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Whenever I think of a KVM switch, my mind turns to those archaic hardware A-B switches that used to allow you to hook up a parallel printer to two computers. Yes, these were the days before WiFi, high-speed Internet, and USB hubs. A KVM switch isn’t quite that archaic – it’s actually short for “keyboard, video and mouse”, and is a still-relevant device that lets you hook up one keyboard, mouse and monitor to multiple computers.

You can always buy a KVM switch for pretty cheap these days, or if you really want to save some time and money, there are a few software solutions you can use to operate two PCs with just one mouse and keyboard.  The most common is a Remote Desktop How to Use Remote Desktop Connections Like an IT Pro How to Use Remote Desktop Connections Like an IT Pro If you work in the IT department of a company that has an internal network, the odds are pretty good that you've had to make use of Remote Desktop once or twice. Remote Desktop is... Read More style solution, like various remote control 3 Tools to Control Your PC from A Distance Using Remote Access 3 Tools to Control Your PC from A Distance Using Remote Access Read More programs like WebEx Want WebEx-like Control Over A Remote Computer For Free? Want WebEx-like Control Over A Remote Computer For Free? Read More , or mobile apps you can use to control your PC The 7 Best Free Remote Control Apps for the iPhone The 7 Best Free Remote Control Apps for the iPhone Read More from your phone.

The other solution – the one I actually prefer – is the simplest and the most useful. That is, a program that allows you to simply glide your mouse over to the side of the screen where the screen of your other computer is situated, and the cursor will magically slide off of that computer’s screen and onto the other one, almost like you’re using the mouse and keyboard on a single computer!

3 Programs That Will Replace a KVM Switch

In this article, I’m going to cover three of the best applications available that will let you use two computers with a single mouse and keyboard, without very much hassle at all. That requirement is important because it actually forced me to shy away from reviewing Synergy Synergy- Multiple Computers On One Mouse & Keyboard Synergy- Multiple Computers On One Mouse & Keyboard Read More , after I spent nearly an hour trying to get it working on my two laptops without much luck at all. You’ll see how the programs I review below take under a couple of minutes to install, and barely five minutes to set up before you’re up and running.

ShareMouse

The first application that’s well worth mentioning is ShareMouse, which is probably the easiest of the three programs to set up and run. Simon mentioned ShareMouse ShareMouse - Use One Mouse & One Keyboard Across Multiple Computers ShareMouse - Use One Mouse & One Keyboard Across Multiple Computers Better even than a multiple monitor set-up, is the multiple computer set-up. A familiar phenomenon for the geek with a laptop for on the go and a desktop computer at home or at work. Instead... Read More briefly, and his article was actually the reason I decided to give it a test drive. The first bonus point is the fact that you don’t have to install a separate install for the server or the client PC. It’s one install for either. Once installed, it shows up in the taskbar as an arrow icon.

Hover over the icon to see how many other PCs on your network are set up with ShareMouse and ready to use along with this installation.

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On each PC where you install it, you can set up security features and network settings so that sharing out control of that PC can remain secure. But, one feature I really like more than the security options is the fact that you can set it to dim the screen that you’re not currently using.

share-mouse2

It’s not only a good reminder of your active screen, but it can also save the battery life of the other computer, if it’s a laptop.

Another awesome feature that isn’t always included in many remote access applications is the ability to easily drag and drop files or clipboard contents from one desktop to another.

share-mouse3

Under Monitor Manager is where you can configure how your monitors are physically located next to each other. You can drag and drop the screens anywhere at all. So, if you place monitor A underneath monitor C, then you’ll need to drag your screen down off the bottom of screen C to get the cursor onto screen A.

share-mouse4

Keep in mind that the free version of ShareMouse has some limitations. You can only use it with two computers and only two screens, and you can’t use it with a domain controller on the network, or on a machine with a server OS. I actually made the mistake of running it on two laptops, where one had an extra screen attached, and the software timed out after a couple of minutes. However, if you stay within the rules, you can use it for free, without time limits.

