Two simultaneous users on one computer
January 13, 2008 4:55 PM   Subscribe

PCTech: I would like to have two users on one desktop, simultaneous with two monitors, keys, and mice experiencing independent environments. Can I achieve this in Windows without two OS?

I already KNOW this can be done with Linux but I have a lot of win programs I'd prefer to keep, some business related, so I would prefer to have a WinPC set up. I am willing and would prefer to build a new box, so I can migrate to Vista. I'm willing to settle on the definition of "independent environment" to the extent it could be the same 'desktop' with the same background and screensaver and what have you, but in the least I need two monitors, two keyboards, and two mice for two users not interfering with each other.
posted by Kensational to Computers & Internet (14 answers total)
What exactly are you trying to achieve here? It sounds like you have two people that need computers, but for whatever reason you can only provide a single physical workstation. You might be able to do something with a virtual desktop and two monitors (to provide two separate "desktops"), but I've never seen a Windows PC handle more than one keyboard/mouse at a time. If you could better explain your goal I might be able to provide better advice.

You have little to gain and much to lose by migrating to Vista, btw.
posted by bizwank at 5:08 PM on January 13, 2008

Yes, this can be done with Windows Server. You will need to google terms like "Terminal Services Windows 2003" and "Citrix." Youre not doing this with vista and the cost of doing this far exceeds buying two boxes. TS or Citrix is economical only for many more users.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:12 PM on January 13, 2008

I don't see the point of this, since if you already have two keyboards, mice, and monitors, you might as well just have two PCs. It'd probably be cheaper and it would certainly be easier than the hacquery.
posted by rokusan at 5:27 PM on January 13, 2008

What about two virtualized Win images on Linux? Each user gets their own PC, on a single box...
posted by cdmwebs at 5:54 PM on January 13, 2008

I saw this linked on SilentPCReview:

"Userful (Free 2-User Edition) is a simple and free way to transform your dual-monitor PC into a dual-station PC! You'll be able to support two independent users, each with their own screen and keyboard with just one PC. All you need is a computer with two monitors connected (e.g., using a dual-head video card) and an extra USB keyboard and mouse."
posted by Yogurt at 6:58 PM on January 13, 2008

Sorry, Userful is a Linux program! I got confused by the commercial-looking site. Blush.
posted by Yogurt at 7:00 PM on January 13, 2008

My wife and I have a small "den" area for the computer and desk and we were thinking of a set up where we could be together while we both worked/surfed (instead of me in the livingroom on the laptop) and I wondered if there was a (simple) software solution/hack to use one box with the two independent monitors/Key/Mice instead of buying a second box. I'm also presently cheap.

But if I can only use Windows Server or have to twist like a pretzel to run a shell over Linux it looks like a second box is cheaper and simpler.

Thanks for the replies.
posted by Kensational at 7:11 PM on January 13, 2008

Yogurt: Me too, I fell for the "PC" part as well, thanks though.
posted by Kensational at 7:14 PM on January 13, 2008

Maybe Userful running Win programs under WINE? I've had generally good luck with that, at least usable for my needs, but I've never run anything really taxing that way.
posted by 6550 at 7:59 PM on January 13, 2008

Jetway produced just such a solution a while back. They apparently still sell the boards in their 'other' category but it looks like they stopped keeping up with current hardware trends in the P4/AMD64 era.
posted by datacenter refugee at 9:52 PM on January 13, 2008

For my money, cdmwebs has it. Keep your Linux box, install VMware Player, and use EasyVMX to make blank virtual machines you can install Windows into.
posted by flabdablet at 9:52 PM on January 13, 2008

FYI: There are classrooms with a row of four students each running their own display/keyboard/mouse connected to a single Linux PC. Actually pretty easy to do and it saves the districts a LOT of money on Windows licenses and PC's.

Windows solution? I don't think you can do it.

My recommendation? Do like I did and buy a used PC (I picked up a Dell 2.4Ghz P4 with 1 GB RAM, 80 GB HDD and a DVD/CDR drive which my wife uses) for USD $129.00.
posted by Leenie at 12:57 AM on January 14, 2008

Thanks everyone.
Data: the jetway is an elegant hardware base but I wouldn't have the software base which puts me back where I am either trying to shoehorn Win (not likely) or learning to use Linux or abandoning the one box idea.

Flab: I'll check that path out.

But I think I will probably end up going down the route of two win boxes but one will be a cheap crap older box for mainly just internet, and one rocking modder to handle game caliber usage or heavy photoshoping, and the wife and I can use whichever suit our needs at that moment.
posted by Kensational at 12:24 PM on January 14, 2008

Sorry to come in so late, but in answer to a question in 2006 (How to reduce the amount of computer towers in my home?) I said:
This system will do it using Windows XP or Win2K, without needing Windows Server. I used a previous version about six years ago to have five users simultaneously logged in to a Win98 computer (one PC with four 'buddies') without too much hassle.
The link still seems to be live.
posted by Tawita at 6:47 PM on January 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

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