Connecting two computers to one monitor can be very useful for boosting productivity. With one screen shared between two computers, you can seamlessly switch between tasks without having to physically move to another desk or workspace.
Whether you want to access different devices or quickly reference information from a secondary system, there are several options that allow two PCs to share one display. Each method has its own pros and cons to consider.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the top techniques for connecting two computers to a single monitor and help you choose the right setup for your needs and budget. Let’s get started!
- Using a KVM switch is the easiest way to quickly toggle between two computers on one display.
- VGA/HDMI switches allow you to manually change video inputs for the shared monitor.
- Remote desktop software can view one computer’s screen on another PC over a network.
- Dual monitor video cards let both computers connect directly to the monitor at once.
- Consider display connections, control methods, video quality, and costs for each option.
Having access to multiple computers through one monitor can make anyone more efficient. For example:
- Cross-reference tasks – Quickly look up information on one PC while working on the other.
- Reduce clutter – Consolidate into one display instead of having multiple monitors.
- Share access – Let others easily use the secondary computer when needed.
- Enhance capabilities – Add distinct functions like streaming video or gaming.
But how exactly can you take two separate computers and route their video output to a single monitor or screen? There are actually several smart techniques to achieve this goal:
- Use a KVM switch – These convenient devices allow you to toggle between computers on the fly.
- Connect a VGA/HDMI switch – Manually switch between video inputs for the shared display.
- Install remote desktop software – View one computer’s screen on the other over your network.
- Get a dual monitor video card – Hook both PCs directly to the same monitor.
In the sections below, we’ll dive into the details of each method for combining two computers with one display. We’ll also analyze the pros and cons of each option so you can determine the best fit.
Let’s get started!
Method 1: Using a KVM Switch
One of the quickest ways to connect two computers to the same monitor is with a KVM switch. This handy device acts as a control panel to seamlessly toggle a single keyboard, video display, and mouse between multiple computers.
What is a KVM Switch?
A KVM switch allows a single keyboard, video monitor, and mouse to be shared between two or more computers. You simply connect your peripherals and PCs to the switch, then use a button, hotkey, or menu to transition between them.
This keeps your desk clean with only one set of keyboard, monitor, and mouse while saving time switching between tasks on separate machines. KVM switches are available in various configurations to match your specific computer setup.
A typical KVM switch configuration allowing a keyboard, monitor, and mouse to be shared by multiple computers.
How to Use a KVM Switch:
Follow these steps to connect two computers to one monitor using a KVM switch:
- Get a KVM switch – Choose one with enough ports for your computers and peripherals. Two-port models allow toggling between two PCs.
- Connect keyboards/mice – Use KVM cables to link your keyboard and mouse to the switch ports.
- Connect monitors – Use additional KVM cables to connect your monitor to the switch.
- Connect computers – Use more KVM cables to join the switch with your PC video outputs.
- Power on devices – Turn on the computers and KVM switch. The monitor should default to one of the connected PCs.
- Toggle interface – Use the KVM’s buttons, menus, or hotkeys to switch the keyboard, mouse, and monitor control between each computer.
And that’s it! The KVM switch will handle coordinating the shared peripherals and display between systems.
KVM Switch Pros and Cons
- Seamless switching between computers.
- Supports keyboard, mouse, and video through a central device.
- Generally easy setup with all cables included.
- Options for 2, 4 or more computers.
- Control methods include buttons, menus, hotkeys.
- More expensive than a manual video switch.
- Display limited to shared monitor’s resolution.
- Potential lag when transitioning between PCs.
- Requires compatible KVM cables.
- Doesn’t facilitate transferring files or networking.
Overall, KVM switches provide a plug-and-play solution for efficiently sharing a keyboard, mouse, and monitor between two computers. They are quick and simple to use for multitasking and toggling between systems.
Method 2: Using a VGA/HDMI Switch
If you don’t need to share peripherals between machines, a dedicated VGA or HDMI switch allows two computers to connect with one monitor display.
What is a VGA/HDMI Switch?
A VGA or HDMI switch acts as a control panel for manually toggling between video inputs for a shared monitor. This allows the display to seamlessly transition between video signals from different computers without having to swap cables.
An HDMI switch lets two computers share one monitor display.
Like KVM switches, they come in different port configurations to handle two, four or more video inputs. But VGA/HDMI switches only transmit video signals without sharing additional peripherals.
