Friday, 2 April 2010

A Tale Of Two Computers, One Monitor, And One Wireless Desktop

I have a tower PC and a laptop. Sometimes I use both at the same time, but it happens that I only use the laptop, and I'd like to have my monitor and wireless desktop work with that computer then. What I do not want, is to move the cables from the tower to the laptop and vice versa. Is there an elegant solution for this?

And then some. You want a KVM Switch. The 'KVM' stands for 'Keyboard, Video, Mouse' and these switches are designed exactly for that purpose. Many of them have ports for 2 PCs, and others have them for 4 PCs or perhaps even more.

Before you decide which one to buy, consider the locations of the PCs and the length of the cables you have - from monitor/mouse/keyboard to PC, and the cables that may come with the KVM Switch (some of them have the cables included or even integrated).

Also think about the connections you need: while today many monitors might still be using a VGA connector, perhaps you use DVI or HDMI. Also take into account that KVM Switches might come with a USB connection to get the mouse and keyboard talking to the PC, or with so-called PS2 plugs (the round ones with pins).

If you would happen to have a monitor connected via VGA and a USB wireless desktop (or even USB wired mouse and keyboard), I can recommend the Aten CS22U 2-Port USB Cable KVM Switch from Amazon that's yours for under 25 GBP. Cables are integrated so there is no need for additional shopping.

I just bought one, hooked it up, and taraaa it worked. The switch comes with a remote control, which actually is a button connected to it with a long thin cable. Press the button to switch the lot from one PC to the other and press it again to switch back. Easy.

One caveat: if the keyboard layout on your laptop differs from the one you'll be switching, configure the switchable keyboard on your laptop. In Windows Vista, you do this by
  • Clicking the Start button in the bottom left corner of your desktop
  • Control Panel
  • Clock, Language, and Region
  • Change keyboards or other input methods
  • Then click the 'Change keyboards...' button
  • Click the 'Add' button
  • Select the keyboard layout to add
  • Click the 'OK' button 3 times
Next to your System Tray (in the bottom right corner of your desktop) you will now see a two-letter indicator for the active keyboard, e.g. 'EN'. Click that indicator to choose another keyboard layout.

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