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I'm interested in buying the new 5K retina 2022 Apple Studio Display. However, I use a personal Mac and a work Mac at the same desk.

Frequently switching cables between the two Macs whenever I want to use the display would be annoying. The Studio Display does not offer input switching, and only one of the USB-C / Thunderbolt ports on the back is capable of connecting to the host computer.

How can I easily switch Macs connected to the Studio Display?

Is there a KVM switch (Keyboard, Video, Mouse) switch capable of swapping between Macs connected to the Studio Display?

I'm looking for something like the old VGA KVM switch below, but for USB-C, Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, or whatever else is needed for the new Apple Studio Display.

The switch should ideally pass along the monitor's speakers and webcam, along with any peripherals connected to its USB-C ports.

KVM switch

I'm unable to find any Thunderbolt 3 or 4 KVM switches. Some USB-C KVM switches do seem to exist, but I'm unsure if this new Apple Studio Display works with them properly. Some state they do not work with Apple or Thunderbolt devices.

The same question was asked for the older Apple Thunderbolt Display here:

How to switch between two Macs and one Thunderbolt Display?

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2 Answers 2

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I was able to switch an Apple Studio Display between a 14" MacBook Pro (M1 Max) and and a Mac Studio (M1 Ultra) using this CKL KVM, using two generic USB-C to DisplayPort cables from the Macs, and sending the output to the Studio Display with this bi-directional DisplayPort to USB-C cable.

Only the video signal is transmitted, so no USB hub, no volume and brightness control from the computer, no speakers, and no webcam.

I have read that you can resolve those things by ordering this Belkin cable that combines USB and DisplayPort into a single USB-C, but my cable is still on the way from China so I haven't been able to test it yet.

Finally, a caveat: I was able to switch back and forth as much as I wanted between two Macs, or between one Mac and one iPad Pro, but I could never get it to work with one Mac and one PC's Nvidia GTX 3080 DisplayPort output. Switching from Mac to PC was always fine, but PC to Mac would just leave the screen blank until the monitor was unplugged and plugged back in.

Update 2022-10-06: the Belkin cable arrived, and it does work perfectly from the PC to the Studio Display, including camera and speakers... but not through any KVM or switch that I have found.

I wound up settling on this USB-C switch, connected to my Mac by this USB-C cable and to my PC by this DisplayPort to USB-C cable. The brightness, camera, and speakers work from the Mac, but not the PC. It is not a true KVM, and needs a separate USB switch to change keyboard/mouse between Mac and PC.

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An interesting question even a year after it was posted. I would also like to find a solution since USB-C ports are becoming more popular and more capable.

What I have seen are KVM switches with a USB-C connection to the computer but it has a built in dock of sorts that breaks that USB-C connection into USB-A and HDMI ports for keyboard, video, and mouse. I suspect this is popular among people with a laptop for work and a tower computer with a high end graphics card with USB-C for play, or just two laptops pressed into service as desktops. This would be useful for switching between two Macs that have Thunderbolt ports, USB-A keyboard and mouse, and a single HDMI display. Dual displays or other various configurations could leave people wanting more.

Displays with USB-C input are still rare, and those I do see will often times have a KVM switch built into them. If someone looking for a solution is not set on getting an Apple display then shopping for an alternative is an option. These displays will allow for a laptop (or the rare desktop with DisplayPort over USB-C) to plug into the USB-C port and then another computer (typically a desktop) to connect by USB-B and HDMI. The switching between inputs would be like a typical KVM switch with a press of a button on the display or a key macro on the keyboard. My thinking is that implementing a KVM switch in a display like this is merely a matter of software in the display once they cover their bases on supporting old and new hardware with inputs for USB-C/DP, USB-B, HDMI, and an integrated USB hub to get a couple USB-A ports. It costs little to implement a KVM switch in a display so I expect this feature to become more common.

I believe KVM switches have gained popularity with it becoming common for people to have more than one computer at home. What is competing with this though are software solutions. It is trivial to use some screen sharing protocol to create a "software KVM switch". We've seen macOS come with VNC screen sharing server and client for some time now so this may be an option to consider. I've heard of people seeing reduced video performance from this because without a display attached the GPU might not be active, a workaround for this could be called a "display dongle". A "display dongle" is a small device that plugs into a video port to fool the GPU into thinking a display is connected. Even though the video is sent over the network and not the video port there's an improvement in performance because the GPU is doing some of the video processing.

Given that the original question has no concern about the audio and USB being active in the display then it may be possible to use a common DisplayPort KVM switch. The connection to the display would be by a USB-C to DisplayPort cable, or a DisplayPort cable and USB-C adapter. The connection to the Macs would mean using some kind of mini-dock or occupying two USB-C ports, one occupied by a USB-A adapter for the USB keyboard and mouse and the other for DisplayPort video (and likely using the same kind of adapter as for the display since these adapters should be bi-directional). I don't know if an Apple display will work with a DisplayPort input, it should in theory but it seems Apple might be doing things a bit differently than other displays with USB-C inputs.

I realize that's a lot of background but I found it helpful in the past to provide some background up front since there's often questions on why a given suggestion was made. In this case it would be trivial to at least try a software solution first, then if there's issues of performance or convenience then consider hardware solutions.

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    This is a (very informative) comment rather than an answer to the question, and I'm sure you are aware of apple.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-answer. Can you either condense it to an actual answer, or add the essentials to the question?
    – nohillside
    Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 8:55
  • @nohillside Could you be more specific on what problems you see with my answer? I offered a handful of solutions, with pros and cons for each. The question appears to ask for product suggestions but as I recall product suggestions as answers are discouraged. As a USB-C KVM switch as described in the question is a nonexistent product, at least to my knowledge at the time I write this, there's no direct answer to the question. Lacking any one best answer I chose to offer solutions that might be acceptable, and in doing so I had to be a bit verbose.
    – MacGuffin
    Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 21:37
  • Maybe add a TL;DR summary on top, or itemize the different options you discuss to make them stand out? Without some emphasis on the actual options you propose it‘s hard to find them in the text.
    – nohillside
    Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 6:36

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