keep the GRUB configuration on your remote access computer (the raspberry pi), modify its boot order there, and then push that via PXE boot to the target machine.

WOL comes in handy in situations where the target machine is turned off. So long as it has been properly configured in the BIOS, you can turn it on from the remote machine. From there, either preinstalled OSes or your PXE boot configuration can take over.

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