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I work out of my house where I have two computers: a mid-2010 Macbook Pro (for my day job) and a mid-2010 iMac (personal). During the workday, my iMac acts as a second display for my Macbook Pro via Mini Displayport.

Currently, I use a USB keyboard and mouse for my work computer and a Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Mouse + Magic Trackpad for use with my personal computer. I'd like to get rid of the wired keyboard and mouse and just use the Bluetooth stuff for both machines (but never simultaneously).

Is it possible to easily share the single set of input devices without having to repeatedly break and reestablish the pairing of the input device to the correct computer? I'm not opposed to buying some type of additional hardware to accomplish this, provided it's not prohibitively costly or cumbersome to use or configure.

It's not clear to me how I would tell the MacBook Pro to leave the devices alone so the iMac can have them for the evening. I want to avoid de-pairing and re-pairing the devices each time I want to shift them back or forth.

Basically is there software or hardware that works as a Bluetooth KVM switch?

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  • No, you'll have to break the relationship each time. This is because the iMac will expect the keyboard to work on it at all times. – user479 Aug 25 '11 at 22:07
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    What happens if you turn off the MacBook Pro bluetooth when it's time for the iMac to turn on it's bluetooth? Both computers should be happy to keep their individual pairings and a power cycle is all the mouse/keyboard would need to find it's "other" friend. – bmike Aug 25 '11 at 22:09

13 Answers 13

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The trouble is with the devices, the Apple mouse and the keyboard in your case. They don't pair with more than one BlueTooth host at a time. You need a BlueTooth host that's "central" to both Macs if you want to use them.

You can find KVM switches that have BlueTooth host receivers in them. For example, the Zonet KVM3322W (dead link) worked over USB and provided BlueTooth receiver capabilities. I cannot attest to how well that would work. Presumably you'd pair the keyboard and mouse with the BlueTooth receiver in the KVM instead of in either Mac and then using the keyboard shortcuts, switch between control of the Macs who are connected to the KVM via USB. How the Macs would respond to the BlueTooth receiver in the KVM coming and going as you switched between them is unclear to me. Could be they handle it just fine.

The other option is to seek out BlueTooth accessories that allow themselves to be paired with more than one host. And then switch between those hosts from hardware keys on them. For example, this keyboard+trackpad combo from IOGear supports switching between 6 BlueTooth hosts. So you'd pair it with both Macs and the use the keyboard switches to decide which one you were talking to at any point in time. That, to me, seems like the more reliable approach. Of course: now you're stuck using IOGear's keyboard instead of the Apple peripherals.

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  • What model from Zonet? That link is now broken. Can you just state the name of it? – Neil Dec 5 '11 at 5:26
  • Sorry, no. I don't recall the model. – Ian C. Dec 5 '11 at 15:02
  • The consensus of customer reviews seems to be that Zonet KVM switches are of really crappy quality, anyway. – Neil Dec 5 '11 at 18:05
  • I cannot say, I haven't used any of them and my answer has a degree of scepticism in it when it comes to how well it would work. Not unsurprising to me that it wouldn't work well. – Ian C. Dec 5 '11 at 18:14
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    Here is the script I use to switch my Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard from one macbook to another (with password-less ssh access between the two) without touching the macbooks themselves: gist.github.com/blz777/57d897e7e10759abcff75a12a20799f1 The script still requires a power cycle of the devices (turn both switches off, wait a second, turn both switches back on). (Since both machines are connected to the same monitor, I also have to switch the monitor input to start working on the destination machine.) – Anton Petrov Mar 13 at 7:57
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I, too, was looking for an answer to this very question. Here is the solution that I came up with:

  1. Go to System Preferences -> Bluetooth
  2. Click 'Advanced'
  3. Make sure that 'Allow Bluetooth devices to wake this computer' is unchecked
  4. Click 'OK'

Now, when I want to switch from my main computer to my MacBook Pro, I put the main computer to sleep and wake up the second one. The bluetooth keyboard and mouse both switch over to the laptop and away I go. When I want to return to the main computer, I put the laptop to sleep and wake the Mac Mini using its power button.

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http://www.share-mouse.com/ FREEWARE and PAID versions

or

Synergy - https://github.com/symless/synergy-core#synergy-core FREE and PAID versions

works on Mac and PC and can share between them both.

I've been using this solution so I can use my Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Mouse on my Mac and PC at the same time. To switch you just drag your mouse to the edge of the screen and it shows up on the other computer as if it were one big desktop.

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  • synergy-foss.org unfortunately isn't free any more – Florian Jul 17 '15 at 14:42
  • Synergy might not be free any more, but looking at their website right now it's only a one-time $10 fee. Might as well be free... – JPhi1618 Jun 6 '16 at 20:50
  • Synergy has moved to symless.com/synergy apparently. – Nick Chammas Oct 5 '16 at 21:05
  • github.com/symless/synergy-core#synergy-core hosts the GPL (Free, Open Source Software, FOSS) version of Symless' synergy-core. Added an edit to the main answer to explain this. – M.W. Feb 20 '20 at 19:33
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I don't have a problem doing the above at all.

I have 2 MBPs. One is the latest Retina and the other is a Mid 2011. I have the same Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and Magic Trackpad paired to both and use them both without ever removing the pairing.

I simply turn Bluetooth off on the device I'm not using them on, so my solution assumes you have no other need for Bluetooth simultaneously. Both the keyboard and trackpad happily pair with multiple devices. It all works great and I don't need to power cycle the keyboard and Bluetooth . Simply toggling Bluetooth on the MBPs in a proper order works well. Turn off Bluetooth on the current computer you are using them with then turn on Bluetooth on the other. They will connect after a few seconds and you are ready to rock!

