A KVM switch enables you to control multiple computers using one keyboard, mouse and monitor – saving time and inconvenience, and keeping your desk clear.
Before investing in a switch, consider what you want to achieve.
If you only want to view one computer on your screen (or screens), a hardware KVM will let you connect it, along with your keyboard and mouse, to each of your computers, and then switch between them.
This solution is practical if you don’t want to look at two computers simultaneously, and you don’t need to cross-reference information between them.
If each of your computers has its own screen, and you want to be able to use them all to view information from each computer simultaneously, you have two options.
A hardware KVM switch will allow you to swap a single keyboard and mouse between computers without unplugging them. Just disregard the video port on the KVM.
A software KVM could be an easier and more affordable way of working between your computers. These work similarly to hardware KVMs, but without any physical box or cables.
With hundreds of KVM switches on the market, it’s important to undertake some research before committing to a product. We’ve outlined some of the things you should consider below.
KVMs have a hard limit on how many computers they can connect to, based on the number of ports on the back. Check there are enough ports for your needs.
Most KVMs work with a single monitor, although expensive models can work with up to eight.
Ensure the KVM supports the full resolution of your monitor – for instance, only some can handle 4K resolution.
Ensure the switch supports your monitor. Some KVMs support several connectors, such as VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort. However, others might only support one.
Switching mechanisms vary between pressing a button on the KVM switch, clicking on your mouse wheel, using an on-screen display or pressing a hotkey on your keyboard (bear in mind that the latter can interfere with existing shortcuts).
These are some of our favorite models on the market. You’ll notice that the price points start at $100 – while cheaper models can be found, in our experience, they do not provide a good experience.
4 computers, 1 screen (2048×1536)
4 computers, 1 screen (2560×1600)
4 computers, 4 screens (3840×2160)
Information as of August 2021
A good hardware KVM switch will allow you to use it with multiple computers (and a single mouse and keyboard) without too much inconvenience. Quality is everything here, so do your research and invest as much as you can to ensure the switching process doesn’t interrupt your work.
A hardware KVM may be an unnecessary expense, which will also clutter up your desk. If you want to work seamlessly across all your devices with a single keyboard and mouse, a software KVM such as Synergy would be a simpler and less expensive solution.