LiteManager

Unlike the other two applications I’m reviewing here, this one is more along the lines of a VNC viewer 4 Creative Uses For A VNC Server 4 Creative Uses For A VNC Server Other than just using VNC clients to connect to a remote computer, what can you really use VNC servers for? When you stop and think about it, the ability to connect to and control a... Read More . It allows you to use the mouse and keyboard with the other computer, but instead of sliding your mouse over to the other screen, the software displays the other computer screen on the screen you’re working on. It also requires that you install either the server or client installer file, depending whether it’s the PC where you want to control, or the one you want to view.

litemanager4

Making a connection is extremely easy. You just have to know the IP of the computer where you’ve installed the server software, and from the viewer PC you can just type the IP address into the connection name field and the IP address field.

litemanager5

LiteManager offers plenty of settings that you can use to customize the behavior of those connections, such as removing the wallpaper from the desktop you’re viewing, enabling or disabling clipboard sync (just like ShareMouse), blanking out the server screen, so no-one at that PC can interfere with what you’re doing, and more.

litemanager6

It’s definitely very flexible software, considering that it’s free. Once you’ve set up the connection, you’ll see a small icon in the Viewer software showing the remote screen. All you have to do is open it up and you can either take control of the remote screen, or just switch it over to view mode and watch whatever the person on that computer is doing.

litemanager7

Similar to many other remote control applications, the control icons are located at the upper center of the screen. Here you can switch between view/control modes, copy clipboard data, or even take a video of the remote screen activity.

litemanager8

If you prefer the VNC flavor of controlling the remote computer – keeping the screen view on your “control” computer’s screen rather than sliding the most over to the other computer screen, then this software is for you. It’s probably the best solution if the computer is located far away from your control computer and you still want to make use of it remotely.

Input Director

Second to ShareMouse, I think Input Director is my second favorite KVM switch alternative software. It’s fast and easy to set up – one install gives you an application that you can configure as either the Master or Slave application. Run the slave on as many other PCs on your network as you like, and you can use the one keyboard and mouse across all of them.

input-director9

Configuring the placement of your screens isn’t quite as pretty as ShareMouse, but it does the trick. Everything is done by IP address, making setup across all the systems you want to control a piece of cake – much faster and easier than the like of Synergy, which is just a pain in the neck to deal with.

input-director10

In seconds, I was connected between my two-screen laptop and a second laptop set off to the right. You know when the keyboard and mouse control is switching over to the other system because as you approach the edge of the screen, the cursor changes to this rippling effect.

input-director11

That tells you the software senses that you’re in the “transition” zone. Keep moving off the edge of the screen, and in less than a second you’ll be controlling your other system as though it was the very same computer. Very cool stuff, with lots of potential applications.

Have you ever used these or any other KVM alternative applications? What’s your solution? Share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below!

Image Credits: Robert Freiberger Via Flickr

  1. christa moeller
    October 3, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    OK well that's all fine and good, but what if one of those computers is not under your control? I want to use my work laptop at home, with my 2 monitors, so that I can switch to my laptop/monitor 1, and then hit a button and switch to my home computer - monitor 1 and 2. So essentially monitor 1 is the "switched " monitor, while monitor 2 remains constant to my home pc. I can't install any software on my work laptop. I was actually using a KVM (installed by my ex boyf) but I wanted cables to be neater and so went about unplugging/plugging, and now the KVM doesn't work anymore and I don't understand why. HELP!!

  2. bijan
    September 25, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Dude seriously u make this article based on shit seriously ur downing a kvm switch when the whole point of a kvm switch is so that the user can use one mouse one monitor and one keyboard for multiple desktops ur options are not the same so u should not compare and try to sound smart by this article these don't compare to a kvm switch ur options have 2 monitors u should make that clear before posting something like this which makes it try to seem like ur options are a better solution to a kvm switch when they actually are not the same.

