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Control Multiple Computers With One Keyboard and Mouse – and No Extra Hardware [Windows, Mac, Linux]

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If you have more than one computer sitting on your desk, and don’t want extra mice and keyboards cluttering up your workspace, take a look at Synergy. Synergy is free and open source software that lets you control multiple computers with one keyboard and mouse, using your home network. Each computer will need its own monitor. Once you’ve set it up, you can drag your cursor from one computer’s screen, right off the edge to the other computer’s screen.

One of the best parts about Synergy is that it is cross platform. When I made the switch from Windows to Mac as my main platform several months back, I knew that I would want to be able to access data on my Windows machine. I didn’t, however, want an extra keyboard and mouse sitting on my desktop. Synergy solved that for me.

With Synergy, you set one computer as the client, and one as the server. The server is the machine that you want to connect to with a keyboard and mouse, while the client is the machine that has no keyboard and mouse attached to it.

On the Mac, I used SynergyKM, which puts a nice GUI on Synergy. This summary will focus on the Mac, since my Windows machine has been nuked and paved to serve as my wife’s computer, and I can no longer retrieve those settings. I do remember, though, that the Windows GUI worked much like SynergyKM on the Mac. For any of this to work, the machines must be on the same network, and able to see each other.

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When you start SynergyKM, you choose whether to connect to another computer, or share your machine’s keyboard and mouse. Depending on which you select, the middle option tab will either read “Server Configuration” or “Client Configuration.”

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If you’re setting up your machine as a server, you’ll need to give it a server name. I was able to ignore the “Server Options” button on the server configuration screen. If you’re setting up a machine as a client, you’ll need to indicate as much on the first tab, and then use the middle tab to enter the name of the server computer to which you want to connect. When you’re done, click the Apply Now button.

Since I no longer have Synergy set up on a Windows’ machine, I can’t give you detailed instructions for that. But Lifehacker has a nice post describing the entire process. If you’re on Windows and find that the setup isn’t easy, hop on over there for more detailed instructions.

Synergy wasn’t seamless for me. Although I had set it to run at login, I found that I typically couldn’t access my Windows machine from my Mac when the Windows machine first booted. To work around this, I used Teamviewer to remotely log in to the Windows machine, and start Synergy. I then would close Teamviewr. Why not just use Teamviewer the entire time? Using Synergy was much faster once it was set up, to the point of feeling like I was using a mouse and keyboard plugged directly into the machine. There was also something sweet about dragging my cursor from one machine to the other, as if it were one experience. This is different than using a KVM switch, which is an either/or proposition.

Any Synergy users out there? How about other ways to use one keyboard and mouse for multiple machines?