Plugable’s New USB 2.0 Switch for Sharing a Device or Hub Between Two Computers

Here’s a scenario our customers frequently describe: “I just got a new USB-based printer and want to share it between two computers. But the printer isn’t networkable. What should I do?”

The inexpensive solution: Plug the printer’s USB cable into the computer where you have something to print. Repeat as needed.

Picture of the USB2-SWITCH2 that provides one-touch switched access between two computers to a USB device or hubThe easier solution: Get the Plugable USB2-SWITCH2 for fast, one-touch switching of the printer–well, really any USB 1.1/2.0 device or hub–between two computers. One computer has access to the device at a time.

For anyone who’s been involved with information technology for a while, the practice of using a switch to share access between multiple computers and a device is not new. But the power of USB dramatically enhances the potential of what can be shared.

In the days before USB, you had to buy a specialized switch that was compatible with the connection cable used by the device to which you wanted to share access. For example, a keyboard-video-mouse switch–abbreviated as a KVM switch–provided switched access to just those three devices.

Visual representation of two computers connecting to a single device through a switch

A USB switch enables two computers to access a single USB device, like a printer.

Now with a USB-based switch, you can set up switched access between two computers to any USB 1.1/2.0 device–no specialized switch boxes necessary for each device. And if you connect the switch to a USB hub, you’ll have switched access to all the devices connected to the hub. This can offer a lot of flexibility.

Visual representation of switched access to multiple USB devices attached to a hub

Attach a USB hub to a USB switch to enable two computers to access all the devices connected to the hub.

Here’s an example from our lab of the way you can maximize the USB2-SWITCH2’s potential:

  • Connect a PC running Windows 7 and a Mac Mini running OS/X.
  • Attach a Plugable USB2-HUB-AG7 powered seven-port hub to the switch.
  • Plug the following devices into the hub:
    • A Plugable USB-VGA-165 display adapter (set to mirror the main display)
    • A Plugable USB2-E100 10/100 Ethernet adapter
    • A USB-based keyboard and mouse

With a single button press, you can switch access to a mouse, a keyboard, a display, and a network connection between two computers running different operating systems. And you’ll still have three ports in the hub to spare for a printer, scanner, external hard drive, webcam, or any of the multitude of USB-based devices that exist. Watch the video below to see our configuration in action.

The switch requires no drivers. Just connect it to any two computers with USB 1.1/2.0 ports via the included five-foot USB A/B cables, attach a device or hub, and that’s it. Be aware that the attached device might require drivers to use it with your computer’s operating system. The first time you switch access to the device, you may either be asked to install drivers if you haven’t already or receive an error if your computer’s operating system can’t recognize the device. If you switch to a hub connected to multiple devices, you may have to go through driver installs for all those devices.

Picture of USB2-SWITCH2, two included five-foot USB A/B cables, and product packaging

The USB2-SWITCH2 comes with two five-foot USB A/B cables.

The USB2-SWITCH2 is available at Amazon.com. We’d love to hear your stories about how you use this incredibly simple but highly effective device in your home or office. If you have any questions about its functionality or have trouble getting it set up, write us at support@plugable.com. We’re here to help.

 

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12 thoughts on “Plugable’s New USB 2.0 Switch for Sharing a Device or Hub Between Two Computers”

  1. Plugable usb switch

    Have the plugable docking station USB 2.0 attached to my Asus 7 Windows. The docking station includes a Declaser 5100 and a WD Secondary harddrive.

    Have XP system don’t use much but has unique programs not compatible w my 7 64 Asus. The monitor is detecting just fine wout need of switch. Want to access Declaser 5100 (pararell w usb adaptor) and WD hard drive when I fire up the XP computer.

    If I understand correctly, I should place the switch between the 2 computers and the hub. Where does it go in the Hub?

    1. Hi Nancy, thanks for asking! The Win7 and XP computers would connect to the switch, the switch to the hub, and then the Declaser 5100 and WD secondary disk to the hub.

      Note, though, that only one machine will have access to the two devices at once. And you have to be careful with hard drives — when you press the button to switch the devices from one machine to the other, it happens right away (even if writes are in progress). So you have to at least wait for writes to disk to complete before hitting the button to switch (and “safely remove” the disk if possible).

      Hope that helps. Thanks! Bernie

  2. Can I use the Plugable USB2 switch to use a single Bose Companion 5 speaker on two computers? If yes, do I need to buy additional device?

    1. Hi Jerry – yes the switch will work fine for a USB audio device like that. The one special thing to note about USB audio devices is Windows will only output to one audio device. By default, if a USB audio device arrives, Windows will output to the most recent arrival. But if you’ve opened the sound control panel and set a different default device, Windows will stick with that. So in short – if you can unplug/replug the audio device (the Bose in this case) back and forth between your two machines and have it work as expected — then it will work just as well with the switch, just with a single button press.

      Hope that background helps. Thanks again for asking!
      Bernie

  3. Hi,
    I want to connect my PowerMac G4 OS 10.4.11 and my PC(Sony VAIO w/ windows XP Home) to my Brother MCF 210C printer to share the printer. I’d also like to find a way to share the same internet cable, since my router ports (AirLink 101 4 port) are all in use. I don’t use both machines to print at the same time, and I would not be online with both at the same time. WHat do I need?

    1. Hi Julie,

      Thanks for contacting Plugable and for considering the switch. The video on this page shows a scenario almost exactly like the one you have. We have a switch hooked up to a PC and a Mac. Instead of connecting a single device like a printer, we’ve connected a powered USB hub to which we’ve attached many devices (keyboard, mouse, Ethernet adapter, etc.). Now the PC and the Mac both can use these devices, albeit not simultaneously. That sounds very much like what you want to do. You’d need a powered hub and an Ethernet adapter along with the switch. You can see the products we sell via http://plugable.com/products (same as clicking the Products link up above).

      Please let me know if there is more specific information I can provide about the switch or what products you’d need to support your scenario. If you make a purchase and need help with setup, I can assist with that, too.

      Best Regards,

      Aaron
      Plugable Technologies

  4. If I purchase your plugable usb switch do i have to tell the computer I am going to unplug each item that is plugged into the hub when I want to switch from one compute to another.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Eddie,

      Thanks for contacting Plugable and for your interest in the switch. Great question!

      USB hard drives are the only devices on the hub you would need to tell your computer to eject/dismount/disconnect before pressing the button on the switch to change access to the hub from computer A to B (or vice versa). That way the switch wouldn’t cause an unexpected loss of access to the drive during a read/write action.

      Let us know if you have additional questions. We’re here to help.

      Best Regards,

      Aaron
      Plugable Technologies

  5. Hi,

    I want to share my 2.0 USB Hard Disk Drive between two PCs in my home which are not networked. This Plugable device is kind of what I was looking for. Is there a model available for my purpose?

    Thanks,
    Jithu

    1. Hi Jithu,

      Thanks for your question and for considering Plugable’s USB2-SWITCH2. It offers the functionality you’ve asked about. However, with USB hard drives you need to tell your computer via the operating system to eject/dismount/disconnect the drive before pressing the button on the switch to change access to the drive from computer A to B (or vice versa). That way the switch wouldn’t cause an unexpected loss of access to the drive during a read/write action.

      Let us know if you have additional questions. We’re here to help.

      Best Regards,

      Aaron
      Plugable Technologies

    1. USB is good for 2 (with a switch like this), but wouldn’t be the best way to share with 6 computers. At that point, the best choice is paying a little more to get an Ethernet network capable printer. Hope that helps!

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