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  • I'd like to second this approach. Note you need to disconnect the first computer before the 2nd one wakes up. Easy with 2 Macbooks. – r00fus Oct 10 '13 at 20:52
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    I realize this is an old post but the question was for an iMac and mbp. I might be in the same boat soon since I'm considering a second computer and the first is an iMac. The problem with this approach is I think you'll have to keep a cabled keyboard attached to the iMac: how else are you going to toggle bluetooth on and off: once off you won't have a keyboard otherwise to turn it back on. – Mike Oct 13 '14 at 13:49
  • And you may need to restart the bluetooth devices if they don't pair with the new computer after you turned off the bluetooth on the other one. – AsyncMoksha Jul 29 '16 at 18:32
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As long as both computers are on the same network you may want to consider a software solution like teleport for the keyboard and mouse. You'll still need some kind of switch for the display.

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  • Thanks for this. Teleport now working well. Any recommendations re a KVM switch. I have two MacBook Pros, external screen, printer, speakers and webcam – user18673 Feb 13 '12 at 13:06
  • Most external screens have multiple video inputs. You could use one computer on the VGA input, and another on DVI (or whatever) input. Switching probably requires about 3 button presses, but you don't need a KVM and you don't have to put up with all the KVM cords! (And a reasonably priced KVM will force you to use VGA for both computers!) – iconoclast Jun 24 '14 at 13:46
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I just purchased a Logitech K811 Bluetooth keyboard which has the ability to switch between devices. Add a Logitech T630 Touch Mouse and you are set.

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I've wrestled with this issue myself - the solution that works for me is to use one of the non-Bluetooth wireless keyboards that has its own USB dongle. That way, the wireless connection is between the Bluetooth dongle and the keyboard, which is pre-paired at the factory. As far as the KVM is concerned, it is just a plain USB keyboard.

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My recommendation is to not switch.

The problem with any switching solution, hardware or software is there is a lag between 5 and 10 seconds. So if your intending on switching back and forth quickly between platforms you may not be satisfied with the time requirement to switch back and forth.

I have a IO gear hardware switch for the past 3 years and it takes about 5 seconds each time to switch back and forth with the mouse and keyboard. So I have a wired keyboard for when I need to switch back and forth quickly for pits and pieces of what I'm working on.

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There's VirtualKVM software solution by Duane Fields, which perfectly suites your needs. There're two main problems with Target Display Mode:

  • you've to manually press Cmd+F2 each time
  • you should don't forget to disable Bluetooth just before, otherwise keyboard and mouse will not be paired with the MacBook

VirtualKVM solves this problems. Here's your steps:

  1. Download the app to the both iMac and MacBook, install and run it.
  2. Simply connect the MacBook to the iMac with a Thunderbolt cable.
    1. The app presses Cmd+F2 for you.
    2. It disables Bluetooth on the iMac and enables on the MacBook.
  3. Now you can pair keyboard and mouse with the MacBook, if you didn't do it before. If you did, they're connected automatically.

So that's it. Now you can use the iMac as a display with keyboard and mouse connected to the MacBook. When you've done, just disconnect the cable and the app will return everything as it was (disable/enable Bluetooth, press Cmd+F2). Please note, that the app will disable Bluetooth on the MacBook, otherwise keyboard and mouse can't be connected back to the iMac. If you need Bluetooth enabled on the both devices, you've to switch it on manually.

Configuration of the app is quite simple, you can see everything on the pictures below. Host Mode is for an iMac, Client Mode is for a MacBook. The app chooses the mode automatically.

Host Mode Client Mode

I personally use this software everyday and it saves me a lot of time and nerves. With this app I don't have to do a routine work and it makes me happy. I wish you the same.

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  • Thanks a ton for sharing, Ends my nightmare and a perfect solution I'm looking for :) – Logesh Paul Dec 13 '15 at 17:50
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I'm able to do a quick switchover by momentarily connecting the mouse (or keyboard) to the new computer via a lightning cable. Just connect the device like you're going to charge it, disconnect the cable, and the device connects to the computer.

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You can use the GKMB01 Bluetooth Desktop Dock from IOGEAR to do this job if you are not physically moving the keyboard away from the area. The GKMB01 connects between one computer and your USB keyboard/mouse, then switches the keyboard and mouse function between the hard wired computer and two additional Bluetooth devices such as your iMac with a quick double tap of the OPT key.

http://www.iogear.com/product/GKMB01/

Disclaimer: I am posting on behalf of IOGEAR since they do have a direct solution available.

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I have built a little open source project which allows to connect you wired and wireless HID keyboards and mice to Raspberry Pi Zero W (~$10/£10) which then presents itself as a bluetooth keyboard+mouse device to you machines and channels input to an active host. you can switch an active host with a key combination. supports key remapping. Python implementation, easy to customise.

Bluetooth HID Hub (https://github.com/ruundii/bthidhub).

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I have the same issue, using a new MacBook with an old (mid 2010) iMac as a screen, mirrored.

I couldn't get VirtualKVM to work. Followed the instructions above, installed fine, used up to date version, but when I plugged in the thunderbolt cable and it mirrored automatically, the iMac never gave up the keyboard and mouse Bluetooth connection.

You can't turn Bluetooth off on the iMac, because it wants the keyboard and mouse connected to maintain control, but you can delete the keyboard and mouse from the list of Bluetooth devices. Just remember to delete the keyboard first so you still have mouse control to delete the mouse.

Not the most sophisticated solution, but it works.

Then connect thunderbolt, then pair the mouse and keyboard on the MacBook, this worked fine for me.

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