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Installing Your KVM

While the actual connecting of your new KVM may take only a matter of minutes, if your office/computer area is anything like mine—and I hope for your sake it isn’t—you may have several hours (or days) of preparatory cleaning, organizing, computer-wrestling, peripheral reorganization, and cable-tracking and labeling, not to mention triaging piles of paperwork and other ugly tasks:

  1. Start with a full backup of your hard drives, or whatever degree of backup you feel is sufficient. It shouldn’t be necessary for hooking up a KVM switch, but just in case, it can’t hurt to have a current backup.
  2. Read the directions, carefully.
  3. Before you hook or unhook any cables or equipment, get some labels. Decide which computer you’re connecting to which port, and make a list. Consider posting a cheat sheet on the KVM, and maybe also labeling each computer. Of the two four-port KVMs I’ve tried, neither included labels for either the cables or the computers. If you already have a label maker, great; if not, a stash of unused videotape labels or a sheet or two of address labels should do it. Also, if you don’t already have them, get some cable ties—plastic or Velcro things to bundle together cables from each device.

    Decide whether you’re labeling things based on the computer they go to, (MY MACHINE, WORK MACHINE, NOTEBOOK, etc.), or based on which KVM port they’ll go to (#1, #2, #3, etc.).

    Start labeling. I recommend putting a label on each end. Include what machine it’s for and what the cable is for (mouse, USB, video, power, and so on). Consider putting your name on the cable. As long as you’re labeling, now is a good time to label every AC adapter and some or all of the USB cables, and maybe network cabling as well, if you haven’t done that already.

    Note that some KVMs use proprietary cabling at the KVM side. IOGEAR, for example, has what looks like the video plug, but also includes the USB wiring—fortunately, they’ve color-coded the end to match the port on the KVM, at least on their MiniView Symphony, and the way the cables are bundled at that end is a clue—but this would have been a great place for a nonstandard connector, to avoid mistakes from overconfident users who didn’t read the installation instructions or are color-blind. Or both.

  4. Bundle cables with the cable ties for each machine.
  5. Unplug all the (now labeled) power cords.
  6. Start connecting things to the KVM switch. When in doubt, follow instructions.
  7. Plug in the power, and start making sure that everything works. Try switching from computer to computer, obviously.
  8. Enjoy.
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