Not so long ago, there was a time when it was rare for a family to have at least one computer. The idea that everyone would have a computer seemed ridiculous in the early days of the computer revolution. Nowadays, most people are armed with several powerful computing devices, both with them and at home.
If you have multiple computers at home, do you really need to switch between them to use them all? Of course not. You can use one mouse, keyboard, and monitor to control multiple computers.
The exact solution for you will depend on the configuration of your computers. Are they side by side on the same table? Are they in different rooms? The different methods of controlling multiple computers with one set of monitors and controls below are suitable for almost any combination of multiple computer settings.
Connect Two Computers to One Display with Multiple Ports
The first answer comes from modern computer monitors themselves. Most good monitors now have multiple inputs, just like televisions. Two HDMI or Displayport connectors are fairly common, but you can also have a monitor with a mix of VGA, DVI and HDMI. It all depends on his age and model.
To switch between two different computers with the same monitor, you need to enter the internal monitor menu and change the input.
The main advantage of this approach is that you can probably use a monitor you already own. The main disadvantage is that you still need two sets of input devices, or you have to manually connect your keyboard and mouse to a different computer each time you switch. For a computer that you only need to manage occasionally, such as a home media server, this is a fast and affordable approach, but not ideal for other situations.
Some ultra-wide screens can display input from two different computers at the same time in a split screen configuration. Which obviously has its own uses, but if you don’t already have an ultrawide monitor, it’s not worth going out and buying for that reason alone.
KVM Hardware Adapters
“KVM” is short for Keyboard, Video and Mouse . A hardware KVM switch is a physical device that can accept connections from multiple computers and then output them to a single monitor while accepting input from a single keyboard and mouse at the same time.
KVM switches vary significantly in both price and functionality. You can get a basic 2-port VGA model for about twenty dollars, or spend hundreds of dollars on a high-quality 4-port 4K device with some pretty unusual features like picture-in-picture options.
The big advantage of the KVM switch is its ease of use. Just plug everything in and use every computer without losing performance or potential software glitches causing downtime.
However, there are also disadvantages. First, all of your computers must be physically connected to the KVM switch. All displays and USB cables have length limitations before you need to start buying a signal repeater or simply connect to all of your equipment within a few feet of you.
KVM switches can also switch slowly depending on the specific hardware you are using. Switching between computers can take a few seconds, and if you have to do it constantly, it can be a little inconvenient.
Software KVM switches
Software KVM switches are not actually equivalent to hardware KVM switches in most cases. What you actually get is a software solution that allows you to use multiple computers with the mouse and keyboard of the main computer.
Each computer must still have its own monitor, and it must be in the same room with you. Examples of these software packages:
- Synergy (one-time purchase)
- ShareMouse (free for personal use)
- Input Director (free for personal use )
- Microsoft Garage Mouse Without Borders (Free!)
So these are actually KM software switches that don’t really solve our problem. However, if you combine a KM soft switch with our first solution in which we connect two computers to one monitor, you will actually get a KVM switch at no extra cost!
There are real KVM software like the Stardock Multiplicity (30-day trial). Unfortunately this product is not free, but you can try it to make sure it works for you. However, compared to the price of a hardware KVM, Multiplicity is a bargain that offers many benefits. For example, the lack of cables and the ability to install KVM computers that are very far away.
KM software switches like Mouse Without Borders even make it easy to use the clipboard and drag and drop files between machines as if they were one piece.
Remote Desktop Solutions
If you need to control two computers with a single monitor and hardware KVM switch is out of the question, what can you do? Especially if you’re not ready to shell out for a professional software KVM switch.
The optimal answer is to use a remote desktop client and server application. Typically, you run the client application on the computer you will be physically sitting on, and run the server application on the second computer you want to control.
The remote computer screen exists as a window on your main computer. You can increase it to the maximum at any time, in which case using it is like sitting in front of the car itself.
There are many free remote desktop clients to choose from, so it really seems like using a remote desktop app is the best solution, right? Well, there are many potential flies that could end up in this multicomputer ointment.
Since you are relying on a network connection, any problems with that connection could be a problem. No network means no control over other machines. A poor connection can result in poor performance, including audio and video latency. Also, if the remote machine freezes or some problem arises that requires a physical solution, you can’t just reach out and fix it.
There is, of course, no reason why you cannot use remote desktop technology with the machine right here. In fact, with a little tinkering under the hood, you can connect two computers together directly with an Ethernet cable and run remote desktop software over that connection, which is almost 100% reliable and more than fast enough.