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A K_M Solution (Sharing Keyboard and Mouse between Multiple PCs using Software)

Pete Brown - 14 December 2009

I have a KVM in my rack in the utility room. It’s great for those times when I have to be at the console of one of my servers. I wanted something similar for my workstation setup.

This weekend, I finally got around to cleaning up my home office, and setting up the Dell PC that was sent to me from Microsoft per Scott Hanselman’s request. The importance of an “always connected to Microsoft” PC (and not just a laptop) didn’t really hit me until this past week when I found myself putting off uploading some videos I recorded and downloading some files Scott put on a share for me because it meant working on a machine separate from my main PC. It’s little bits of friction like that that really kill productivity. I could remote desktop into that laptop like I do with my servers, but it’s not an A+ experience.

Also, I wanted to have a separate PC set up to do encoding and other processor-intensive tasks. The PC Scott had sent to me is a quad core Intel @3ghz, with 8gb ram and 64bit Windows 7. This is definitely the PC for encoding.

The software I’m using to share the keyboard and mouse between my primary desktop and the dell is Synergy+ . The functionality is great, the UX could definitely use some improvement. I had to tell it the Dell is to the left of my main PC, and also that my main PC is to the right of the Dell. The dialog they use to input that is a little confusing, but works once you figure it out. It’s definitely not as nice as the Windows 7 display dialog.


I probably should have named those by display rather than by machine, but for this setup, it doesn’t matter.

Here’s my current setup. The display on the left used to be the second display for my main PC. It’s now dedicated to the Microsoft Machine. The smaller 20” on the far right is likely going above my primary display until I get another 24”.


The display wired to the dell is on the left. My home PC itself is to the left, behind the two displays. The Dell from Microsoft is under the desk. My main display is the HP2335 with the silver bezel there in the center. Never get a display with a silver bezel – it’s really distracting – matte black is the way to go. The hp2335 was a good monitor in its day, though, one of the biggest and highest quality screens you could get back then.

The Polycom IP phone on the right is an extension right out of Redmond. It integrates with Office Communicator 2007, and even with LiveMeeting. Plus, it’s a phone that doesn’t tie up my house phone. Very nice. Connections going in are USB from the dell and a wired connection to my network.

posted by Pete Brown on Monday, December 14, 2009
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7 comments for “A K_M Solution (Sharing Keyboard and Mouse between Multiple PCs using Software)”

  1. Jeff Handleysays:

    Does Synergy work for you on the Welcome/Login screen? I still have a KVM hooked up to let me unlock the machines. Once unlocked, I set the KVM to my primary machine and let Synergy do the work.

    Back with Windows XP, Synergy worked with the locked screens, but since Vista, it hasn't for me. I moved to Synergy+ and set both the server and the client to install as a Windows Service, but no go.

    Jeff Handley
  2. Tomsays:
    I've been happily using Synergy and Synergy+ for years. Lots of little details are handled very well. One thing to watch out for with Synergy+, though: if you copy an image to the clipboard (i.e. by hitting Print Screen) and find you can't cross screen boundaries anymore, put some text on the clipboard. Clears things right up.
  3. Pete Brownsays:
    I'll definitely check that out, as I only have Windows machines here at my desk. Any idea if it handles login/welcome and UAC prompts?

    It doesn't work on login/welcome or on UAC prompts. That really does make it less than great, but it works enough to be useful for the majority of my work.

    Great tip, thanks!

  4. Jeff Handleysays:
    <p>Okay, InputDirector ROCKS! </p><p>I haven't tested UAC support yet, but it DOES support the login screen and it can lock all screens by just locking your master screen. You fire Ctrl+Alt+Delete on a slave by using Ctrl+Alt+Ins, which is very convenient.</p><p>The setup was a little awkward because setting up the master first led you to errors about the slave not being available, and setting up the slave first led you to errors about the master not being available. Once I stumbled past those though, I fell in love. </p><p>I wish that I could specify monitor offsets with it to allow me to specify that my slave monitor isn't the same shape as my master monitors. I can deal with that though. </p><p>-Jeff</p>
  5. Pete Brownsays:
    Ok, I can't yet be certain, but I think Synergy+ is the source of some serious network dropouts on this machine.

    Whenever the slave PC gets a UAC prompt, it drops the ability (for good) to use the shared mouse. Also, around that same time, my host PC loses the network connection so thoroughly that the only remedy I've been able to come up with is a full reboot.

    A copy between the two PCs using a shared folder results in a complete network drop as well. Copying to a share on my server doesn't. Really really strange.

    Obviously this can't be common, as many folks use Synergy and Synergy+, but I'm going to try inputdirector now.


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