How to make the following: 1 desktop + 1 desktop = 1 bigger desktop?
July 25, 2012 3:03 PM   Subscribe

I need to be able to use two computers as one. How can I do this?

The desktop pc I am using right now is a pc that, I believe, was probably built by cavemen. It works fine for web surfing and watching Netflix Instant and Amazon Prime videos and it has a lot of special things on it that I do NOT want to lose right now such as software that is no longer made or downloadable, that kind of thing.

I have another desktop that is a bit newer, but still old. It is good for installing a number of games, and more importantly, my photo shopping software, that the really old one cannot handle.

Rather than having to hook up two different computers and having to jump from one desk to another and so forth, how can I hook them up together and use each computer as... another computer, or something?

If I could wave my magic wand, I would have the ability to log onto both at the same time and share Windows too, similar to a USB portable hard drive, which I also have.

I don't have another monitor, just the desktop pc, in case it matters.

I'm not sure a "home network" is the thing I am looking for either, if I understand what it is correctly.

Please also talk to me like I'm two because I am not very hardware oriented.
posted by magnoliasouth to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The easiest way is to get a KVM switch which allows you to have a single keyboard, video, and mouse (KVM) shared between the two computers and switch them with the press of a button on the switch or a special keystroke on your keyboard. I'm using one right now!

You could also give each one its own monitor and switch keyboard and mouse only.

Your other alternative is to use Remote Desktop or VNC to log into one from the other, but I only recommend this for more sophisticated users. A KVM is easy—you just plug it in and you're done.
posted by grouse at 3:08 PM on July 25, 2012

Another possibility is Remote Desktop Connection, from Microsoft. But it would require one of your computers to be using Win7.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:11 PM on July 25, 2012

Very cool and easy! Any brand/model recommendation?
posted by magnoliasouth at 3:11 PM on July 25, 2012

You could also use Synergy which basically turns multiple systems into one giant desktop. I've never used it, but I believe you can basically do the same as a KVM switch but seamlessly without actually doing any switching. It basically turns your other system into a slave of the first.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:12 PM on July 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

I like grouse's suggestion a lot, but you could also try out Logmein.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:12 PM on July 25, 2012

Actually, I use logmein for connecting to my mother's pc but that's not going to work for me here. It's a very slow connection since my computer is old (the photo shopping would be a nightmare) and the main problem is that it would require an internet connection too. I think that may be an issue with Synergy as well.

Unfortunately, I have a LOUSY FREAKING cable company that provides the only high speed internet in my area. I need to be able to use both computers, even when not connected to the internet.

I do appreciate the suggestions though!! I really do. I just love this place. <3
posted by magnoliasouth at 3:23 PM on July 25, 2012

You can use Remote Desktop Connection on XP- but you have to be running Professional or Ultimate.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 3:28 PM on July 25, 2012

If you only have one monitor, I suggest buying a KVM switch but if you have a monitor for each computer, then I would install and use Synergy.

I use both scenarios actively at home and mostly at work. I use a KVM in my labs because desk space is tight plus all my lab machines don't require as much interaction. I use synergy at my desk because it allows me to use three monitors to control three workstations (linux, windows 7 and mac osx) using one keyboard and one mouse. All three workstations require my constant attention. Plus, using photoshop and watching movies through remote desktop like software is not fun at all.
posted by nataaniinez at 3:41 PM on July 25, 2012

You want VNC, it's free, it's been around forever, it works.
posted by Cosine at 3:46 PM on July 25, 2012

You could also use Synergy

I believe Synergy is more for multiple computers AND monitors but only one keyboard and mouse.
posted by Cosine at 3:47 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have two computers and two monitors side-by-side, and while I cant' share windows, I have some shared folders with convenient bookmarks, and I use Synergy, linked above. It's brilliant. I keep a mouse and keyboard connected to the client machine in case I need to reboot and log in, or use the UAC, but generally, I only use the mouse/keyboard of the synergy server, which is my newer machine. The transition from screen to screen is very natural.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:55 PM on July 25, 2012

Sunburnt: I think OP has just the one monitor so I don't think Synergy is going to be useful. It is a great tool tho!
posted by Cosine at 3:59 PM on July 25, 2012

Cosine is right, I only have one monitor, but I do see the great points those are making about Synergy.
posted by magnoliasouth at 4:00 PM on July 25, 2012

I've used Synergy and now use Microsoft's Mouse Without Borders to run two computers through one monitor, keyboard and mouse, but the monitor has two inputs, both analog and digital.
posted by ODiV at 5:53 PM on July 25, 2012

Why not make an image of your slow, cruddy computer and run it as a virtual machine on your newer, sexier workstation? I haven't used VMware vCenter Converter, but it seems like it should be able to do the job.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:53 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Virtualization might be worthwhile, and could save on electricity and space as well. Acronis True Image Echo and Universal Restore could also get you there, allowing you to back up the old computer and then convert its image to a VHD for virtualization. I think you could get by with a trial version of the software just to do the task.
posted by samsara at 8:59 PM on July 25, 2012

If you're interested in learning a bit about the insides of computers, it could be a fun project to pull out the hard drive and put it into the newer machine. You might be able to salvage some extra RAM for your newer machine as well, if it's compatible.
posted by Grither at 4:39 AM on July 26, 2012

Thanks for all the input here!

I think probably the KVM switch is the easiest solution for me, right now. All of the ideas here are great, but I'm very hardware challenged and with my husband gone - he's a computer engineer in fact, but wasn't able to explain to me well what I needed to do; I think he was trying to do what Grither is suggesting - I could add that switch until he is able to help me further.

Interestingly enough, the bigger pc has the previous hard drive in it from yet ANOTHER computer! I'd forgotten about that until Grither and my husband mentioned it.

Many thanks to all for the wonderful ideas.
posted by magnoliasouth at 12:18 PM on July 26, 2012

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