The problem with MaxiVista…

…is that once you’ve used it you can never go back.

For those who missed my earlier review, MaxiVista is a networked virtual display driver that lets you extend your Windows desktop onto the screen of a second computer. What this means is that every morning I put my Tablet PC next to my desktop’s screen, rotate the keyboard out of the way… and suddenly I can drag windows from my desktop screen onto my laptop screen. Watch the video for the full effect!

And as Scott Hanselman notes, the MaxiVista folks just came out with version 1.5. This adds new power-user features (has anyone actually expanded their Windows desktop to the theoretical maximum of 8 physical screens across 4 PCs?), plus a couple of nice usability touches. Recommended – although I’m not quite sure that I’d agree with Scott’s assessment of “it’s pure sex” 🙂

The problem is that once you get used to all that extra screen space, you can never go back to just one display. And that’s exactly what I have while using my Tablet PC at home. So this week I finally broke down and bought Dell’s smallest, cheapest LCD screen. Of course, this is a low-tech hardware solution that plugs into my Tablet PC via a big thick ugly analog cable. But really, in that split second after you click “Extend my Windows desktop on this monitor”, do you care how it happens? Mmmm, pixels…

Update^2: MaxiVista v2.0 lets you flip between “laptop as second monitor” and “laptop as second computer”. Oh, and performance has gone from “respectably fast” to “can’t tell it’s not a real screen”. Highly recommended.

Comments (24)

  1. John Hann says:

    I have a hard time using my 19" mon at home since I have dual screens at the office

  2. I found it easier at work to just have multiple monitors attached to a desktop machine. Both monitors are the same size and I run them at the same resolution. No surprises when I drag windows from one to the other. My laptop sits on the side (or even in my bag) for when I need it.

    I do remember my supervisor’s setup at DEC SRC in the summer of 91; she had six monitors set up in two rows of 3. That was overkill I think.

    Home, of course, is a problem.

  3. Manip says:

    You seen synergy – it can be installed on Windows, Linux and Mac and allows you to move your mouse from one OS/Monitor to another.. You use a single mouse + keyboard plugged into a single machine across all the networked machines.

  4. Yeah, Synergy looks like the only game in town for multiple platforms, and there’s a similar tool called ShareKMC that’s just for Windows. But the great thing about MaxiVista is that it lets *one* PC control *all* the screens, so that you get one big desktop instead of lots of little ones. I guess which you prefer depends on your working style 🙂

  5. MaxiVista is a software application that lets you use another PC – your laptop, for example – as an extra…

  6. Lectrik says:

    MaxiVista 3 now supports seamless cut and copy (including files!) across machines, ctrl-alt-del.  I have been using MaxiVista for about a year now and I LOVE it.  Not only the additional screen space but when I pop my notebook down on my desk at work, BAM, it’s my desktop’s second monitor AND I can control my desktop and laptop with the same keyboard and mouse.  MaxiVista allows you to use additional machines as either an extra monitor or you can simply remote control them with one shared keyboard and mouse.  And it just keeps getting more efficient, you simply cannot tell you’re actually moving graphics over a network!

  7. Elijah says:

    It does say that Maxi Vista works on Linux with Wine but not supported.

    Anyways, this blog and the comments were great! I got synergy installed and I AM LOVING IT!!

  8. dei says:

    if someone’s looking for an app like maxivista for linux (as a server) you could use Xdmx available here:

    or perhaps also in the repos of your distro (ubuntu has it)

  9. Bill says:

    Anyone try ultravnc for this?  

    Also any comments on the network bandwidth usage of maxivista?

  10. Cal says:

    i have 2 laptops and an extra monitor an i use maxivista – creat the extended screen – once it is done loading and you have the splash screen up (if you just reload the demo every fortnight like i do) you can just click the backgroound of the secondary PC with the second PCs human interface device and just run the computer off of the primary PCs mouse and keyboard with out killing ur primary PCs battery life with the power-gusling maxivista software.

    AND you can spread your files out over your 2 harddrives and make ur whole system faster.

    im gonna try synergie though cause maxivista takes too long to start up and sometimes it can’t locate my secondary PC on my network

  11. tony says:

    WOULD Love to use it but all i can  run on all computers is the second monitor program the master program fails to start with error maxivista could not initialize the vga driver please try again after rebooting

    no joy running duel core processor 4 gig mem gforce duel monitor 8800

    but this program hate it what a pity

  12. adam says:

    I have an 8800GT display adapter as well and I get the same error message, tony. I will come back with the solution if I find one.