    Bijan

  3. BenP
    September 9, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    I have 2 laptops with 3 external screens each (2 rows of 3 screens in front of me).
    One of the laptop is connected to my office VPN permanently which led me to believe that a KVM was the only solution. I purchased a IOGear but switching was very slow because I do not use standard mourse or keyboard (I used logitech wireless).
    I tried the ShareMouse software and somehow works OK with a laptop being on VPN - did nothing special, just worked.
    Also loved the cut and paster between the two (Use it a lot to share screen clips) - works perfect.
    Gladly paid the professional fees - will save me in productivity - PS: I am an individual user and not affiliated with anyone.

    • Coolchap
      November 24, 2016 at 4:16 am

      Hi Ben,
      I have similar requirement where 1 laptop is always connected to my Office VPN, whereas other laptop is Personal One. I have 3 monitors, but trying to find solution to share the three monitor setup between my office and personal Laptop. Could you please help me share the steps/tips ,so i can try mimic your successful configuration. Thanks in advance

    • Coolchap
      November 24, 2016 at 4:16 am

      Hi Ben,
      I have the similar requirement where 1 laptop is always connected to my Office VPN, whereas another laptop is Personal One. I have 3 monitors, but trying to find the solution to share the three monitor setup between my office and personal Laptop. Could you please help me share the steps/tips ,so I can try to mimic your successful configuration. Thanks in advance

  4. Gerald Reynolds
    June 30, 2016 at 1:10 am

    Sorry, but there are places where KVMs are still a must. Ron writes of one such. Anywhere that you need to manage machines during boot or at the BIOS level, software tools won't work.

    To do that with servers in a rack takes cabled hardware and a hard console at the rack so one can insert, remove, and boot from alternate media or hit special keys during boot to direct the boot process. There isn't time to power a server on and then run to a machine somewhere else and bring up a web browser or other software to do that; the window of opportunity would be gone before you got there. And in most cases such other software could not communicate with the server being managed until its OS was fully loaded.

    In that context, the Lantronix Spider KVM is an interesting product. It runs its own web server and can manage connected machines at power-up and in BIOS over an IP connection to anywhere. But if you have to be hands-on with the server during power-up even that won't work unless you have a laptop or something running a web browser at the rack. And (having never used one) I'm not certain that you can intervene during boot with special keystrokes through the web browser interface, or do it fast enough to be effective. So probably a conventional KVM is the only viable solution in that setting.

  5. Derek Smith
    June 1, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    None of these actually work reliably. I've tried them all. Constantly run into issues and lag.

  6. Walt
    May 8, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Kavoom! software KVM switch does all this, displaying whichever computer is selected on the main computer's screen, copying and pasting between applications on different computers, etc. Doing this with ONE screen is critical if some of the computers being accessed are in different locations. Kavoom! KVM is Windows-only, so can't display or control Apples, Linux, etc. It's problem, now, in the Windows world, is that it appears that it doesn't support Windows 10. :-(

    • JT
      May 23, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      Connecting to VPN kills software KVM.

  7. Ugh
    April 13, 2016 at 12:37 am

    Another article with no dates.

    And a KVM is for Keyboard, Video, Mouse - who explains this by using the word monitor instead of Video for a clear explanation.

    And the point to a KVM is that you only have one monitor & the article goes is all about having multiple monitors.

    The writer & editor should be fired!

    • Mat Kim
      August 1, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      You provided no useful information. Your post should be fired and I will accept mine being fired too.

  8. Ron
    April 6, 2016 at 1:39 am

    Not that I think IT or computer stores / repair shops are your intended audience, but in those scenarios, you need a good no-software KVM solution, to quickly switch between multiple systems on a repair bench and/or provisioning work area.

  9. shawn
    March 29, 2016 at 8:09 am

    Just get Synergy...

    Not sure why Synergy wasn't reviewed especially given the criteria:
    "use two computers with a single mouse and keyboard, without very much hassle at all".

    As a developer, I work across two laptops at minimum. Sometimes more.

    I tried Input Director early on. When I began working with multiple OSes (Windows, Mac OS, and Linux - Elementary OS), I needed a new solution as ID only supported Windows.

    I found Synergy, and haven't used anything since.

    Synergy supports all the features Ryan listed in the article sans ShareMouse's screen dim (which sounds cool, but I can live w/o it).

    Most importantly, Synergy is pretty easy to set-up. No need for separate client/server installs.

    I'm sharing because Synergy made my workflow so much more efficient I made a donation (as a freelance dev this is the best possible endorsement I can give a piece of software).

    • Donald Krebs
      June 30, 2016 at 12:01 am

      Yeah, me too. From what I see here, Synergy is WAY better that these. I have used it for years and there is nothing available that is anywhere near Synergy.

    • Sean Kethcart
      July 25, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      Synergy +1. By far the most reliable of this lot.

  10. Joseph Sweeney
    February 29, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    Like Ryan, I've been a fan of Synergy. Cheap (donation ware, actually) and well supported. I like (and use) it so much I went back and gave the dev an additional donation recently.

  11. Simon
    February 23, 2016 at 1:38 am

    Any of these apps can share touch input (touch screen) ?

  12. William Miller
    February 19, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Multiplicity has been my go-to virtual KVM. You can share controls over up to 9 PCs with their native monitors as a seamless desktop. Even more if you buy a special business license through their sales managers. You can set up audio sharing (which works surprisingly well on lan!), share files across computers, run it over the internet, and it even works as remote desktop software.

    Some features are locked into higher price models, but the 20 dollar model will net you 2 PC KM and audio features; the 40 dollar model gives you access to 9 PCs and all the features I listed here. Even more features are available in the 80 dollar and high volume licenses.

  13. ryan
    January 30, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    I've been using Synergy for years. Use it. It's the best software kvm around.

  14. AsdF FdSa
    January 26, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    good proposals for home / self employed scenarios.
    Not sufficient for many home office workers:

    I got my home office with a private PC, private Laptop, Job Laptop and Wife's job Laptop. Not enough space to enjoy more than 4 monitors / 1-2 keyboards - but always needing to be on the company network with Cisco VPN when working.

    Thus home = private LAN, job PC 1 = company LAN 1(through VPN), job PC 2 = company LAN 2 (through VPN).

    Frustrating - but still don't want to clutter up my home office desk with too many mice, keyboards, etc. Also don't want to work on the 12" screen of my job laptop permanently.
    Great example for why, even in 2015 you would still need a KVM switch for your multi-pc setup - unless you are a pure home user, self employed person or got the luck to work for a company not dictating use of VPN for working.

  15. sylvester stallone
    January 19, 2016 at 7:19 am

    Remote support software is a wonderful technology which helps businesses in providing efficient technical support, increased productivity etc. Tools like R-HUB remote support servers, logmein, teamviewer etc. are used for remotely accessing computers.

  16. Laura Leader
    November 16, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Glad I read this!

    For me the main point of KVM would be because I have two monitors plugged into my main PC, and I'd like to use those with other PC's without having to buy dual monitors for all other pc's and physically reposition myself to be looking at the other PC. Two of these options sound like they only switch the mouse & keyboard.

    I was intrigued by the remote PC one then I suddenly realized - I already HAVE remote PC software (screen connect). DUH! That doesn't give me dual monitors when I connect to the other PC, but it at least lets me stay seated where I am, facing the same way. So now I know I've had a workable solution all along...

    I was just looking on-line for KVM switches and I don't know the quality, but it seems the ones that say they can handle dual monitors start around $150 each.

    • Jessica Bean
      December 14, 2015 at 5:26 pm

      Amazon has TP-Link, 4 monitor/PC hookup KVMs for $45. Just Google for KVM switches and you'll find a plethora of options...

  17. John Meise
    November 8, 2015 at 4:34 am

    "You can always buy a KVM switch for pretty cheap these days," I would just like to say that this is absolutely not true what-so-ever, even today. It certainly wasn't true 3 years ago. The cheapest KVM switch that will work for todays setups that I've found (that is, HDMI or DVI, and USB) was close to $300.

