A KVM switch is a device that allows you to use one keyboard, mouse and monitor to control multiple computers (see definition here). It’s a pretty expensive device, depending on how many computers you want to control and I’m sure most of you don’t need one.
But for those moments when you feel like working with your computers in a multi-monitor like desktop layout it’s nice to be able to do it without having to jump from one keyboard to another. Here’s where Mouse without Borders, a free app released by Microsoft comes in handy. This is a review of the Mouse without Borders software KVM switch app:
How it works
After you download the free Mouse without Borders app you have to install it on each of the computers you want to control. The app will then launch and ask you if you’ve already set up a computer in the network. You’ll have to answer No on the server computer (the one with the keyboard and mouse you’ll going to use from now on). Keep the following window open, as it contains a code which you’ll input on the other computers.
Answer Yes on the ‘slave’ computers and follow the wizard: input the security code and name each computer. The initial setup is now finished and your virtual KVM is up and running.
It couldn’t be any easier than that. Once Mouse without Borders is running you can change settings from the system tray icon in the lower right corner of the screen. The main app windows shows current computers connected to the KVM switch (a total of 4 devices) and allows you to easily rearrange them by dragging and dropping the icons.
The idea behind rearranging the computers is to configure the virtual desktop and how the mouse cursor travels between monitors. The virtual order should match the arrangement you have on your desk. It’s possible also to put the computers on two rows, so that the mouse cursor can travel vertically between displays, not just horizontally. A checkbox allows you to eliminate devices from the current setup, or activate new ones where the app is running.
Advanced options allow you to set up app behaviour (mouse jumps seamlessly between windows or you have to press a shortcut to gain control of a certain machine). You can also lock a remote computer and enable a common clipboard. Dragging files between computers copies them from one machine to another.
One more thing about functionality: all computers have to be in the same network for the app to work. A wired connection is recommended, but I found it works pretty much without any mouse lag on a wireless connection, provided all computers have good connection signal.
There’s one thing I don’t like about Mouse without Borders: you are not able to change the server machine (or I haven’t been able to find that option). Uninstalling the app on all computers and reinstalling doesn’t seem to work either, as settings are saved into the registry. Hope Microsoft solves this little annoying issue soon, as this is the only problem I’ve found with the app.
Mouse without Borders is an app worth trying if you have more than one computer in your house and you find yourself needing to switch between them easily. If you want you can also try a similar free app called Synergy. It’s a little bit harder to configure, but you can change the server very easy, plus it works with Macs and Linux computers too.
Mouse without Borders official presentation from Microsoft: