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Synergy- Multiple Computers On One Mouse & Keyboard

Simon Slangen 14-12-2008

synergy - multiple computers one monitorSynergy: [noun] the term used to describe a situation where the final outcome of a system is greater than the sum of its parts.


It’s far from uncommon for the more experienced computer users to own multiple systems. I, for one, have a Windows XP laptop, a Vista system and a shared Apple desktop computer. Some people own different systems for different occasions; to work, to game, to use on the road.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably noticed the problems with such an extended setup, such as the constant switching between keyboards and mice. Not to mention the space requirements. The space on my desk has been cut in half and I have to do any paperwork in another room.

Solutions exist, of course. You can always purchase a KVM switch to use your mouse and keyboard with multiple systems, or even control your remote system over a network connection through Virtual Network Computing. Many different options exist, one more extended and complicated than the other.

One of these other options is Synergy.

Synergy gives you the ability to manage all of your computers with just one keyboard and one mouse. When properly installed (and configured), you can move from one computer to the other by simply moving your mouse out of the computer screen. You’ll still need a different monitor for every computer, but switching between computers will be as easy as flicking the mouse in the right direction.


multiple computers one keyboard

Compare it to using 2 monitors on the same computer, where the second screen constantly displays an open VNC connection to your secondary computer. Screens can be arranged in any thinkable order; above, below or next each other. Synergy will also know the difference between two different systems and a dual monitor set-up.

Even unified screensavers and copy-pasting will work between computers (although it’s limited to text on Mac OSX systems).

With Synergy, you can drop your Linux workstation next to your Windows gaming PC, and switch between the two with just a flick of the mouse. You don’t need to worry about “losing” your cursor while gaming, just enable scroll lock and your cursor will be restrained within the current screen.


Download and Install Synergy

Synergy can be used on nearly all platforms. Binary packages are available for Windows, Mac and other Unix-like operating systems, but installation and configuration is far easier on Windows systems.

Installation instructions can be found here.

Related topics: Computer Monitor, Keyboard.

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  1. Daniel
    November 28, 2015 at 12:53 am

    I love Synergy. I use every day

  2. SEM
    September 28, 2009 at 8:50 am

    I have seen one mouse and keyboard on multiple monitors, but not on multiple types of computer work stations. Being able to copy and paste from one to another is a great feature. I am definitely going to have to check Synergy out.

  3. Rob
    December 15, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    @John: I used Synergy about a year ago and it worked great. If it hasn't been updated in 2 years, that's probably because it just works--i.e., it hasn't needed any updates.

    It's a great cross-platform solution. I was using it for side-by-side Windows and Linux machines back when I used it before, but now I have VMs instead. I should mention it to one of my colleagues again though; he normally runs Linux but occasionally has to set up a Windows box alongside his Linux machine.

    • nukeit
      December 16, 2008 at 9:05 pm

      I've been using it for a long time as well, and the only issue I notice is copying and pasting large texts between my linux and windows boxes. Other than that, everything has been pretty smooth.

    • Darren
      December 17, 2008 at 9:03 pm

      I wouldn't say that it just works. It works, but there are hickups. I've worked around them as I use it every day so that I can have one keyboard in a good place and share it between my desktop and its two monitors and my notebook and its two. People that come to sit at my desk are often amazed when I just move the mouse over to one of the notebook's monitors and start typing there.

  4. rick riggs
    December 15, 2008 at 6:39 am

    We have the exact same senario at our company and we have used this with much success.

  5. John
    December 15, 2008 at 4:30 am

    Input Director ( is a Windows only alternative to Synergy that's easier to configure, more stable and updated regularly. Synergy hasn't been updated in over 2 years. If you've got Windows systems, it's definitely worth checking out.

    • Darren
      December 17, 2008 at 9:00 pm

      You've hit upon my only real complaint. Supposedly there is some amount of work going on in the background and if you feel comfortable compiling from source, you will be pleasantly surprised. I have never taken the time to see what the code currently does to know if this is the case or not.

  6. Nick
    December 15, 2008 at 1:14 am

    The title is incorrect. It says "Multiple Computers on One MONITOR and Keyboard". It should say "Multiple Computers on One MOUSE and Keyboard". The article mentions that you need a monitor per computer.

    Also, cool idea for an app.

    • Simon Slangen
      December 15, 2008 at 1:52 am

      You're right, thanks

  7. Aibek
    December 14, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Great app. Thanks for sharing.

  8. diverdan
    December 14, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    i've fooled around with synergy in the past. it works really well and allows for real time control without any of the lag of remote access software.

    BUT you have a lot of room in their computing space. say you have 3 desktops. that's 3 mice, 3 keyboards and 3 monitors. with the prevalence of dual wide screens, that could potentially be 6 monitors!

    imo, a kvm switch is the way to go. of course synergy might be a more attractive option if you are a multitasker and need to monitor multiple computers at the same time.

  9. Sean Meyer
    December 14, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Synergy is a great great great tool. It's absolutely amazing for what it does, almost perfect. I highly recommend it.