If you have two or more computers at one desk, you don’t want two or more sets of keyboards and mice cluttering up your workspace too. You can buy a hardware gadget that lets you share a single keyboard and mouse with several computers (which involves a mess of tangled wires), or you could use a free software solution called Synergy.
The Synergy application runs on all the computers you’re using — the one that has the keyboard and mouse connected and the one(s) that do not — and lets you control all of them from that keyboard and mouse. That means you can move your mouse off one computer’s screen and it will appear on the other, where you can type and work as well. Synergy also lets you share clipboard contents between computers. If you copy information to the Clipboard on one computer and move your mouse to the other, you can paste it there, even though they’re two different systems.
Note: We’ve covered Synergy in the past, but a recent update to the Synergy application has made setting up and using Synergy even easier, so we thought it was a good time to update the post and highlight this incredible app again.
Synergy works between any number of PC, Mac and Linux desktops. Below, we’re going to explain how to set up both Windows and Mac sharing or Windows-to-Windows to share a single keyboard and mouse using Synergy.
Before you get started, you need to know two terms — server PC and client PC. When you set up Synergy, you’ll have one “server”: this is the computer that has the keyboard and mouse physically connected to it. The rest of the computers will be “clients”. First, set up the server.
What You’ll Need:
- Two or more computers on the same local network.
- Synergy for Windows: If you’ll be running one or more Windows PC’s in your setup, download and install the Synergy Installer for Windows on each PC. (As of this writing, the current version is labelled 1.4.2 beta.)
- SynergyKM for Mac: If you want to run one or more Macs on your setup, download and install SynergyKM on each Mac you want to use.
Note for Linux users: I haven’t tried it, but quicksynergy looks like it could be a good graphical interface for Synergy. If you know of a better option, let’s hear it in the comments.
Set Up the Synergy Server
Then click the Configure Server button to open a Server Configuration dialog, where you’ll add all the computers that will be controlled by the server’s keyboard and mouse and their position in relation to each other.
If you want to use a Mac as the server, the process is very similar using SynergyKM; launch the preference pane, select Share my keyboard and mouse, and move to the Server Configuration tab to set up your screens.
Configure Multiple Synergy Screens
Now, to add the other computer (your client) to Synergy, you need to know its name as well. By default, the client uses the same name as your computer on the network (for example, my server is Windows; my client is Hack).
To find the name of your computer in Windows, open your Start menu, right-click Computer, and select Properties. Your computer name is listed under Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings. On a Mac, open the Sharing preference pane; your computer name is listed in the top text input.
When you’re done, you should see two computers on the Screens and Links grid that mirror the monitor setup on your workspace. If you have a particularly wild screen position (a checkerboard of flatscreens, perhaps?), you can even set up screens on top of and below each other here.
Set Up the Synergy Client
Download and install Synergy on the client computer (the one without the keyboard and mouse connected).
On Mac OS X
Note: If you have any problems during this step, I’ve found that entering the server’s local IP address seems to work.
When you’re satisfied with the results, close the Synergy window. Synergy will continue running in your system tray, from which you can start or stop the application as needed. Now you’re sharing the mouse and keyboard between two computers simultaneously. Piece of cake.