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I have 2 desktops at the office. I use the main one in dual monitor mode and I tend to max out its meager reasources between web browsers (for code testing) a music or other media player and all of my developer tools. I want to be able to use the second machine for non-developement tasks but I do not want to have to toggle my monitor back and forth and/or switch keyboards and mice to do that.

What is the lightest weight (on the main machine) solution for controlling 2 machines from the same monitor(s)?

Both machines are WinXP sp3.


I'd like to go with a software solution that allows me to manipulate both machines more or less simultaneously. Changing my focus from the screen to a KVM to switch back and forth just to change music tracks might be more hassle than it saves in resources.

Of the various VNS client/servers and Windows's own Remote Desktop, which uses the least overhead?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

This doesn't answer your exact question, but if you had an additional monitor for your other computer, you could use Synergy-plus to control both systems with a single keyboard and mouse. It will also synchronize the clipboards between systems.

It is a lot more usable than keeping a remote desktop session open, but of course, it does require an additional monitor.

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+1 I have been using Synergy forever, didn't know about "plus", but it easily the best soultion, I used KVM and if you check out the screen shot on the link, that is exactly how my setup looks. I use dual monitors for one computer and a single monitor for the second computer. You can't beat the clipboard functionality either. You can't go wrong with this solution, fork out $100 bucks for the additional monitor – Breadtruck Aug 26 '09 at 14:20
Wow, this looks great. I remember looking into synergy a few years ago, and it seemed too young and hard to configure at the time, but this looks much more mature. I will definitely check this out! – pkaeding Aug 26 '09 at 14:49
I didn't mention it because of the single monitor requirement, but I use it myself at work and it is brilliant. 4 Desktops, 2 Machines. One running Vista and another running 7. – BinaryMisfit Aug 26 '09 at 15:45

VNC or Remote Desktop. Minimize/close it when you don't need the second PC.

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+1 for Remote Desktop – firedfly Aug 26 '09 at 13:37
as they are both windows, remote desktop would be the easiest/fastest/best solution imo – Mike M Aug 26 '09 at 13:45

When you mean 'toggle' your monitor - your not excluding a KVM Switch are you?

A KVM Switch is the lightest weight solution as it is a hardware only soltuion. Note that a KVM is only going to be practical if the secondary machine is physically close to your primary machine as cables from the switch need to be run.

A Remote Desktop solution, as mentioned in other answers has no limitations on physical machine location, although being on the LAN would be preferred for performance reasons. For this case, I would go with Windows Remote Desktop. It's free, built into Windows, and I've never ever had an issue with it. I use it for all of my remote system administration within my office and at home.

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Remote Desktop is much easier and more convenient than a KVM switch. At least it is in my experience. – firedfly Aug 26 '09 at 13:36
My experience is the exact opposite. KVM switches are much easier and more convenient than Remote Desktop. To each his own... – CoverosGene Aug 26 '09 at 13:46
If he is maxing out "meager" resources on his primary machine, he will be using up even more on that machine by running remote desktop. A KVM would have zero bearing on performance. – Matthew Ruston Aug 26 '09 at 13:49
I've done both, KVM and Remote Desktop and I tend to prefer the KVM if possible, but Remote Desktop if I don't have a KVM. – Hondalex Aug 26 '09 at 13:50
On the other hand Remote Desktop is sllooooowww in comparison to KVM, even on our local 100 MBit network. – Adrian Grigore Aug 26 '09 at 20:27

I bought a cheap DVI switch from Amazon for about 11 EUR. It's not a full-blown KVM, but if you are only looking for a way to switch monitor signals that's probably the cheapest solution. Despite some negative reviews at amazon, it does work well on my system. No problems with playback of Blu-Ray DVDs either. And it's not as slow and sluggish as RemoteDesktop.

Edit: Combine this with Synergy-plus as Dlux suggested and you should be done.

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