How to Use a VGA/HDMI Switch:
Follow these steps to connect two computers to one monitor using a VGA or HDMI switch:
- Get a VGA/HDMI switch – Select a switch with enough ports for your PCs and monitor. Two-port models allow toggling between two computers.
- Connect computers – Use VGA or HDMI cables to connect each computer’s video output to the switch.
- Connect the monitor – Use a VGA or HDMI cable to link the switch’s primary output to your monitor’s video input.
- Power on devices – Turn on the computers and VGA/HDMI switch. The monitor will default to displaying one PC’s video signal.
- Toggle input – Use buttons or a menu on the switch to manually transition the monitor’s displayed video between each computer.
The steps are very straightforward – the switch handles directing the monitor to show either video input on command. No peripherals are carried through the switch, just the raw video signals.
VGA/HDMI Switch Pros and Cons
- Inexpensive and widely available.
- Quick manual switching between video inputs.
- Simple setup with common cables.
- Options for HDMI, VGA, or combined models.
- Scales to support more PCs and monitors.
- Requires manually toggling between inputs.
- Won’t switch keyboards or mice focus between PCs.
- Potential decrease in video quality.
- Limited to transmitting video signals only.
VGA and HDMI switches provide an affordable way to connect two computers to one monitor display. They are quick and easy to configure, great for intermittent cross-referencing between systems. Just be ready to manually toggle video inputs.
Method 3: Using Remote Desktop Software
Remote desktop software allows you to view or even control one computer’s screen from another PC over a network. This facilitates accessing files and applications from a secondary computer through your main system.
What Is Remote Desktop Software?
Remote desktop or remote access software allows you to see one computer’s screen on another device via the network. Popular programs like TeamViewer or Microsoft Remote Desktop use proprietary protocols to transmit encrypted video and commands between PCs.
Remote desktop software sends one computer’s screen over the network to another PC.
This virtual sharing allows remote operation as if you were physically at the other computer. You can view or control the screen, access files and apps, troubleshoot problems, or facilitate collaboration.
Using Remote Desktop Software:
Here are the basic steps for accessing another PC’s screen through remote desktop software:
- Install software – Select your preferred remote desktop program and install on both computers. Popular options include TeamViewer, Chrome Remote Desktop, AnyDesk.
- Configure host PC – On the secondary computer you’ll remotely access, allow incoming connections and generate an access ID.
- Connect to host – On your main PC, input the host ID and initiate remote connection.
- Interact remotely – You’ll now see the host desktop screen and can view/control it from your main computer.
- Maintain connection – The software handles transmitting video, input commands, and files between both systems.
Pro tip: For best performance, connect both PCs via Ethernet or a strong WiFi network. Slow networks can dramatically impact the remote desktop experience.
Remote Desktop Software Pros and Cons
- Access files and apps from secondary PC remotely.
- Share screens and collaborate across devices.
- View and control host computer capabilities.
- Encrypted connections and access management.
- Typically free or inexpensive software.
- Requires installing software on both computers.
- Remote PC not visible on main display by default.
- Laggy performance over weak networks.
- Security risks from exposing devices over internet.
- Doesn’t work without active network connection.
Overall, remote desktop software provides versatile remote access between networked PCs. But it does require an extra program installation and isn’t focused solely on screen sharing. Performance can also vary greatly based on network strength.
Method 4: Using a Dual Monitor Video Card
For a more direct integration, you can install a dual monitor video card in your primary computer to simultaneously connect both PCs to the same display.
What Is a Dual Monitor Video Card?
A dual monitor video card contains two video outputs in one expansion card. This allows your computer to natively output to two monitors at the same time from a single PC.
A dual monitor video card splits the video signal to support two displays.
For connecting two computers to one screen, you simply run cables from each device’s video output to the dual monitor card ports. The card handles displaying both video signals on the shared screen.
Using a Dual Monitor Video Card:
Follow these steps to connect two computers to one monitor with a dual monitor video card:
- Install card in main PC – Power down, insert the dual monitor card in a PCI/PCIe slot, connect required power cables.
- Connect second PC – Use a VGA, DVI, or HDMI cable to link the secondary computer’s video output to the card’s second input.
- Connect monitor – Use a cable like HDMI or DisplayPort to connect the monitor to the card’s primary output.
- Configure displays – In Windows display settings, ensure the monitor is extended across both video outputs.
- Power up devices – Turn on both computers and the monitor. The display should show both desktops side-by-side.
Your main PC will control the monitor and seamlessly display both video inputs using the secondary output routed through the dual monitor card.
