How many of you use a couple of computers on your desk? How many of you have often started typing, and realized you were typing on the wrong computer?
In the past, with multiple computers, we used to use a manual switch box, that would connect the keyboard, mouse and vga screen to different computers. This used to be a bit of a hit or miss experience because, in the old days, the computer would look for the PS/2 mouse and keyboard during bootup, and if it didn’t find it, then keyboard and mouse wouldn’t work even if you plugged one in.
So that is when the automatic kvm switches came in, they would automatically present the keyboard, mouse and monitor to each computer that was powered up, so this worked better. Press a button to switch to another computer, or use a special hot-key. Now, we were working, and this was fine for some time.
Then along came usb keyboards and mice, specifically wireless combinations. Some computers now didn’t have PS/2 keyboard or mouse ports, such as most laptops. That is when the usb KVM switches came our, and the most useful of those also allowed audio to be switched automatically.
I used one for some time, but the problem was that if we wanted a third computer, we needed a three port KVM switch, and then the cables started getting messy. The KVM switch generally needed to be within arm reach if we want to use the manual button (sometimes the hot-key doesn’t work). Then the cables either were too short, or much too long. I had an Aten 4-port KVM switch, the CS64US – which had two 0.9m and two 1.2m kvm cables – this worked well too.
Then I upgraded my keyboard to a Logitech G110 Gaming keyboard, with customizable keyboard lights, but this didn’t work through the KVM switch. Anyway, eventually I went back to using one computer, then having another work area when I needed other computers running.
Now, my desktop needs upgrading as it was running Vista Home Basic 32-bit – so I used one of my cryptomining computers, and built up a Windows 8.1 Professional machine with faster video for Steam gaming. I was looking around for a software KVM, and actually what came up is interesting, the Microsoft Garage Mouse without Borders, which allows keyboard and mouse sharing across connected computers. Ok, so monitor sharing isn’t included, but at least, I can run my original desktop on the left monitor and the new desktop on the right monitor. Eventually when everything is migrated across to the new computer, I can then end up with a dual screen computer – that’s more like it!
The software is easy to download – just go to http://www.microsoft.com/en-au/download/details.aspx?id=35460 and download the msi file. Then install it on the slave computer – just answer No if it has already been installed, it will show up a security key and computer name. Then install it on the master computer, the one you want to use most of the time, but this time answer Yes, and then enter the security key and computer name of the first computer. You can then set the monitor configuration appropriately, click Apply and now you can seamlessly share the keyboard and mouse across the computers, by just moving the mouse from one monitor to the other, and the keyboard will follow. Fantastic. Also the other mouse and keyboard will work too, but I plan to remove them.
This is just for Windows though, and is going to be good since Windows 10 is imminently about to be released and I might hold off migrating my applications until that is running well without problems.
Another thing, you can also share the clipboard, so copying text from one computer, you can paste to the other computer. Also drag and drop files too – what more do you want?
P.S. There is just enough room on top of my desktop which is to the right of both monitors to fit a small laptop – that could be my third computer. Mouse without Borders will handle up to four computers.
[Edit] It doesn’t work well if you want to play some Steam games, since some games try to access the direct keyboard and mouse and will throw up errors if there isn’t one plugged in. For non-gaming, I see that it is great and gives me back some desk space.