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Windows 7: Hardware KVM vs. software switches? Your opinion?

22 Sep 2009   #1

Windows 7 Professional (final) x64
Hardware KVM vs. software switches? Your opinion?

Hi there,

as currently my hardware "portfolio" here is growing, I now see that I need a kind switch, because I don't want to use several mice and keyboards. What I now found out, that those are called "KVM switches" and are often hardware. Yet there is also software.

I need one for 1. my desktop workstation 2. my nettop "server" and from time to time 3. for my laptop and 4. maybe for my NAS.

So I looked up the cost for this: 70 € the least. Plus cables => ~100 €

Now there is the alternative of using free software (I didn't try it yet) like Synergy(2) and InputDirector.

Now, is this software worth the effort? Or what are its disadvantages e.g. compared to this switch?
What are the advantages of such hardware that justify the 100 € extra-cost over Open-Source software? Potentially saved energy consumption, because I don't need a server running (for the software) all the time? I doubt it. Esp. as I may run my nettop-server a 100% of the time, as my NAS already is running 80% of a day.

Thanks for your help in advance!

Kind regards

My System SpecsSystem Spec

29 Sep 2009   #2

Windows 7 Professional (final) x64

No one has an opinion?
My System SpecsSystem Spec
29 Sep 2009   #3

Windows 8.1 Pro x64

I haven't used a Software solution, but I wouldn't be without my KVM switch.
I am running two desktops and one home server with one keyboard and Mouse.
You need to research what you need as there is a few different ones.
Some have DVI connections others don't some have sound capabilities.
I have a very expensive ATEN Dvi one that is sitting in the shed because i really don't need DVI and sound capabilities and I am using a cheap one that i got off Ebay and it works just as well.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

29 Sep 2009   #4

Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit

I use Synergy for connecting to my home server, now that I moved my PC down into the basement right beside it. Works great.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
30 Sep 2009   #5

Win7 64bit Ultimate

Software is slow from my own personal experience nothing can beat just pushing a button or flipping a switch. Software also takes resources to run it so your going to be more efficient using a hardware solution. The difference between software and hardware though is that you will invest some cash into a hardware solution where you can probably save some money by using a free software solution.

But like I said I find it worth the cash to just go hardware.

Word of advice if you plan to go hardware do not use a usb unit or one with a switch because the switches wear out fast and some times usb is not compatible or just has issues or in some rare cases is not there at all.

So go push button with no usb if you can.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Oct 2009   #6

Windows 7 Professional (final) x64

Hi Corpse,

thanks very much! ...yet how do you mean "no USB"? I just ordered the KVM (USB? ) switch above.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Oct 2009   #7

Win7 64bit Ultimate

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by KnowledgeWorker View Post
Hi Corpse,

thanks very much! ...yet how do you mean "no USB"? I just ordered the KVM (USB? ) switch above.
Well what I mean is that some KVMs connect to machines using USB rather than PS2. The issue you run into is that some machines you may need to connect do not have any USB ports (legacy) and some just have issues picking up the keyboard and/or mouse using USB in which case you would need a PS2 connection to use them.

This is why I say that the KVM should use PS2 rather than USB. Avoiding USB gives you the best compatibility.

But above all you should not buy a KVM that has a switch on it because flipping the switch back and fourth will wear it out. The kind i am talking about are the ones that have a switch that works like a dial where you turn it to flip between machines. They wear out pretty fast if you use the switch a lot so you want one with buttons you use to switch machines.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Oct 2009   #8

Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit

I currently use both hardware and software(synergy) in my house and for me they have pretty big differences.

Pros - Cheap, Expandable, Portable, Less messy, very seamless
Cons - needs network connection, sometimes lags (mostly 10mbit/wireless), needs dedicated screens, not good for gaming

Pros - Can use multiple computers on 1 monitor, responsive, BIOS accessible, Works with games, doesnt fail too often(depends on switch)
Cons - Cost $$ and more $$ if you want to upgrade, obtrusive when compared to synergy, MESSY cables

my setup is 3 desktop computers all the same hadeware using synergy, one is Windows 7, 2 are linux based. the Windows 7 machine is the "server" which has the mouse and keyboard attached, the linuxes are clients. also on the Windows 7 machine i have a hardware 2pc kvm attached to a more powerful gaming machine. this way i can leave monitors/terminals open on linux while playing games and easily switch to them if i need. I use RDP on my WHS box because i dont need to deal with the desktop too much on it and yet when i need it works fine

may i also suggest for your windows boxes that may be server/video render boxes is rdp, its pretty responsive but doesnt need a 2nd monitor like synergy. SSH is a good alternative for linux if your comfortable with the cli
My System SpecsSystem Spec
01 Oct 2009   #9

Windows 8.1 Pro x64

THe one you have ordered will work for you.
If you have a problem with the USB just get USB to PS2 adapters about $2 to $5 dollars each.
With your one you will not have to use the switches you can use hotkeys to change between computers and if you use the switches they are toggle type and wont give ay problems
My System SpecsSystem Spec
02 Oct 2009   #10

Windows 7 Professional (final) x64

Hey there, hey Corpse,

now I got your point. No it is no manual "switch", it seems to work by itself and it integrates an "Hub" as well! So no problems with USB I suspect. Even now I have none although I use a simple, really small USB-hub from Belkin and it just works single-USB-port on my desktop PC! My opinion is that PS2 is pretty outdated, as is the problematic of USB, I at least won't accept this issue.
All my hardware (except for Laptop) is pretty new, so it has to work.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Hardware KVM vs. software switches? Your opinion?

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