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How to Share a Monitor without a KVM Switch

written by: Bruce Tyson•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 2/21/2010

When you need to share 2 computers on 1 monitor without a KVM switch, you have software and hardware options available to get this done.

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    Software solutions

    Local and remote computers can be displayed on the screen of another computer by using a software solution such as Windows Remote Desktop , VNC, or Web-based services. This approach has the advantage of giving you access to other computers without a KVM switch, but has the disadvantage of prohibiting boot access to the remote machine. This means that you won’t have access to the BIOS settings of remote machines through this method, since the computer has to be running software or services to enable access. If something prevents the other computer from booting, you’ll have to connect a monitor to it to see what the problem is.

    Windows Remote Desktop is a solution offered by Microsoft that allows one Windows computer to access another Windows computer over the LAN, WAN, or Internet. To setup and configure Windows Remote Desktop on a computer, a monitor will have to be connected to it. Make sure it’s set to log into Windows and to start the remote service automatically so that you can connect from another machine.

    Like Windows Remote Desktop, VNC is a software solution that will allow you to use two PCs with one monitor without requiring a KVM switch. Several VNC solutions are available from different vendors and they come in both free and premium versions. This option gives you cross-platform access to Windows, Unix, Linux, and Macintosh systems.

    Online desktop sharing services also exist, such as GoToMyPC.com and LogMeIn.com. These services provide yet another way to view the screens of multiple computers on one monitor without a KVM switch. Like the other software solutions, a software program needs to be loaded on the computer in order for it to be accessible.

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    Hardware solutions

    Another way to view 2 computers on 1 monitor without a KVM switch is to use a monitor which has dual inputs. This solution normally requires that both computers be near the monitor, so this won’t be helpful for viewing screens of computers across the net. However, a dual input monitor does give you the ability to see the output of both computers, regardless of state, making them easy to troubleshoot if they fail to boot.

    Dual input monitors usually accept inputs from two or more styles of video card, so you will have to make sure both computers can be accommodated with your hardware. For example, a monitor may accept input from standard VGA and from a digital output like DVI. In this case, by connecting the VGA output of one computer and the DVI output from another computer to the monitor at the same time, users can switch between computers by changing the selected input on the monitor using the monitor’s controls. These controls can include a physical knob or button on the monitor or an option on the monitor’s OSD menu.