by Ralph Krause

After adding a second Linux box to my home network, I lost almost all of my work space. Juggling all those keyboards and mice was a hassle, not to mention trying to find enough electrical outlets. I had thought about getting a KVM (keyboard-video-mouse) switch, but held off getting one until a friend told me about his good experience with the Linksys ProConnect CPU switch.

I purchased the Linksys ProConnect 4-Station CPU switch, and currently use it to control two Linux PCs and one Windows PC. The switch works well, and I have been very satisfied with it.

The ProConnect 4-Station CPU switch has a relatively small footprint, measuring just 10.25 x 7 x 3 in inches. The CPU switch comes with a power adapter and must be plugged into a standard electrical outlet to work. The ProConnect CPU switch also comes with a small, but thorough, manual.

Several companies sell complete keyboard, mouse and monitor cable sets for KVM switches, so you can get all the cables you need for your systems in one convenient package. Be sure to check the mouse and keyboard ports of your PCs before buying the cables. You can use either a PS/2 or an AT-style keyboard, but you must use the same style mouse (PS/2 or AT) on the ProConnect switch that your computers use. If you have a mix of PS/2 and AT-style mice, you will have to plug two mice (one PS/2 and one AT) into the mouse console ports of the ProConnect switch, according to the manual.

Setting up the ProConnect switch is straightforward. Plug your keyboard, monitor and mouse into the unit's console ports. Then connect the keyboard, monitor and mouse patch cables between the ProConnect switch and each of the PCs you wish to control. Finally, plug the ProConnect's power adapter into the wall, and turn it on.

The ProConnect CPU 4-Station switch has four red LEDs, four green LEDs and four pushbuttons in addition to the power switch on the front panel. The red LEDs indicate which PCs are powered up, and the green LEDs indicate which PC you are currently controlling.

Changing the current PC can be done through the keyboard or by pushing one of the buttons on the front panel. The keyboard sequence for switching PCs in the ProConnect manual is incorrect. The correct sequence is to press and release the ALT key, press and release the CTRL key, press and release the SHIFT key, then press and release the number (1-4) of the PC you want to use, and finally, press the ENTER key.

The ProConnect switch can also scan through all the PCs connected to it. To start scanning, enter the keyboard sequence above, but press 0 for the computer number. After the ENTER key is pressed, the ProConnect switch will cycle through all the running PCs. To stop this automatic scanning, press the space bar.

ProConnect CPU switches can also be connected to other ProConnect CPU switches to provide control to many PCs with one keyboard, mouse and monitor. The instruction manual provides the proper DIP switch settings and cable connections to use for cascading.

If you're using the CPU switch to control Windows PCs, make sure the Windows PC option is selected on the CPU switch while it is booting up, or its screen won't have the proper resolution when you change to it.

I have used my Linksys ProConnect switch for several months now, and am entirely satisfied with it. In addition to freeing up valuable desk space, the ProConnect switch makes it easy to use multiple PCs without the hassle of finding the right mouse and keyboard.

Ralph Krause is a freelance computer consultant in Michigan. His current career goal is to stay out of automotive paint shops. He can be reached via e-mail at
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