    • Ben
      November 11, 2015 at 10:09 pm

      In some places $300 is cheap, just saying.....

  18. mbogoit
    October 18, 2015 at 10:48 am

    i agree with #Ted de Castro Team Viewer not mentioned anywhere... REALYYYYYYYYYYY?????????????????

    Its free version is by far the most appropriate when it comes to remote login. am not discrediting the above tools but i think they are more associated to I.T guys yet Team Viewer can be used by anyone...

    • Jessica Bean
      December 14, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      TeamViewer is laggy as hell. It's a workable option, but can be very frustrating. I use it to manage the PC of my elderly grandmother who lives 4 hours away.

  19. William McShivers
    September 20, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    http://synergy-project.org/nightly

    - I'll just leave this here. Best way to handle multiple machines. Right now I'm running Windows 10, linux mint, and hackintosh machines all right next to each other on 3 screens with 1 mouse and keyboard.

  20. Ted de Castro
    June 24, 2015 at 9:36 pm

    I read this article and "3 Tools to Control Your PC from A Distance Using Remote Access" and I am surprised that neither mentioned Team Viewer! This FREE for personal use program will let you remote control another PC or android device from a PC or android device. The remote/slave computer can even be headless!! Unlike some of the programs mention in this article. I used it to rescue a PC with a dead monitor to remotely adjust parameters for a new video card supporting the replacement higher resolution monitor while the pc was still without a monitor - and did all this from my android phone. It works well for remote use INCLUDING Wake-On-Lan!

    BTW - this article did not include source or price for the software mentioned.

    • Jessica Bean
      December 14, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      It also works with iOS. Overall it works very well and it's great if you need to remote to a PC for some reason, but the interface can be pretty laggy and frustrating at times. I use it to manage my families various machines when they call asking for help, but this process always takes longer than it would in person due to the input and response lag. I'm on a 60Mbps connection and I use TeamViewer to access the multiple PC's in my own home as well and it's frustrating on my local network as well...

  21. ozzjay
    June 15, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    Can any of these link a PC with a Mac? I have a PC for work with 4 monitors. I use a Mac for music software. It would be nice to use the same workstation to save money and space.

  22. Sven Hansen
    April 8, 2015 at 3:38 am

    For what its worth. I am running the following
    1) Laptop w/monitor
    2) PC with 3 Monitors
    3) PC with 1 Monitor
    4) PC with 1 Monitor
    In addition 2 PCS remote but in room (can't see monitors)
    5) 1 keyboard and Mouse

    Controlling this I am using Multiplicity from Edgerunner.

    Items 1 thru 4 I use SEAMLESS mode the monitors are sitting 5 with 1 above. (Laptop Left, 3 Monitor PC middle (and primary system) and Server right. Also Email machine Above. Wife's computer (5th machine) and Son's computer (far away) are being handled with KVM mode .

    Only problem thus far has been the mouse goes crazy when I try to do play WOW on my wifes machine from my monitor. no idea why.

    Else best 79 bucks I ever spent.

  23. Seaeagle
    March 18, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Guidance please ?

    I'm currently running a 3 monitor display (2560 x 1440) from 1 pc with windows 7 pro.

    If I want to add 1 more PC to this set up so I can switch between the two using the same monitors, am I able to do this with any of these softwares or do I have to go down the KVM switch route ?

    From what I've read above sounds as if you can move between pc's however they need their own monitors attached ??

    Many thanks

    • Sven Hansen
      April 8, 2015 at 3:53 am

      Not sure if anyone responded, but see my post immediately below yours. I don't believe you will be able to share all three monitors on two machines with a software KVM. If indeed you find one that is possible, i'd love to know about it.

      SH

  24. Ptk
    March 13, 2015 at 8:26 am

    Agree - the artcle's premise is flawed - it does not replace a KVM because of BIOS level access and Multiple minitor requirement.....

  25. Anon
    March 2, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Very misleading article, obviously no software solution will ever replace a hardware KVM in situations where you need access to the various devices before an OS boots up (BIOS config, OS installs), or when network connectivity within the particular OS is not an option.

