Hardware,  Tech

Finally, some KVM success

I have worked with several KVMs in the last 15 years and have always been left wanting more. I pretty much got to the point where I just avoided them as much as possible. That changed a few days ago when I got a new laptop that I want to sometimes use with my larger display.

My setup is simple but does have a few things that made the search a little bit more difficult. I have two displays my Windows 7 desktop: a Dell 30″ and an Acer 27″. My plan was to find a KVM that allowed me to connect my laptop (2011 MacBook Pro) to the Dell 30″ monitor. One of the first things I noticed when reading reviews for the myriad of KVMs there are out there is they’re still quite a flaky slice of hardware. I also noticed many people having trouble getting high resolutions working well; the Dell 30″ runs at 2560×1600 and it was a deal-breaker to not be able to get that on both machines.

I ended up picking up an IOGear 2-port Dual Link DVI KVMP & Multimedia Switch (quite the mouthful). It’s model number is GCS1782. Getting the video to switch was actually quite smooth and required little to no tinkering. The only mistake I had made was picking up an Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI Adapter instead of a Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter. Both machines were switching seamlessly and I couldn’t notice any difference in quality whatsoever. Pretty happy at this point.

The only thing left to do was to get my wireless keyboard and mouse also hooked up to the KVM. This took a bit more effort but also ended up working nicely. My main difficulty came from the fact that my keyboard is a Microsoft Natural Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard 7000 and my mouse is a Microsoft Explorer Mouse (wireless). I experienced all kinds of problems from no input coming from either the keyboard or mouse to erratic behavior (e.g., one key press on the keyboard would generate 5+ characters or the mouse would only move left/right but not up/down). After spending over an hour of trial and error with it, here are the steps that ended up working for me.

  1. Turn everything off. Power down your computers and disconnect the AC Adapter on the KVM.
  2. Connect everything which should be pretty straightforward. Make sure to connect the keyboard and mouse to the two USB ports on the back of the KVM that are specifically meant for them.
  3. Connect the AC Adapter to the KVM.
  4. Turn on the computer that’s connected to the currently selected port on the KVM and wait for it to boot up. Don’t worry about typing or using your mouse yet.
  5. Switch to the other port on the KVM by pressing the button on the front of the actual KVM.
  6. Turn on the other computer and wait for it to boot up all the way.
  7. Now, try to switch KVM ports by using your keyboard’s hotkey: press the Scroll Lock key twice and then the Enter key. If it swapped, then that’s goodness. If it didn’t, you’re on your own (sorry).
  8. Try using your keyboard and mouse on both computers now. If they seem to work then you should probably just be happy at this point and not follow the rest of the steps. Mine didn’t work at this point so continue if you’re also experiencing problems.
  9. On your keyboard, press and hold the Num Lock key, press the ‘-‘ key, and release the Num Lock key. This should put you into HSM (Hotkey Setting Mode) on the KVM. You won’t be able to see anything to tell you this but if you heard some beeps from the KVM you’re probably in good shape.
  10. Press the ‘M’ key now which should toggle the Mouse Emulation Control mode on the KVM. At this point, I saw my Windows machine recognize the mouse and start working perfectly.

If things don’t work for you at this point, you might want to keep messing with the various HSM keys you can find in the manual. I can at least confirm it worked perfectly for me (so far, we’ll see if I experience any flakiness over time) and that it did require some tweaks in my case to make it work.

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