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Is there a program out there that allows me to use my computer resources for two different users simultaneously? Specifically, I'd like to hook up two different monitors, keyboards, and mice to one computer so that two people can be working independently on two instances of an operating system. A Windows solution is preferred, but Linux based is okay as well.

P.S. I'm not talking about VMWare or emulation, since you can't have two people using the computer at the same time.

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possible duplicate of How do I share a single computer among different users? (Yes I know this question is older, but that one has better answers that also cover windows) (P.S. @Hennes, I am going to start calling posting on a 2 year old question without realizing it was bumped for a tag edit "being Hennesed") –  Scott Chamberlain Sep 19 '13 at 17:43

4 Answers 4

I have good news and bad news for you

First the good news: Yes, this is possible with a PC. In fact, it's free if you just want to have two users. Userful's Desktop Multiplier lets you do exactly what you're asking about: Plug in two monitors, keyboards, and mice, and two different people can use a single PC as if they were each using their own computer. In fact, Desktop Multiplier can scale up to supporting 10 users at the same time, if you have enough video cards. (If this sounds familiar, be careful: This is not the same as using one monitor/keyboard/mouse to control multiple computers. That requires a wholly different solution involving a KVM switch, a commonly available product.)

Now the bad news: It only runs on Linux, and there's nothing like this that I've ever seen for Windows. Are you willing to install an entirely new operating system just to be able to allow two users on the machine at the same time? If so, check out the Desktop Server version of Linux, which includes Desktop Multiplier as part of the default installation.

Is it worth it? I have to admit the technology sounds elegant and appealing, but with new PCs available for $399 or even $299 (and used ones even cheaper), what's the point? You're already going to have to buy another monitor... why not just set up a second, super-cheap PC that can be used for web browsing, light word processing, and the like. Two PCs also makes for a neat solution for doing data backups, as you can sync your files between the two computers.

Sorry it's probably not the answer you were looking for, but I hope it's helpful nonetheless.

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This is, in principle, quite straightforward in Linux if you run two different X servers connected to different video cards/mice/keyboards.

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Yes - I remember seeing a push of these devices a while ago, but they seemed to fizz out, and I haven't heard about it for years.

The ones I saw was by a company called Jetway, however it looks like they have removed all reference to it. The only thing I can find is this old news page.

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For Windows solutions, Windows Multipoint Server can do this, but right now it's only available to the education market.

Or, a regular Windows Server install with Remote Desktop Services (formerly Terminal Services) can do this with the addition of thin clients.

I've seen other devices that claim to do this as well, but they are typically of questionable legality, and the Windows license normally prohibits this.

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