PowerToys 0.70: control 4 PCs with one mouse and keyboard
Remember Mouse without Borders? A Microsoft Garage project that allowed you to control multiple PCs with a single mouse and keyboard set. Launched in 2011, it was a useful software as it allowed you to control multiple PCs without having to switch mice and keyboards.
Several other programs were released that offer similar functionality. There is ShareMouse, which extended support to Apple devices, Stardock's commercial Multiplicity KVM, Logitech's effort, and also Apple's Universal Control feature.
The team that is developing the open source tools collection PowerToys has integrated Mouse Without Borders in the latest version. The tool creates a space that encompasses the displays of all connected devices.
Users may move the mouse from one screen to another using the same mouse. The sharing of files and clipboard data is supported.
Mouse Without Borders needs to be enabled first in the PowerToys preferences. Devices are connected by generating a security key on one machine and entering the generated key and the name of the other machine on another. This links both machines and unlocks the features of the tool. PowerToys needs to be installed on all devices and Mouse Without Borders needs to be enabled on all machines.
Up to four devices may be controlled with a single mouse and keyboard. The device layout can be rearranged in the preferences of the tool. An option to switch the single row layout to a two-by-two matrix is also provided.
Mouse Without Borders may be installed as a service. Doing so allows the tool to control machines even if they are locked and control of system and administrator applications on all devices. This may require, however, to remove the Mouse Without Borders service manually later.
Most features are turned on by default. File transfers and clipboard sharing is supported by default, but may be disabled in the options. Wrap mouse creates a loop across all displays so that the mouse appears on the first display again after leaving the last one in the row.
Administrators may enable several security features in the preferences. Remote machines may be validated using their IP addresses and connections may be limited to the same subnet. Both options are not enabled by default.
The tool supports keyboard shortcuts to control some features. The shortcuts Ctrl-Alt-[F1-F4] let users switch between different machines using the keyboard. There is a shortcut to lock all systems at once, Ctrl-Alt-L, and a shortcut to switch to multiple machine mode to control all machines at once.
Microsoft has created a support page on its Learn website that explains all settings and includes a troubleshooting section that focuses on connection problems between devices.
Mouse Without Borders is a helpful but niche application. It is ideal for controlling multiple Windows devices that sit next to each other, but this is not a requirement. It is a great tool for controlling a laptop using the mouse and keyboard of a desktop PC, or multiple PCs, without having to switch to using the device's connected mouse and keyboard each time.
Now You: do you use software like Mouse Without Borders?
Several years ago I used a thing called “Synergy” to share a mouse between computers with different OS’s at work. But I’m not sure why someone would want to use more than one Windows computer at a time. This Mouse without Borders thing sounds like a solution to a problem that an extremely tiny number of people face.
I will use the Powertoys only when they got merged with Windows OS.
I used to use Powertoys on Windows XP Pro, but can’t remember what for.
Need something a bit more revolutionary now. How about a drone?