  26. Dan
    March 5, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    MaxiVista been around some 13 years and is good... it's like $39... Mouse without borders is good for free.... The ShareMouse looks good... I need to try it.

  27. john9er
    February 7, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Mouse w/o borders is a pretty good KM solution from Microsoft and is free.
    If you don't mind spending a few bucks KAvoom KVM and KM is pretty good too.

  28. J. Dennis Switz
    October 5, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    ShareMouse is free (for "non-power" users). I've just completed the (very simple) setup and it works great, for my application. My home network includes a work laptop and a home theater PC setup to control a TV. The HTPC runs XBMC as the primary application. I often work on my laptop while XBMC is playing from my music or DVD collection, or streaming online video content. With sharemouse, I can easily switch to the TV screen to control XBMC (load a playlist, movie, etc.), then easily switch back to my laptop screen to continue my work. The author does mention a two system /two screen limit on the free version. I cannot verify the limit at this point, as I've only attempted to (and only need it to) run two system. I first installed Sharemouse on the laptop. Sharemouse installation automatically configures the firewall and installs a service (a "bypass" of Windows User Account Control). On the completion of installation, a Sharemouse system tray tooltip indicated the detection of another machine on the network, and instructed installation was required on the other machine. As soon as I completed the second installation, matching open UDP ports, the application was functional. This is a small (less than 2 MB), simple, polished, very functional, FREE application. Thanks!

  29. J. Dennis Switz
    October 5, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Sharemouse is free (for "non-power" users). I've just completed the (very simple) setup and it works great, for my application. My home network includes a work laptop and a home theater PC setup to control the TV. The HTPC runs XBMC as the primary application. I often work on my laptop while XBMC is playing from my music or DVD collection, or streaming online video content. With sharemouse, I can easily switch to the TV screen to control XBMC (load a playlist, movie, etc.), then easily switch back to my laptop screen to continue my work. The author does mention a two screen limit on the free version. I cannot verify the limit at this point, as I only have two monitors in play. If I read correctly, there is an error in the article regarding the installation of Sharemouse. As I recall, the author says the installation is only required on one machine. This was not my experience on Windows 7 (both machines running Win 7 Pro 64 bit). I first installed Sharemouse on the laptop. Sharemouse installation automatically configures the firewall and installs a service. On the completion of installation, a Sharemouse system tray tooltip indicated the detection of another machine on the network, and instructed installation was required on the other machine. As soon as I completed the second installation, matching open UDP ports, the application was functional. This is a simple, polished, very functional, FREE application. Thanks!

  30. Joshua
    October 3, 2013 at 2:13 am

    I want to add my two cents on Synergy. An awesome program, but as you mentioned, damn hard to set up. I have set it up dozens of times on different set ups in my time.
    More than half the time, it never works at all, and I am very savy.

    I am going to try out Input, because I find the unmentioned "50 dollar a computer" price tag far too much for the ShareMouse one.

  31. August
    October 1, 2013 at 4:32 am

    I picked up Wormhole Switch when it was on sale at NewEgg or TigerDirect or someplace like that. It's a USB cable that you connect between USB ports on two machines. One of the connectors has the software for both Windows and Mac built into it like a USB thumbdrive. It looks like a USB keyboard and mouse to the second machine. It supports clipboard sharing and file dragging. Both machines can have a second monitor, but then you lose the "drag the mouse from monitor to monitor" and the file dragging capability. Worked very smoothly and painlessly for my Windows 7 system and my client's Mac.

  32. ConureDelSol
    September 18, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    What about Mouse Without Borders? It's not quite as feature-full as ShareMouse, but it's an option.

  33. BigDaddy
    September 18, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Been using RealVNC and Synergy for years. Read the article and tried ShareMouse and found it to be dead simple to set up and use and they offer a portable version which makes it even better.

