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What is a KVM switch, and how can I tell if it will work in my setup?

KVM stands for Keyboard Video Mouse and KVM switches allow you to switch the use of a keyboard, display and mouse between multiple computers.  KVM switches also commonly let you switch audio and USB devices between computers.

There are different types of KVM switches as well.

  • Standard box KVM switches. (e.g. SV231USB)
  • Cable KVM switches. (e.g. SV211USB)
  • Multi-Monitor KVM switches.  (e.g. SV231DDUSB)
  • IP KVM switches. (e.g. SV841HDIE)

Standard box and cable KVM switches are a simple way to switch the use of a keyboard, display, and mouse between multiple computers.  Multi-monitor KVM switches allow you to switch multiple displays between computers, and IP KVM switches allow you to remotely control the KVM switch and connected computers over a network.

Here are some important things to consider before purchasing a KVM switch.

  • How many computers do you need to control?  Purchase a KVM switch that supports the number of computers in your setup.
  • Which video connections do your computers and display(s) support?  It is best practice to use the same video connections wherever possible.
  • Will you be using a PS/2 or USB mouse and keyboard?
  • Do you need multiple monitor support?  Ensure every computer can support the number of monitors you are looking to use in your setup.
  • Do you need audio support?
  • What resolution(s) do you want your display(s) running at?  The KVM switch must support the resolution(s) you want to use.
  • Would you like hotkey support?  Some KVM switches support the use of hotkey combinations to complete tasks such as switching between computers.

There are a couple of other important things you may want to take note of:

  • Some KVM switches require proprietary cables to function.  These KVM cables may vary by each KVM switch.  For StarTech.com KVM switches that require proprietary cables, the KVM switches will either come with these cables, or they will be listed in the Accessories tab on the individual product pages.  For more information, see our video dedicated to KVM switch cables.
  • Basic mice and keyboards are recommended for use with KVM switches.  Wireless, gaming or combo mice and keyboards (mice and keyboards that use a single USB connection / receiver for both units) can cause performance issues, and in general, are not supported for use with KVM switches.