  13. adam says:

    well that was fast but it bascially seems like you can’t use MaxiVista with Vista, which is retarded because that’s what they named it. Vista uses WDDM drivers with which MaxiVista’s virtual VGA drivers are incompatible, they require XPDM drivers.

    Some people just use device manager to install windows XP drivers for thier hardware, and then they can run MaxiVista, but they have problems viewing images and videos and playing games, as in they get the blue screen of death.

    If you run XP and do not have to upgrade to Vista, don’t do it because you can still run MaxiVista with your XPDM drivers and your apps will run fine because they are the right drivers for your OS. But right now the best thing you as a Vista user can do is to contact the makers at and e-mail them saying you need WDDM driver support in order to purchase thier software, because if it doesn’t support those drivers then it is basically false advertising to name it MaxiVista when you have to cripple your display adapter to run it.

    It is still the best multi-monitor solution if you want to actually control two PCs, however, so I want it to work really badly. But it technically doesn’t run on Vista.

  14. Mark says:

    I am very interested in doing this, but I am running Vista. Before I think about trying to install XPDM drivers to replace the WDDM drivers… can anyone tell me if I am using a Tablet PC as the secondary device, will the touch screen aspects still work?  Vista incorporated all aspects of Windows XP Tablet Edition, so I am hoping that Vista would just see the tablet as any other touch screen and that it would work.  But as most people out there are running this on Windows XP, I don’t know if this has really come up.

  15. TB says:

    Problem is that when you want to lock the second PC with Ctrl+Alt+Del, it won’t work.  If Second PC is locked by itself after a while, you can not use a primary keyboard to unlock by using combination key Ctrl+Alt+Del to let you enter username and password.  You have to user keyboard of secondary PC…that means you still need a set of keyboard and mouse…

  16. kvmguy says:

    I’ve been using synergy for a long time now, and love it.  i recently discovered maxivista offering the same functionality but also an exted screen function, which is something i miss with synergy.  you can;t drag windows scross the screen.

    However, the maxivista drive crashes my pc.  SO i’ll have to stick with synergy.

  17. Thomas says:

    Regarding locking the second PC, you can define a different key combination in the Hotkeys tab of the MaxiVista options to do this. I defined Ctrl+Alt+Right (arrow, that is) and I’ve become quite used to it.

    Now, I can send Ctrl+Alt+Delete to the secondary PC just by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Right on the "primary" PC’s keyboard. It has become quite intuitive for me.

    BTW, I love MaxiVista.


  18. I get an error when starting maxivista server program

    maxivista could not initialize the vga driver….

  19. Michael says:

    MaxiVista now supports Windows Vista and Windows 32/64 Bit including WDDM:


  20. Matt says:

    Most people seem to be using Maxivista with a single monitor, and in this instance, i agree its is a good solution, add more than one monitor and you’ll find that there are stability issues. The makes of Maxivista have no interest in supporting the product except to milk you for more money – buy a support ticket, most vendors give you support when you buy their product, not in this case.

  21. Joel says:

    Maxivista is a phenomenal software package… Until you have an issue.  Then you’ll rue the day you ever heard of Bartel’s media or spent a nickel with them.  The only channels are thru email or forum.  If they can’t solve your issue easily and it’s in the forum and you have the audacity to keep the issue alive they will eventually delete the post.

    You’ll note that when they released v4, they released a new forum and did not carry any of the old posts forward.

    You’ll also note that they say you can post anonymously in the forum but that’s not true you have to register.

    If you could go back to the v3.x forums you’d see lots of questions unanswered.

    And of course, they point to the forum as a "transparent" support resource to verify how "good" they are.  Maybe if they didn’t prune the boards!

    All in all the dev’s are a sham.  They just wanna sell their ware.  Period.  I wonder if v4 even fixes the Quicktime issues (start anything QT or QT related (some desktop apps some activex plugs) and all your MV desktops go haywire and reset.  They denied it for months and months and finally acknowledged an issue (never fixed though afaik)

    These guys are  a class act.  Believe me there’s more.  My fingers are just tired.

  22. LGFM says:

    the best solution for maxivista to work on a Vista is to first download and install the demo of last version on the workstation and then downgrade it with the free version, since the video driver will not be removed, the free version will recognize the video driver simultaneously…

    I did and it worked…

    good luck

    any further question?