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(x-post from stackexchange/superuser)

Here is my current setup at home:

enter image description here

For now, I am able to connect remotely to my work computer at the office, both via my Mac work laptop and my Windows desktop. However, new restrictions will soon prevent any VPN connections from non-corporate devices, which means that my work laptop will soon be the only link through which I can connect remotely.

Considering this, I am looking for suggestions on how to achieve both of the following:

  1. Keep the ability to use multiple monitors when remoting into my office computer, or using my work laptop.
  2. Be able to easily switch between a "work" context (again, either remoting into office computer or using work laptop) and my personal desktop computer.

I've never owned/used KVMs or docking stations. It seems as if a lot of the solutions I find when looking online deal with sharing input (i.e. mouse and keyboard) across multiple devices/contexts, which is not exactly what I'm going for: I have no need to have 2 "active" contexts simultaneously, I just want to have the ability to go from one context to the other without going through a ritual of cable switches.

That being said, here's what the (so far theoretical) best solution looks like to me:

enter image description here

Here, the "magic software" I'm looking for would have the ability to turn my Windows desktop into a simple relay that would get video input from the Mac laptop and display it on my screens, while also sending mouse + keyboard input to the Mac laptop (bonus points if the laptop can act as a 3rd monitor).

Again, to me, this feels like the ideal solution, since it doesn't involve buying any additional hardware, but I'm open to any suggestions that would help me achieve point 1) and 2) that I specified above.

Now, here's me being proactive about some potential questions I might get:

Why use a physical connection between the desktop and laptop, when you could use remote viewer solution X, Y, or Z?

Well, I don't have anything against this per-se, except that I feel that a physical connection, if possible, just makes more sense. I've also had frustrating experiences with VNC in the past, and I don't know of any that behaves well with a multi-monitor setup. There's also the fact that I would prefer to keep the "over the network" traffic to a minimum, considering the scenario where I'll be remoting from work laptop into my office computer. If you have a suggestion for a remote viewer that doesn't suck, I'm all ears.

Hardware specs?

  • Windows workstation

    • Video card: Radeon 290x (2x DVI, 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort)
  • Screen 1

    • Acer XG270HU (connected via DisplayPort)
  • Screen 2

    • Some old Samsung monitor (connected via DVI)
  • Mac laptop

    • Macbook Pro 13-inch 2017
    • Connectors: Two "Thunderbolt 3" ports (USB-Connector)
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Personally I have a work laptop and home laptop on my home desk with a single large monitor, ergonomic keyboard and mouse. I use a KVM switch to toggle between the two as:

  1. It is not at the mercy of a setting that the work IT admins might decide to change at any point in time.
  2. No need to install any software onto the work laptop
  3. Minimal cost (you can get a KVM switch for very reasonable prices if you look around)
  4. If my home machine is doing some heavy duty work, e.g. rendering, I can switch to the work machine with no impact (If I was using my own machine to forward input & display video then the performance would be flaky under these circumstances)
  5. Both machines get to use the full graphics capability of the main monitor(s).

On the down side since you have 2 monitors you would be looking at either a more sophisticated expensive KVM switch or two, (one with 1 monitor, keyboard & mouse the other just the monitor but this does add flexibility).

However: You could use an X-Windows program on the home machine to connect into the Mac (Security settings permitting). One common solution for this is to use Putty to ssh into the mac with the X option enabled + one of:

These solutions do allow you to spread over multiple monitors or have multiple windows open and will allow you to copy & paste between machines but have some drawbacks.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks for the comment Steve. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, multi monitor switches seem to be a lot more expensive. It's also hard to find one that has the right combination of inputs/outputs, especially considering that the only way to connect the laptop is via USB-C. I'll keep looking at KVM switches, but I was really hoping to find a way to use my desktop as a relay, as I illustrated in the diagram. – Phil Gref Mar 14 at 19:50
  • @PhilGref - My work laptop is also USB-C but I got a USB-C breakout box that has 3xUSB-A & HDMI (the HDMI KVM switches are more reasonably priced and use more flexible cables). Using a second KVM for video only allows you to do things like having a movie playing on one screen (home laptop) while working on the other. – Steve Barnes Mar 15 at 14:39

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