USB type C is lovely, isn’t it? You come to your office with your laptop, and just plug that single cable you have lying on your desk. The other end of the cable is connected to the monitor on your desk, and you immediately have the second screen, the full-size keyboard and the mouse that are connected to the USB ports in the same monitor, and also the headphones (that are connected to the 3.5 mm jack in the monitor). Oh, and the laptop’s charging. With one cable plug, you have the whole workstation set up, the monitor acting as a docking station. Lovely!

Of course, I wanted to set things up at home in the same manner, for the occasions when I work from home. There was just one issue: our appartment doesn’t have room for me to have a second workplace, so I had to reuse the montor and the periphery that I ordinarily use with my home desktop PC. The desktop is, at this point, rather dated, and has no type C ports at all. I have the monitor connected to it via DisplayPort and the USB cable, the latter one for the monitor’s USB hub functionality. Actually, even if the monitor was connected to the desktop via USB type C only, having to crouch under the desk to unplug and re-plug the cable every time would be too much of a hassle, so I had to get a little bit inventive.

I started by trying out a config I was almost certain wouldn’t work. I plugged the keyboard and the mouse into the monitor, and inserted another USB type C cable with an F-to-F type C adapter, so that I could unplug the USB cable without reaching under the desk and behind the monitor. Suprisingly, it worked! I would unplug the monitor-connected cable, plug it into the laptop instead, and everything would work as expected, the monitor switching inputs from DisplayPort to USB automatically, the keyboard and the mouse also controlling the laptop now. Then I would unplug the cable from the laptop and plug it back into the adapter, the monitor would switch to DisplayPort, and I could resume working on the desktop again. The only nuisance would be the need to reach the power button on the desktop to wake it from sleep; somehow the keyboard and the mouse would no longer do that after re-plugging the monitor, but would start working as soon as the PC woke up. I consider the nuisance rather minor, it’s much better than having to crawl under the desk anyway.

Since the monitor has 4 USB ports (besides the type C one), I decided to also leverage the decent webcam and the audio interface that already has headphones and speakers plugged and set up. That’s where things started acting up. It took me quite some time to figure it out, but I finally have a reliable way of switching my home workstation from my desktop PC to my work laptop and back. To switch to the laptop, I just unplug the USB cable from the adapter, as described above, and plug in into the laptop. But to switch back to the desktop, I need to 1) unplug the USB cable from the back of the audio interface, 2) plug the type C cable back into the adapter, 3) plug the cable back into the audio interface, and finally 4) push the power button on the desktop to wake the thing up.

Somehow, with the M-Track Duo plugged into the monitor, the PC never recognizes the monitor’s USB hub when I re-plug it back. Why? No idea. If there’s a software fix I can try, I’d love to know about it. Still, since I don’t usually switch from the desktop to the laptop and back again many times a day, the way the setup works now is totally liveable.

One day I’ll upgrade the desktop anyway.

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