Pete Segar, SVP Product Innovation & Chief Technical Officer @ Ergotron
There are lots of us “road warriors” who shuttle a laptop computer between work and home, yet also have a home CPU computer with flat panel monitor. Great productivity gains can be had by hooking up the system so that the computer monitor can serve as a second display when using the laptop (see my separate blog entry describing my work computer setup which uses the laptop as a second display).
Here is a fantastic solution that is easily achievable:
- Share a keyboard, mouse and monitor between the home CPU and work laptop
- Switch back and forth from laptop to CPU instantly in one keystroke
- View dual monitors when using the laptop computer
- Position the flat panel display and laptop in convenient ergonomic positions
- Reposition the laptop and flat panel monitor easily- adjust height or swivel
A very simple solution allows both the home CPU and the work laptop to share the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and even USB devices. The solution uses a “KVM Switch,” which can be purchased from any computer equipment retailer for less than $30 and be installed with ease.
The KVM switch looks like a Y-cable with connections for the keyboard, mouse, monitor and possibly USB devices on one end, and two sets of corresponding connectors that go to each computer. Pressing CTRL_SCROLL LOCK twice switches the display and peripherals from the laptop to the CPU and back. This allows use of dual displays for the laptop computer. I have not yet figured out if there is a way to use the laptop as a second display when using the CPU computer.
I purchased an inexpensive port replicator for the laptop on EBay, and mounted it on an Ergotron Neo-Flex Combo Stand. The display is also mounted on the same stand. This allows me to easily position both displays in an ergonomic and convenient position.
Figure 1) Home computer setup showing dual monitor system – my home computer display serves as the second monitor when using my work laptop.
Figure 2) Press Ctrl-Scroll Lock twice, and the flat panel screen now shows my home CPU computer. The keyboard and mouse also now operate my home computer. The work laptop computer is still live, but now is in single monitor mode.
Figure 3) Rear view of the setup. All the laptop wiring is attached to a port replicator, so my laptop can simply be snapped in and out of the dock. The whole system is height adjustable and swivels side to side.
With a few inexpensive devices, it is easy to create a really innovative, flexible, space-saving, ergonomic workstation that integrates your home computing equipment with work computing equipment. Here is my “bill of materials:”
KVM Switch ($20)
Neo-Flex Combo Stand ($179)
Port Replicator ($99 used)
I really encourage those of you who use work laptops and home computers to consider this solution. The ergonomic and productivity benefits are well worth the few hundred dollars of investment. Everything can be acquired from most major IT resellers.