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?
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.
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.
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.