If you have multiple Macs you want to use in the same rough space, it can be a hassle to manage multiple keyboards, mice, and other pointing devices. What if you could use a single set of input devices to control multiple Macs—and sometimes iPads?
The latest operating system updates from Apple offer Universal Control for Macs and iPads, a solution for sharing keyboards and pointers in many situations. Where Universal Control doesn’t fit, you can try a hardware or software KVM, which can share a set of input devices among multiple computers.
Universal Control lets you use a keyboard, mouse, or trackpad across multiple devices logged into the same iCloud account and that are in proximity to one another. MacOS Monterey version 12.4 or later and iPadOS 15.4 or later are required. You also have to have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled.
We’ve written elsewhere about how to set up Universal Control, and Apple offers this detailed setup guide that includes minimum hardware model requirements for Macs and iPads.
Called KVM long ago for “keyboard, video, and mouse,” a KVM switch was an important tool for system and network administrators to avoid the clutter of extra bulky CRTs and keyboards in server rooms and elsewhere. Later, KVMs became handy for those who wanted to dock a laptop next to a desktop setup and use a larger monitor, full-sized keyboard, and mouse, trackball, or trackpad.
Those KVMs had to include a VGA connection, multiple serial and audio connectors, and sometimes USB 1.1.
Today, a KVM can be much simpler: you just need USB Type-A ports and can use USB-C adapters as necessary to connect to your Macs. This $19.99 list price UGreen two-computer switch could fit the bill for many people.
If you only want to switch among Macs, a virtual KVM might be the path of least fuss. Symless Synergy is just $29 for three computers, with those licenses covering macOS, Linux, Raspberry Pi, and Windows—you can mix and match installations.
Synergy works similarly to Universal Control (before Universal Control existed), letting you trigger movement among devices by sliding your cursor off the edge of one screen and onto another.
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Vish.
Ask Mac 911
We’ve compiled a list of the questions we get asked most frequently, along with answers and links to columns: read our super FAQ to see if your question is covered. If not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email yours to firstname.lastname@example.org, including screen captures as appropriate and whether you want your full name used. Not every question will be answered, we don’t reply to email, and we cannot provide direct troubleshooting advice.