Home & Office
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


This pocket gadget lets you switch between your work PC and personal laptop in a click

Here's what to do when your IT department insists that you have to keep your work and personal PCs completely separate.
Written by Ed Bott, Senior Contributing Editor
Image: Getty/MoMo Productions

So, your employer issued you a laptop for work, but they won't let you do anything personal on it. They also insist that you are not allowed to do any work-related tasks on your personal PC, and switching between the two laptops is a pain. Is there an easier way? 

As fellow minions beholden to remote IT overlords, we sympathize. In fairness to your IT department, their primary concern is keeping the network safe. The most effective way to achieve that goal is to minimize random web browsing and prevent the use of unauthorized software while keeping you connected to HQ on a virtual private network.

Also: This is the fastest, safest way to install free Windows apps

As you've discovered, though, that makes even the simplest non-work-related computing tasks a pain to accomplish.

The most straightforward solution is to use a small piece of hardware that your IT staff probably knows well: a KVM switch. These devices were originally designed for network administrators who had to deal with multiple PCs in a data center or a server room, but it turns out they're ideal for working from home, too.

What is a KVM switch?

KVM stands for "keyboard, video, mouse," which offers a pretty good summary of what this type of switch does. Get yourself a full-size keyboard, an external display, and a mouse. Plug them into the KVM switch. Connect your work PC to one set of inputs and your home laptop to the other, and you can switch between devices with the flick of a switch.

A good KVM switch allows you to also connect your external speakers and additional USB devices, such as an external hard drive that you can use to swap files between devices.

If you already have a USB 3.0 hub and you're working with two modern laptops that you can place side by side on your work surface, you can probably get by with something as simple as the $15 Sabrent USB 3.0 Sharing Switch your mouse, keyboard, and other peripherals into the hub, use a pair of USB 3.0 extension cables to connect the two switch outputs to your work and home laptops, respectively, and get to work. You'll need to use the built-in display on each laptop because this scenario doesn't support an external monitor. 

In our experience, though, a dedicated KVM switch like the $85 IOGear GCS92HU (Amazon is currently offering a 5% off coupon) is a better option. ZDNET's Steven Vaughan-Nichols praised this device's ability to switch effortlessly between PC, Mac, and Linux devices and concluded it's "worth every penny."

If both laptops support the Thunderbolt standard, a slightly more complicated (but equally effective) option is to use a USB Type-C docking station. As with a KVM switch, you'll use an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse, along with any other peripherals that you need. To switch between PCs, you only need to unplug the USB-C adapter from one device and plug it into the other. 

For a roundup of options in this category, check out ZDNET's guide to the 5 best laptop docking stations.  


Editorial standards