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How To Use One Monitor With Two Computers

Updated on January 4, 2012

If you're somebody who uses multiple computers on a daily basis -- whether it be a laptop and a desktop or even two different desktops -- you've probably wondered if there is a way to use one mouse, one keyboard, and one monitor with both systems without having to disconnect any cables. After all, disconnecting and reconnecting all your peripherals can be a major pain... literally! If you're anything like me then your computer is probably on the ground somewhere and your cables are difficult to reach. Additionally, where I come from at least, desk space is a valuable commodity and it can't be wasted on multiple sets of keyboards and mice.

Even if you just have a laptop, it can be nice to use a desktop keyboard and a real mouse for a change... not to mention using your desktop's larger monitor (which probably has a higher resolution as well). Well luckily, a product does exist that solves this entire problem! It's called a KVM switch and it is relatively inexpensive (especially considering all of the time and effort it can save).

What Is A KVM Switch?

A KVM switch, or keyboard, video, and mouse switch, is a small device which allows you to share one monitor, keyboard, and mouse between multiple computers. Basically, you just plug the peripherals that you wish to share into the switch once and then the switch splits the connection into multiple cables that you can plug into your other computers!

KVM switches typically feature two USB ports -- one for a keyboard and one for a mouse -- and a VGA port. More expensive models will often feature audio ports as well so that you can share one set of speakers with your systems. Additionally, if VGA doesn't cut it for your display needs, higher end switches will often offer DVI, HDMI, or Display Port options.

I personally just use a cheap KVM switch that I picked up during a Black Friday sale and it has served my needs perfectly. I like to use an ergonomic mechanical keyboard and a moderately high quality mouse so I can't afford to just buy one for each computer that I use. That's where the KVM comes in. With the push of a button I can switch my keyboard and mouse over to my Linux machine or to my laptop! Laziness drove me to buying this switch and now I can't fathom how I was able to work without it.

Use A Monitor With Multiple Inputs

If you don't want to spend the money on a switch, you can still use a single monitor with multiple computers. When shopping for monitors, just ensure that the one you're looking at has multiple inputs available. Typically you can find them with VGA ports, DVI ports, HDMI ports, and Display Ports. Just be sure to use a different type of port with each computer and you should be able to switch between computers using the switches on the monitor itself. It's essentially like how a television has multiple inputs.

Don't think that just because your computer only outputs in one input that you cannot use it. Adapters are pretty cheap online at either sites like Amazon, Newegg or Monoprice (it's a cable retailer).

Wireless Display Technologies

One final option is to use a computer and monitor set that uses a wireless display technology such as Intel WiDi. Now this is a fairly new technology and it's pretty uncommon, but if you are lucky enough to have hardware equipped with this at your workplace in school then it's another good option. You won't be able to share a keyboard and mouse between computers with WiDi, but it is probably the most elegant solution as far as displays are concerned.

So if you're looking for a way to share peripherals between multiple computers, try one of the methods above! :)


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