  34. John
    September 17, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    I'm using Multiplicity and it's as easy as it gets. Free version connects one computer (if each has additional monitor, that's one mouse/keyboard controlling four monitors), paid one believe up to nine. Also will centralize audio so all sound comes to one computer.

    Definitely worth checking out and adding to your list.

    Good job!

  35. mark
    September 15, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    while this seems to be a cool idea, from what I see there all virtual KM switches, not KVM.
    I don't see it being really helpful connecting my desktop to the other desktops or my servers I don't have room for or want 2-3-4 or more monitors. having to buy them makes this way more expensive than a good KVM switch.
    it could be useful to connect a desktop with laptop(s) but why? it is not like you're saving space maybe to use it with an tablet

  36. Tony M.
    September 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Ryan ... Your article on KVM alternatives is great, I feel, and is very much appreciated. However, I hope you can entertain my question. As I'm very short on space, I want to be able to "access" my secondary system(s) from the "start." By "start," I mean two things: (1) I'd like to be able to access the secondary system(s) without having to install any client utilities, if possible, and (2) after the systems are built, for low-level (pre-startup) administration purposes, I foresee sometimes needing to access the secondary system(s) before they've fully booted. With this being the case, can any of your recommended alternatives work for me? I mean, if a secondary system hasn't even booted yet, it seems I'd not be able to use your recommended utilities. Am I correct? Or perhaps there's something I missed. In any case, thanks for your work and willingness to share what you've learned.

  37. Helirex
    September 13, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Although I didn't read each and every comment to this article I'm pretty sure the one thing that was not mentioned is: I/you/we use a KVM-switch because we have only so much space on the desk and do not want to have every system running simultaneously.

    No, seriously, I use a KVM for some time now and the MAIN REASON I bought one was to have only 1 keyboard/mouse for my windows and my linux system (laptops, btw).
    Recently I switched from linux to mac and everything is still fine.

    And I do not have to waste precious energy for a system that is only online to share the keyboard/mouse.

    But: if you are using 2 or more systems simultaneously all the time, the software solutions might be better. If the host system never crashes ...
    Butter: I still love my KVM.

  38. Melba M
    September 12, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I love share mouse! Thanks for the other things worth looking up. Anything that works with Linux OS is awesome - we have it way better than Windows users.

  39. Betsy M
    September 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Oh my goodness! Sharemouse is awesome!!! Thank you!!!!!!! I just got my new computer set up last night - what a timely post!

  40. kenS
    September 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    No mention of stardock multiplicity???? (Now under a different company name). Multiplicity puts all these to shame.

  41. Al
    September 12, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Can any of these handle switching from a desktop with monitor connected to it to a laptop but then being able to use the monitor also with the laptop?

  42. Stephen Cowan
    September 12, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I have been using microsoft mouse without borders for ages why havent you got this on the list its so simple a monkey could operate it

  43. Khurram
    September 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Hi, Is there any program which will allow me to share keyboard and mouse with laptop and desktop connected to different networks in my office. The laptop uses Wi-Fi while the desktop is connected to LAN and I don't have admin rights on desktop.

    • Stephen Cowan
      September 12, 2013 at 11:53 am

      again mouse without borders, aslong as you have the same pass key setup you should be good. can share files also

  44. Taras T
    September 12, 2013 at 11:00 am

    What's the name of keyboard?

  45. Graham N
    September 12, 2013 at 10:28 am

    The mouse is by far the least of the problems that need a kvm to address... the monitor is by far a bigger one. Now, if these solutions would let you "grab and pull" the other desktop onto the monitor then that might work, but that's not an easy thing in software.

    Also, one of the main reasons I use a kvm is to switch between "my machine" and my work laptop, which is on the work VPN ... so any solution that just looks on the local network doesn't help.

    Interesting stuff though, can see how it might help some people.

    • RobMey
      January 10, 2015 at 12:59 am

      Agreed...I had tried all of these and a VPN makes the solution unworkable....for my purposes a way

  46. service dpt
    September 12, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Major flaw in all mentioned software is need for monitors on all machines.
    Thus adding clutter on table.

