Wake on Wireless LAN

Wake on Wireless is a feature to allow the system to go into a low-power state (e.g. ACPI S3 suspend) while the wireless NIC remains active and does varying things for the host, e.g. staying connected to an AP or searching for networks.

potential triggers

Here's a non-exhaustive list of triggers:

  • Reception of a user specified pattern (while connected)
  • Reception of a Magic Packet frame (while connected)
  • Disconnection from AP (while previously connected)
  • Network found (while not connected and looking for networks to connect to)


Use iw to configure WoWLAN before going to sleep.

Going to suspend

When the system is going to suspend, cfg80211/mac80211 will inform the driver if WoWLAN is enabled. The driver then sets up the hardware correctly according to the required triggers and when the bus suspend is later invoked sets up the device as a wakeup source.

Waking up

When the wireless NIC detects a wakeup event, it will wake up the host through the bus-specific methods:

  • PCI-Express: The wireless device will send a PCI-Express Power Management Event (PME) message and/or assert the PCIE_WAKE_L signal. The PME message can only be sent if the device's PME Enable bit is set. With PCI-Express devices can still use the PCIE_WAKE_L signal even if the PME Enable bit is cleared.
  • PCI: The wireless device will assert the PCI_PME_L signal to the PCI host. In order to send this signal the PME Enable bit must be enabled on the device.

Note that on PC platforms often BIOS support is required for these methods.

The platform will then wake up the system and eventually the device driver will be notified through the different resume callbacks to wake up the device. The driver can then inform the upper layers of the reason why it was woken up (if it received such trigger).

Random notes

Non-WoW frames which are received are ignored (dropped), but frames received should be ACKed by the STA wireless hardware without any help from the host CPU.

There might be issues with multicast and broadcast frames when using WPA/RSN if the device is not capable of rekeying – in this case the host must be woken up to handle the rekeying.

802.11 powersave and possibly SMPS will usually be used while suspended to save power.

Some devices support a keep-alive frame to send to the AP, which might be configurable. If supported, keep-alive frames will (at least for ath9k) be sent right after a TBTT, it can be configured to be sent in the order of 10 to 60 seconds.

This is a static dump of the wiki, taken after locking it in January 2015. The new wiki is at https://wireless.wiki.kernel.org/.
versions of this page: last, v13, v12, v11, v10, v9, v8, v7, v6, v5, v4, v3, v2, v1