Dual Monitor Card Pros and Cons
- Direct video outputs to monitor without switch device.
- Display both computers simultaneously.
- Monitor controlled by main computer.
- Typically supports high resolutions and refresh rates.
- Requires opening up desktop PC to install card.
- More expensive than standalone video switches.
- Uses up card expansion slot in main computer.
- Limited to two video inputs.
- Doesn’t facilitate control or file transfer between PCs.
Dual monitor video cards provide an integrated solution for consistently displaying two computers on one screen. Just be prepared for a bit more hands-on setup compared to external devices or software.
Key Differences Between the Options
Now that we’ve covered specifics on each method, let’s recap the main differences between these options for connecting two PCs to one monitor:
|Method||Switching Control||Simultaneous Display||Shares Peripherals||Networked Connection|
|KVM Switch||Seamless Hardware Toggle||No, One PC Only||Yes||No|
|VGA/HDMI Switch||Manual Input Selection||No, One PC Only||No||No|
|Remote Desktop Software||GUI and Commands||Small Remote Preview||No||Yes, Required|
|Dual Monitor Video Card||Display Settings/Control Panel||Yes, Extended Display||No||No|
This comparison chart highlights the core capabilities provided by each solution at a glance. Consider which features are must-haves versus limitations you can work around based on your needs and preferences.
Additional Tips for Connecting Two Computers to One Monitor
Beyond just picking a connection method, here are some additional tips to help you successfully set up and use a two PC, one monitor configuration:
- Position computers close together – Minimize cable lengths for cleaner setup and best video quality.
- Manage computer inputs – Use labels or dedicated keyboards/mice to avoid confusion.
- Adjust display settings – Tweak resolutions, orientation, and layout to optimize screen usage.
- Add peripherals judiciously – Don’t overload outlets or USB ports creating issues.
- Watch performance impacts – Connected PCs may slow down each other if sharing resources.
- Enable quick switching – Set up hotkeys or shortcuts for frequent transitioning between computers.
- Use cable ties for organization – Prevent a rat’s nest of tangled cables under your desk!
- Clean and dust regularly – More components means faster buildup of dirt in your workspace.
With some strategic planning and periodic maintenance, a two PC one monitor setup should provide utility and convenience without much added hassle.
Connecting two computers to share one monitor opens up new possibilities to enhance productivity and multitasking capabilities. The good news is that there are straightforward solutions that fit a variety of needs and budgets.
KVM switches provide comprehensive control for toggling keyboards, mice, and displays between computers. VGA and HDMI switches simplify routing video signals from multiple PCs using low cost manual buttons. Remote desktop software facilitates versatile networked access between computers. And dual monitor video cards integrate both displays natively through one system.
Any of these options can enable your home or office to do more with a multi-PC monitor configuration. Just decide what functionality and price point make sense for your environment. With the steps and advice in this guide, you’ll be set up for screen sharing success in no time!
The capability to seamlessly access two distinct computers through one monitor can be a game changer for productivity. No longer will you need to sacrifice valuable workspace for additional monitors or constantly switch positions to alternate between devices.
So choose the method that best fits your needs, make the connections, and start enjoying a simplified, streamlined desktop experience! With the right tools, it’s easy to get multiple computers happily sharing one screen.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a KVM switch?
A: A KVM switch is a device that allows you to control multiple computers with one keyboard, video monitor, and mouse.
Q: What is a VGA or HDMI switch?
A: A VGA or HDMI switch is a device that allows you to switch between multiple VGA or HDMI sources to one display.
Q: What is remote desktop software?
A: Remote desktop software is a program that allows you to access and control a computer from another device.
Q: What is a dual-monitor video card?
A: A dual-monitor video card is a graphics card that allows you to connect two monitors to one computer.
Q: Can I connect two computers to one monitor without a switch?
A: Yes, you can do this using remote desktop software or a dual-monitor video card.
Q: Can I use a KVM switch with a wireless keyboard and mouse?
A: Yes, as long as the keyboard and mouse are compatible with the KVM switch.
Q: Can I use a VGA or HDMI switch with a DVI monitor?
A: Yes, as long as you have the appropriate adapter.
Q: Can I use remote desktop software with a slow internet connection?
A: Yes, but the performance may be affected.
Q: Can I use a dual-monitor video card with a laptop?
A: Yes, if the laptop has a compatible port for the video card.
Q: Can I use a monitor splitter to connect two computers to one monitor?
A: No, a monitor splitter only duplicates the same image on multiple displays.