How to split a Windows PC between two people with multi-user software
Let’s say you have a decent PC at home. You want two people to use a PC at the same time, so just creating two user profiles on the same PC will not be enough. At first, it seems that the only solution is to buy a second PC.
But what if you can convert your one high-end PC to two mid-range PCs? Here’s how you can save money by using multi-user software to allow two people to use a computer at the same time.
What is a multi-seat configuration?
Back in the days when computers were a new invention, the cost of a single processor was prohibitive. These machines cost much more than a car; thus, companies and universities had to share a computer among several users via a multi-user configuration.
A computer can be connected to multiple monitors, keyboards, mice, and speakers. A multi-user application will then assign each of these devices to a single user, allowing different people to use the computer simultaneously.
However, the introduction of the personal computer caused their prices to drop, making it viable to purchase a computer for each user. Nevertheless, multi-workstation computers still have their place in modern society.
For example, if you need multiple terminals for simple tasks, such as accessing a database or browsing the Internet for a public library, it is more cost effective to have a powerful multi-station device than several low-end processors. range.
What are the hardware requirements for multi-seat applications?
If you plan to set up your own multi-station computer, you should have at least one monitor, mouse, keyboard, and audio output per user. You can connect mice, keyboards, and speakers to your computer via USB, and in case you need more USB ports, you can use powered USB hubs to connect these devices.
However, most modern monitors require dedicated VGA, HDMI, or Display Port slots. If you are using a computer with an integrated GPU, you will need to check the number of monitor output slots provided by the motherboard. If it has only one port, you will need to install a dedicated video card that will allow you to plug in multiple displays.
Also, you should not be using a laptop to set up a multi-station computer. This is because its small form factor and limited ports can cause connection and cooling issues. Additionally, laptops are generally not as powerful as their desktop cousins with similar specifications.
The advantage of multi-seat computers
The main benefit you get from a processor configured on multiple workstations is economy, especially if you already have a powerful PC. If you have a desktop processor at home and your two kids are asking for their own device, you can split that single desktop into two computers just by downloading a multi-user app and buying a keyboard, mouse, speakers and a cheap monitor.
It’s even more affordable than buying a used desktop computer since you don’t need to buy the processor. You also save on power consumption since you only power one processor. And if there is only one user at the moment, it will take advantage of the maximum capacity of the processor.
Another plus is that you would save money on upgrades since you only have one desktop computer. You can also save on software licenses for some apps because you don’t need to buy multiple licenses because the app is installed on the same computer.
When should you buy another computer instead
While multi-sided configurations have some advantages, they also have some drawbacks. For example, if the mainframe malfunctions, all users will not be able to use any computer. So if you are setting this up for some crucial office job, or if your kids are in high school and need to have access to their schoolwork all the time, you should reconsider your decision.
And if potential users need more mobility than computing power, you should consider buying multiple Chromebooks instead.
How to make a multiplace PC
Once you’ve added the devices you need for all of the users, the next thing you need is to install a multi-user app. You can use a dedicated multi-user application like ibik ASTER or a virtualization engine like VMWare Workstation Player.
Multi-workstation applications are generally easier to configure and use. Once installed, it will automatically detect each monitor connected to your computer and then create an individual desktop for display. When you turn on your computer, it launches automatically, so users can start using their assigned computer without additional configuration.
The main downside to this option is that it is not available for free for personal use. You can test the ASTER application for a month, but you will have to pay for it afterwards.
On the other hand, VMWare Workstation Player is not easy to configure and requires additional licenses for each software you install per user. It also consumes more computing power than dedicated multi-user applications.
However, it’s free for personal use, so you don’t have to spend to make it work. It is also useful for other applications, such as running multiple operating systems on a single computer. So if one of the users needs Linux while the other needs Windows, you can go for this solution instead.
Two computers for the price of one
If you already have a fairly powerful computer and need two devices for general use, like surfing the internet and general productivity, you don’t have to shell out a lot of money for a new computer.
Instead, get a used monitor, a cheap keyboard and mouse set, and a USB speaker, then install a multi-user app. With this, you can let two users (like your kids, or maybe your retired mom and dad) use the computer simultaneously.
And if you are worried that two people will lose their data if their computer crashes, you can sign up for cloud storage, in order to have online backups. Additionally, most modern computers are rugged enough to withstand years of use without breaking.
But if you plan to use this setup for productivity, like crucial office tasks or urgent deadlines, then you’d better get an affordable second computer. After all, the savings you make with a multi-station computer aren’t worth it when you have two coworkers unproductive because of a broken processor.
Which virtual machine software should you use? VirtualBox and VMware Player are popular choices. Here is how they compare.
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