Operating 2 computers with 1 keyboard/monitor/mouse?

I have hit upon another idea through which to George Costanza-ize my office life.

So, say I want to secretly work on my laptop while at the office? Could I turn it on, shove it into a drawer, and somehow rig my monitor, mouse, and keyboard so that I could flip a switch between my office computer and my personal laptop?

I know you could, because my boss has a system like that. He’s got both his computer and the network computer in his office, sharing a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

The device to do that is called a KVM switch and you can buy them on the web.

Beware of having it overheat inside that drawer.

It’s a big drawer!

Hm. Maybe I should put a little fan in there.

If the laptop is on the same network, you can use a program called VNC or you can use XP’s remote login feature to log into the computer from the desktop.

There are many ways to facilitate this. The simplest is the KVM switch Shagnasty beat me to mentioning. However, this is a visible piece of hardware. You could use software like VNC or Remote Desktop if both computers are connected to the same network.

ETA: beaten, then beaten again. :smack:

Well, I don’t want to put my personal laptop on the network – that would kind of defeat the purpose.

What use is it, then? Would it be connected to the internet some other way?

You will need to leave the drawer open or bore a hole in it to get some air exchange, or your fan will do no good.

Meh, just set it on top of a frozen pizza. By noon you’ll have a hot lunch ready.

What, there’s nothing you can do with a computer that’s not connected to the Internet? :dubious:

Now you’re thinking! But if the laptop sinks into the pizza, you run the risk of The Mozzarrella Syndrome.

Excellent idea!

I could probably leave the drawer partially open. Or maybe forget the drawer – just stash the machine under my desk.

This KVM uses:
USB for the keyboard and mouse.
A VGA connector for the monitor.
A stereo minijack for sound.


Some KVM switches can be kept out of sight. The one I have can be switched by quickly tapping the control key twice.

What model is it?


Belkin F1DK102U 2-Port USB KVM Switch with Cables

I think it is this one. The one pointed to may be a later model as mine is a few years old. Belkin has a lot of KVM switches so You can find what you need. This one needs a USB keyboard and mouse and analog video cables. I personally press the button on the switch instead of using the software. But I tried it out and it seems to work.

My wife uses a Linksys KVM for this. It’s tucked away out of sight. To switch between the computers, just press the Scroll Lock key twice.

What you want to do is have access to two computers, while appearing to use only one of them. The right KVM switch will do this. In the good ol’ days (when I used to program computers with punch cards by candlelight), KVM switches were entirely mechanical. They were also butt-ugly!

Nowadays, companies like IOGear make quite sophisticated electronic KVMs that you can operate either with a button or with a keystroke gesture. The latter is clearly what you want. I have a simple, two-computer IOGear KVM at home that looks like two sets of cables going into a white hockey puck. It costs, as I remember, about $40.

To switch between computers, you just hit the Scroll Lock (ScrLk) button twice. That button is part of the old IBM 102-key standard, but I don’t think it’s used by anything any more.

You may have issues if your office computer and laptop are of different eras. KVMs now come in “flavors” such as:
[li]PS/2 mouse, PS/2 keyboard, VGA monitor[/li][li]USB keyboard/mouse, VGA monitor[/li][li]USB keyboard/mouse, DVI monitor[/li][/ul]

and you will also see ones that in addition switch audio and non-input USB. If you have one computer that uses PS/2 only, and another that uses USB only, you may or may not have issues.

The real clinker may be Internet. Some enlightened companies provide more than one Ethernet port per office/cubicle/desk and use dynamic IP address assignment (aka DHCP) in which case you are probably OK. Others provide >1 port with static IP, which then forces you to ask for another IP address. Some may provide only one port.

In the case of having only one port and two computers but using DHCP, you may be able to fake out the company by putting both your computers into a Ethernet hub and then connecting the hub into the network. There are reasons why this is Not A Good Idea, but in a small company where nobody is paying much attention, you can get away with it. On the other hand, if they catch on you have some 'splainin to do. It’s not an issue of frying the wires as much as possibly generating a lot of unnecessary message traffic.