Monitor question

My home desk setup has to cope with my own computer (an Intel Mac Mini) and my work Windows laptop. At the moment I plug them both into the same monitor (a cheap Asus 4K) using a HDMI switch, while my keyboard and mouse are attached to a USB switch. This setup just about works, but it often breaks and I am increasingly thinking about throwing money at the problem!

My ideal would be to have a decent monitor that acts as the hub for both computers and the USB peripherals - and obviously as a switch between the two. This setup isn’t usually discussed in monitor reviews and the forum threads I have seen have described pretty mixed experiences. Has anyone managed to do this successfully - and if so, which monitors did you use?


1 Like

I have a Dell 28inch monitor, I connect it to up to 4 different devices. This setup works fine for me; what does not really work is having the keyboard and mouse switching with the monitor. You can say I tried all keyboards in the market, and nothing is as good as connecting different sets of keyboards and mice to different computers.

One solution that I used for many years, is to set your Windows PC to allow remote connections and install Microsoft Remote Desktop (free in the App Store) on your Mac.

Then you can remote into your PC from your Mac and have it available in one Desktop and your Mac apps in another and swipe between them as needed.

Thank you. This was the detail I was hoping for. I assumed that the monitor could act as a USB hub and switch my USB peripherals at the same time as the visual input. Is that not the case?

I didn’t know about that - thank you. My work Windows laptop is really locked down by my work IT so I imagine that won’t be possible, but I will check.

1 Like

I’m not doing this with two computers, but I do have a Dell Ultrasharp that connects to my Air using USB C. All peripherals plug into the Dell, so in theory if I plug that single USB C cable into a Windows computer, it should just work. I can’t envisage any way it wouldn’t.

Is that the kind of set up you are aiming for? I might be getting my work computer in the post this week, at which point I’ll be testing this exact scenario out.

At the moment my Mac is permanently plugged in and the Windows laptop goes in a dock - but that might work. Presumably I’d still need some kind of USB switch?


I think that @GraemeS has given you the best solution. The problem is that monitors that support a variety of non-USB-C / non-TB connectivity, eg HDMI and DP (or of course older monitors with DVI or VGA, which I assume are not in consideration) and also have the ability to support your USB devices are going to do so by having both the video cable and a separate USB cable “uplink” that connects into a USB port on the computer. Effectively the monitor just has a USB hub built in, no different than if you bought a USB hub and taped it to the side of the monitor.

As such, you could use a solution where you connect two cables to one computer or the other, the video cable and the cable to the USB hub, and the keyboard and mouse are connected to the USB hub. This would work, but requires connecting multiple cables each time you switch (including power if any of the computers are a laptop). Depending on where the mini is located, having to plug and unplug the cables could be nuisance, but this is workable.

A second choice is a USB-C or Thunderbolt monitor. Because USB-C and TB can both carry USB signals and video, you can get a one cable solution where you plug one cable into the USB port of the relevant computer. Since most USB-C and TB monitors deliver power as well, the laptop does not need separate power.

Unfortunately, you are still looking at plugging and unplugging from the mini in this situation. You could finesse this a bit by having two usb-c cables and leaving one plugged into the mini and disconnect from the monitor end instead and a second cable attached to the work laptop and plugged/unplugged from the monitor, but there is really nothing elegant about this solution.

Unfortunately this works better with two laptops where the plugging and unplugging is less onerous than a mini with ports that are on the back of the computer and the computer is often placed in a less accessible location (precisely because you don’t expect to be doing all of this plugging and unplugging).

You could achieve a similar result with a USB-C dock, especially if your monitor does not support USB-C or TB and you want to keep that monitor; then everything plugs into the dock, but you still have the final cable problem.

In the “olden days” there was a device called a KVM for “Keyboard Video Mouse.” It was a box with a big switch on it. You fed three connectors into it, one going to the keyboard, one to the mouse, and one to the monitor (typically in those days VGA but there were boxes for DVI as well). The box could take keyboards and mice with USB connections although more commonly the older PS2 connector. Then you ran a set of three cables for each computer to be connected into the respective ports on each computer. There were boxes that supported 2, 3, or more computers, and with three cables / computer plus the three to the devices themselves, there were a lot of wires going on, but it did work.

I do not know if there are KVM units for newer systems eg DP or HDMI for video and USB for monitors or even a USB-C switcher, but that would be what you want, I think.

There are also software solutions (eg Synergy) but with your work laptop locked down, software solutions are unlikely to be effective.

1 Like

The google shows quite a number of these, actually, like this expensive but highly functional one from Dell:

There are others with a broad range of prices.

Here’s how I work with 2 Windows machines and one MBP with one monitor, one keyboard and 1, 2 or 3 mice.
My work windows machine and my MBP are both connected to an LG 5k2k monitor; windows machine via HDMI and MBP via one of its Thunderbolt ports. I can switch between them using a button under the monitor. A slight annoyance: the monitor will go to sleep quickly if I switch to a machine that is asleep and can be a little hard to wake up. Once in a while I have to power cycle it. Otherwise I like the arrangement and I can split the screen between both computers. The monitor is also a hub for other USB devices and powers the MBP.
Keyboard is a 3 way Logitech MX Keys - I recently upgraded from the K811 to get the numeric keypad. Slight annoyance is that the Windows Start key is now different from the Command key. Connected to Windows via dongle and MBP via Bluetooth.
Logitech MX Master 2 mouse connected to the Windows machine via dongle and to the MBP via Bluetooth. However it’s simpler to just use my Mac mouse for the MBP and Logitech for Windows.
Occasionally I have to use another Windows machine so I do use all 3 positions on the keyboard and mouse, or a third mouse. If necessary I can connect this machine to the monitor as well, using HDMI.
Both Windows machines have touch screens. I don’t use touch all the time, but it’s definitely the fastest way to do certain operations like selecting icons from the start page. I have a trackpad for my MBP.

Thanks everyone. That’s really helpful and a great starting point for some further research.