Turn an Extra PC Into a Second Monitor

Last Updated Nov 19, 2009 11:05 AM EST

I don't often agree with Dave, but he's right about one thing: multiple monitors rock. Nothing, but nothing, beats having Outlook open on one screen and your browser on another. Or your browser and Excel. Or Excel and iTunes. You get the idea.

Just one problem: What if your desktop or laptop doesn't support a second monitor? Or there's no room in the budget to buy one?

Enter MaxiVista, which lets you use any PC on your network as a second monitor. That may sound a little kooky -- until you remember that old laptop that's collecting dust somewhere.

The new v4 version of MaxiVista adds long-awaited support for Windows Vista and Windows 7 (including 64-bit versions) -- something open-source fave Synergy still lacks.

The most likely configuration is a desktop paired with a laptop, though any combination is fair game: two laptops, a laptop and a netbook, and so on. You can also bring a third or even fourth PC into the mix if you really want to spread out.

I tested MaxiVista on a desktop system running Windows 7 and a laptop running Vista. It worked flawlessly. Even Windows 7 features like Aero Snap worked on the secondary system, which I found very impressive.

MaxiVista costs $39.95. There's a 14-day trial version available, which you should definitely install first (just to make sure your configuration works properly). It's a terrific solution for anyone looking to put an old or unused PC to genuinely good use.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.