In this guide, we will discover: KVM Switch Explained: One Switch, Several Computers – Easy Beginners Guide 2023
So, let’s begin!
Wondering what a KVM switch is and why you might need one? Check out this article, as it provides all the essential details you need to know about this device.
By Oluwaseun Bamisile | Updated May 3, 2023 | 9 minutes read
To begin this article, I’ll provide an overview of a KVM switch. Following that is a section outlining some of its major features.
Next, I’ll delve into the advantages and limitations of using this hardware device.
Lastly, this article features an FAQ section, where I’ll answer several questions about KVM switches.
To start with, KVM switch stands for Keyboard, Video (Monitor), and Mouse switch. It is a box-like hardware device that allows users to control several computers using a single keyboard, monitor, and mouse.
Moreover, as its name suggests, the device enables users to easily transition between multiple computers. Basically, the computers are connected to the switch, and then the switch is connected to a keyboard, monitor, and mouse.
Hence, you won’t need additional input devices or displays for each computer. Thereby improving productivity and saving space and money.
Since the early 1990s, KVM switches have been around. However, they were primarily used to manage multiple servers with a single console in data centers and server rooms.
Besides, early KVM switches were very big and pricey. Therefore, they required special cabling and adapters to connect to various computers.
Nonetheless, electronic KVM switches were developed later on, which are more compact and less complex. Thereby providing improved functionality, better performance, and reduced cost.
That being said, you can use this device in various applications. These include server management, data centers, testing labs, and multimedia production.
You can also use the device in home offices, allowing users to share a single keyboard, monitor, and mouse between multiple computers.
Features of a KVM Switch
Having discussed what this device entails in the previous section, this section will list and explain some of its major features.
It Has Several Types
Today, there are various types of KVM switches. These include desktop KVM switches, rack-mounted KVM switches, and IP KVM switches.
Desktop KVM switches are compact and developed for use with a small number of computers, mostly two to four computers. Meanwhile, rack-mounted switches are created to fit into standard server racks.
Also, they can manage up to hundreds of computers. Lastly, IP KVM switches provide remote management capabilities.
Hence, it enables users to manage several computers from remote locations over the Internet.
Supports Multiple Operating Systems
Another major feature of this device is its support for various operating systems. This feature enables a KVM switch to operate with a variety of operating systems.
These include Windows, macOS, Linux, and UNIX. Therefore, even if your computer uses different operating systems, you should be able to use a KVM switch.
Basically, the switch translates signals between several different OS to ensure compatibility.
It Provides Several Switching Methods
A KVM switch offers several methods to switch between computers. You can either press a button on the switch or use a hotkey (keyboard shortcut).
That’s not all; you can also switch between multiple computers by clicking on the mouse wheel or using an on-screen display program. Regardless of which method you choose, the idea is that you can easily and quickly switch between different computers.
However, using a hotkey should be better for most people.
It Comes with a USB Hub
Most KVM switches feature a built-in USB hub. This hub allows users to connect several USB devices, like printers, scanners, and cameras, to the switch and access them from any connected computer.
Moreover, a built-in USB hub eliminates the need for a separate USB hub. Thereby saving space and reducing clutter.
Besides, some switches have dedicated USB ports for each connected computer, guaranteeing that USB devices are always accessible.
It Can Switch Audio Sources
The KVM switch enables users to switch audio sources along with video and keyboard/mouse control. This feature is helpful for multimedia production or gaming applications where audio is essential.
Basically, the device can route audio signals from one computer to another. Thereby allowing users to switch between multiple audio sources easily.
Pros and Cons of a KVM Switch
The previous section explained some of the major features of this device. In this section, we will discuss a couple of its benefits and drawbacks.
Pros of a KVM Switch
- It saves space and reduces cable clutter. One of the primary advantages of a KVM switch is that it saves space and minimizes cable clutter.
Typically, if you want to control multiple computers, you must buy a set of keyboards, mice, and monitors for each computer. Doing that will take up a lot of space on your desk or workspace.
However, with this switch, you can control several computers with just one set of peripherals (keyboard, video display, and mouse). Therefore, you won’t need to have multiple sets of input devices and wires cluttering up your desk or workspace.
This makes the switch an excellent solution for people who work with multiple computers but have limited desk space.
- It is cost-effective. Another major advantage of a KVM switch is that it is cost-effective.
Rather than purchasing multiple sets of input devices for each computer, you can simply buy one KVM switch. Apparently, a KVM switch should be much cheaper than buying separate input devices for each computer.
Particularly for companies or organizations that need to handle several computers, this might result in significant cost savings.
- It improves productivity. A KVM switch helps improve productivity by letting users quickly switch between multiple computers.
This means that you can work on multiple tasks simultaneously without needing to physically switch between computers. This can be especially useful for tasks such as data entry, where users must access several applications or databases.
- It is easy to use. Most KVM switches are normally easy to use and require minimal setup.
They offer plug-and-play functionality. This means you can simply connect your computers and peripherals to the switch, and you’re good to go.
Hence, even if you’re not tech-savvy or have little experience with computer hardware, you should be able to use this device.
- It improves ergonomics. By allowing users to switch between several computers without needing to move around physically, a KVM switch improves ergonomics.
This can help reduce physical strain, which is particularly important for individuals who work on a computer for long hours.
Cons of a KVM Switch
- It reduces video quality. A disadvantage of using a KVM switch is that it can reduce the video quality of your display.
This is because the video signal is being transmitted via the switch, leading to some degradation in the image quality. While this may not be noticeable for some users, it might be problematic for those requiring high-quality graphics.
- Delay in switching. Some KVM switches may delay switching between computers, which can frustrate users.
This delay can be caused by the switch itself. It can also be caused by the time it takes for the connected computers to recognize the input devices.
While the delay may only be for a few seconds, it can be a problem for those who frequently switch between computers.
- Single point of failure. Using a KVM switch means relying on a single device to control several computers.
This can be a problem if the switch fails or malfunctions, meaning it can prevent you from accessing your computers. Besides, if the switch is hacked or compromised, it can allow unauthorized access to all the connected computers.
Frequently Asked Questions
The main purpose of this device is to allow you to control multiple computers using a single set of peripherals (keyboard, monitor, and mouse).
The number of computers a KVM switch can control depends on the model/type of the KVM switch you use. Some switches can control two computers.
Meanwhile, some switches can control up to 64 computers or more.
A docking station is a hardware device that enables you to connect additional peripherals to your computer. On the other hand, a KVM switch allows you to control multiple computers using a single set of peripherals, such as a keyboard, monitor, and mouse.
While both hardware devices serve a similar purpose, they are designed for different uses.
The full form of KVM is Keyboard, Video, and Mouse.
Yes, you can use a wireless keyboard and mouse with a KVM switch. However, you need to use a wireless device compatible with the switch.
My Final Thoughts
A KVM switch is a handy device that offers a wide range of benefits for people and companies that need to manage multiple computers. Its ability to control several computers using a single set of peripherals increase productivity and saves time.
Moreover, this device is available in various sizes and configurations to meet different use cases. It can be used with desktop computers and servers.
Also, most KVM switches support a variety of ports, including VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB. However, while this device offers many benefits, it also has a few drawbacks.
Some of these drawbacks include a reduction in video quality. Nevertheless, the device is a valuable tool for anyone who needs to manage multiple computers.
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