Multiple monitors for multiple machines

I have always experimented with different monitor and KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) devices so that I could easily use my work computer and my home computer at the same desk. Couple that with nowadays, computer monitors are pretty cheap (23” monitor for ~$129 as of this writing).

Over time, I’ve started to really rely on having multiple monitors. For a software developer, that extra real estate is just soooooo nice!

However, I had it so that I had my “main” monitor switched through the KVM and the other monitor I left hard-wired to my main computer. This meant that I had 2 screens for home, but only 1 for work. Glancing at the picture below, Monitor 2 was shared via the KVM between home and work, and Monitor 1 was hard-wired to my home machine.

Well, will visiting last week, brother John mentioned a really smart way to hook things up where I could re-use more of my equipment. Now that the dust has settled, this is what I’ve ended up with:


My home computer:

  • DVI cable to Monitor 1
  • VGA cable to KVM (which feeds Monitor 2)
  • “Active” DisplayPort->DVI cable to Monitor 3
  • USB cable to Mimo Monitor 4

That means that I can switch the KVM to home, AND manually switch Monitor 3 to use DVI – and I can use ALL THREE main monitors for home (and the Mimo is always available too). Or, I can leave Monitor 3 pointing at work, and still use Monitor 1 + 2 + 4 for home.

My work computer:

  • VGA cable to KVM (which feeds Monitor 2)
  • DisplayPort to DVI cable to Monitor 3

That means that my work computer can use either Monitor 2, or Monitor 2 + 3 at the same time. The KVM controls Monitor 2, and I can optionally use Monitor 3 by manually switching the input.

The important lesson I learned here is that apparently “most” video cards require an ‘active’ connector for DisplayPort, to be able to support a 3rd monitor. So, after some trial-and-error, I needed to hook up my home computer to Monitor 3 with an ‘Active’ DisplayPort to DVI adapter. Using a passive adapter resulted in Windows 7 saying “can’t save display settings” and not allowing me to display 3 at a time. I could choose any 2, but not use 3 at a time.

Monitors are relatively cheap now, and most standard video cards in present day (even laptops) support at least 2 monitors – you should look into adding some screen real estate to your computer rig!

Posted in Computers and Internet, Infrastructure, New Technology, Organization will set you free, Professional Development, Uncategorized

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