Anyone using multiple computers as a system?

I guess we all use a lot of computers every day. Even if you only use your phone and connect to the internet, you are likely accessing a huge number of computers. My current question is about using multiple machines in the same room with you and theoretically, at the same time.

I have a pretty nice i7 laptop, and a “used to be pretty nice” i7 laptop and another even older Core Two Duo laptop, which was a “pretty nice machine” when I purchased it, many years ago. Back then, I had a bunch of computer towers of various ages. I’ve switched to using laptops as they have become more powerful and the cost seems like it is a smaller portion of my living expenses.

All of my laptops have SSD drives and the two i7’s have a second mechanical drive built in as well. Each machine has a stack of external USB hard drives sitting next to it, which I back up to every night, and cycle through the stack as they get full. Only one of the drives, in the stack, is connected at a time. This is one of the ways that I’m attempting to defend against Ransomware.

My stepson helped me mount a section of kitchen countertop, at desk height, along one end of my computer room. We also mounted a shallower shelf, a little over two feet above the “desk”. I sometimes wish I had a second shelf above that, but I would have to have a short people stretcher to reach a second one and I’m not sure exactly what I would use it for if I had it. If I figure out how I would use it, it would not be too hard to add it.

Both surfaces are mounted on metal angle brackets, a couple of inches from the wall. This allows room for wires to get from the floor to the top shelf. The laptops are on the top shelf, along with external hard drives, USB and network hubs and switches and cable modem, as well as a clock and land line interface for our cordless phones. On the countertop desk, is a multi-function printer, a bunch of monitors and a collection of mice and keyboards. Each laptop can drive two monitors. The newest machine will also drive the built in LCD display was well as a 4K monitor.

I currently have 5 monitors mounted on the desk with monitor stands. One is 4K the others are 1K.

All three machines are running Windows 10 and are on the same network. I use a Microsoft Garage program called “Mouse without Borders” to enable one keyboard and mouse to control all three laptops. I have used it with 4 machines, in the past, and it works quite well. Each machine also has a BlueTooth and/or Logitech USB Unifying Receiver, so I can use the Logitech keyboard and mouse that have the ability to switch between and talk with three computers. This comes in handy when the machine which has the main keyboard and mouse connected to it is rebooting or is off for some reason.

Logitech has a program called Flow which does the same kind of thing as Mouse without Borders. Mouse without Borders and Logitech Flow allow you to point the mouse to any window on any one of the 5 monitors and the keyboard input will go to that window. I think Flow only works with Logitech mice and keyboards. Mouse without Borders and Logitech Flow allow you to copy from one machine and paste onto another, as if it was one big machine. I think Mouse without Borders is a little smoother than Logitech Flow, but both are pretty nice and I have had them both running at the same time on all three machines for years now, without any issues.

As far as I know, Mouse without Borders is for Windows only. I think Logitech Flow supports Windows and Mac. I’m interested to learn of something which would allow me to add a Chromebook into the mix as well.

I’m sharing this because it has worked very nicely for me, and hope it might inspire someone else to do a similar thing. I’m also interested to hear if someone else has done something similar, but has an even more cleaver approach that they would be willing to share.

With WSL2, I can have a bunch of Linux virtual machines running on each laptop.

If I can find some way that I could keep up with three really nice machines, the two older machines could easily be upgraded and it would be a really powerful computer. Currently, they are all mostly just sitting there waiting for the next mouse click or keystroke. If only I could upgrade my brain as easily as I can upgrade computers.