    • Ray Herring
      September 12, 2013 at 9:36 am

      I agree with this. The point of using a KVM is to get rid of 3 things that clutter your desks, the Monitor is a big part of that clutter.

  47. Frank P
    September 12, 2013 at 7:59 am

    anything for cross platform systems? working with windows is a downfall lol!

    • CareyB
      September 12, 2013 at 11:48 am

      Yup... It's called a KVM.

    • Frank P
      September 12, 2013 at 11:51 am

      it gets annoying when majority of the software out there is for windows only. it's fine for office usage but what if you are running Linux at home and a buddy brings his box with for troubleshooting. what do you do then?

    • Abhinav Mehra
      September 13, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      For true cross platform, you are back at Synergy. The software works very well on all 3 platforms: linux, win7/win xp, mac.

      I agree it has a bit of a learning curve but that is bound to happen given the power one has access to with this tool.

      You can configure many computers, reorganize monitor arrangements, define hotkeys to perform different actions on each computer connected and various other advanced features I have not tried.

      However, you need to spend the requisite time and ideally learn to write the synergy config file by hand, but standing on the other side, I would say it was time well spent.
      Just my 0.02$

  48. Scott Hicks
    September 12, 2013 at 5:12 am

    If its an all-Mac setup, check out Teleport

  49. David
    September 12, 2013 at 4:54 am

    I am using Mouse Without Borders. It is a Microsoft Garage application. It is free, dead simple to setup and I can control up to four computers with one keyboard and mouse. I have it controlling two computers. And, if someone wants to use the other computer it does not disrupt me on my computer. The computers have to be on a network. Data can be shared via the clipboard, but not dragged from one computer to the other.

    This is a great productivity enhancer!

    • Stephen Cowan
      September 12, 2013 at 11:54 am

      I just posted the same thing as you, shoulda checked if anyone else mentioned it lol

  50. likefunbutnot
    September 12, 2013 at 3:01 am

    Most Workstation or server class motherboards actually support IPMI as a standard component. IPMI allows full console redirection and power control via a browser interface, regardless of the power state of the attached system, including CMOS or EFI settings.

    I can manage systems at a dozen customer sites from my phone sitting at a McDonald's, even if they're turned off. It doesn't get much better than that.

    • Anonymous
      February 16, 2015 at 1:02 am

      Sounds vulnerable to exploitation.

  51. Brian
    September 11, 2013 at 11:18 pm

    Synergy (which i am using right now on my Mac), and quite easy to setup on Mac and XP. Windows 7, however, has issues with Synergy running as a service, but ought to work if the service is started manually (via services.msc). Otherwise, run it in desktop (legacy) mode.

  52. LearnedToRead
    September 11, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    "That requirement is important because it actually forced me to shy away from reviewing Synergy, after I spent nearly an hour trying to get it working on my two laptops without much luck at all"

    Funny, Synergy was mentioned.. It's in the 4th paragraph for those who don't read..

    Synergy is powerful software but takes a bit of time to configure and the solutions reviewed are fairly simple.

    • Ryan Dube
      September 11, 2013 at 11:41 pm

      ha...thanks :-)

  53. Justin
    September 11, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Why not include something like Synergy? The program's awesome.

    • Ryan Dube
      September 11, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      As I said in the intro - I took a look at Synergy, but decided not to include it because I wanted to mention only those programs that were extremely fast and easy to set up. After reading some of the help forums out there online about Synergy and playing with it myself, I realized it's nowhere nearly as simple to set up as the ones mentioned in this article. The programmer really need to update to a simpler setup like the apps reviewed above.

    • dwayne
      May 12, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Agreed!!!! Synergy is awesome! I have used Synergy for years. I would say that it is fast and easy to setup in just minutes for any number of machines and monitors. Not as simple, but very flexible.

  54. Joe
    September 11, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Seriously, no mention of Synergy?

    • Ryan Dube
      September 11, 2013 at 11:40 pm

      Yes - see my reply to Justin.

  55. Drew
    September 11, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks for this

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