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Fixing Problems with Synergy on Windows Vista

If you use the excellent Synergy application to share your keyboard and mouse between computers, you’ve probably noticed some weird behaviors in Windows Vista… especially when running any application that requires administrator permissions.

The problem is that Synergy is getting “locked out” while your admin mode application has the foreground focus. The workaround is to just run Synergy in administrator mode as well.

What is Synergy Again?

Synergy is an open source utility that allows you to share a single keyboard and mouse across multiple computers running different operating systems. This differs from remote desktop or VNC in that you continue to use separate monitors for each computer.

For instance, in my setup I have a keyboard and mouse attached to a computer running Windows Vista. On the left is a Mac Mini, and on the right is a computer running Kubuntu. I can move the mouse from one screen to the other as if it was a giant desktop with three monitors. (I’ll post a picture one of these days)

For more information on Synergy you can check out the homepage.

Run Synergy in Admin Mode

The biggest problem I’ve had with Synergy is that I can’t move the mouse between computers while an administrator mode application is open. This is easily remedied by simply running Synergy as administrator.

Right-click on the shortcut you usually use to launch Synergy, and then choose the Advanced button on the Shortcut tab.

image

Here you can choose to “Run as administrator”, which will force the application to always run in admin mode. If you have UAC enabled, you’ll be forced to accept each time.

image

Automatic Starting

You cannot use Synergy in “Start as Service” mode in Windows Vista because the new security model prevents system services from interacting with the desktop. You will have to launch the application as a regular startup item.

In order to make the services start up automatically, you’ll have to follow these steps:

image

I hope this information is useful to other people… it’s been indispensable for me.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 10/30/07

Comments (82)

  1. Beta3

    Nice tip! thanks a lot..

  2. rothgar

    Thanks for the tips. After disabling UAC I haven’t had any problems with synergy (starting automatically or cutting out). I would like to get my screensavers to sync but that still doesn’t seem to work for me. I run my server on my XP machine and client on vista.

  3. WildSignals

    I tried running it as admin in Vista, and it works. But doing so (bizarro alert) crippled the mouse buttons on Virtual PC machines. I’m a geek and run two VPC’s on my system. The mouse movement was fine, but the buttons would not click until I shut off Synergy. Also I noticed that running Synergy in user mode, if you minimize any window that is running in admin mode, you can move between screens. This whole process has me intrigued with IP KVM technology now. It’s pretty fun really to see what’s causing what.

  4. The Geek

    All of these issues make me want to crack open the source code… I very well might, in fact.

  5. quasar

    Thank you! I have been having a hard time with this and there isn’t much documentation about synergy.

  6. Allen

    My problem is that when I move back from the client (an Ubuntu computer) to the server (Vista), sometimes the keyboard acts weird. It will take one keystroke, and then make the top window lose focus. You have to keep returning focus to the window for each keystroke you type. On Emacs for Windows, it does other bizarre things. Finally, when on Vista, sometimes when I Alt-Tab, the Alt-Tab task switching window does not go away after I release Alt-Tab.

    I like it enough that I put up with the inconvenience of restarting the server every time this happens… which is about 20 times a day.

  7. homer

    thank you. it works on my vista pc!

  8. jd2066

    One other good tip is how to have Synergy start with Administrator privileges on login without disabling UAC.
    I figured out that you can use the Task Scheduler to launch programs elevated on login and it won’t show a UAC prompt.
    So for Synergy all you need to do is copy the cmdline it adds to the HKCR startup key, delete that key and add a task in Task Scheduler for it. Though for Synergy, it does appear to have the side effect of tray icon not appearing.
    If anyone is interested I post more about how to do it.

  9. Blaumeiser

    Hi,

    nice tips, but synergy often crashes on vista 64bit and mouse/keyboard-control has gone away. You cann still ctrl+alt+delete and use you input devices bit this does not help because going back to your login-session will hang the io-devices again. logout is necessary to resolv this issue.

    jb

  10. mrbean

    wow, been banging my head on my desk trying to get it to work with vista, the xp machine would say it was connected but vista machine showed nothing. disable the auto start and works perfectly

  11. dealmaster

    thanks very much for this!

  12. Dave Miller

    Thank you!!! It took me a while to work out why the client said it was connected, and test mode worked fine, but it wouldn’t switch screens.

  13. Aland

    Auto-start at login works okay for me but I have similar problems with auto-start as service (“when computer starts”) as described above “XP machines says it’s connected but vista shows nothing”. I can auto-start synergy service at user login but not at computer start on Vista. XP runs as service at computer start which lets me login to XP using the keyboard connect to my Vista “server” seat but only after I first login to my Vista station.

    Config: Vista as server, XP and Ubuntu as clients

  14. OgeGOon

    Thanks a lot for sharing these tips !

    When an application running with admin-rigths had the focus, my mouse was indeed locked on the screen… If I gave the focus to the desktop (for example), then the mouse could travel to another screen.

    Now, since Synergy is also running with admin-rights, no problem anymore !

    O.

  15. Dave

    I’m hoping someone can help me out here… I have an XP machine and a Vista machine side by side for testing and such. I can’t get Synergy to do anything at all if the XP machine is the server, and when the Vista machine is the server, I can move over to the XP machine, but not BACK to the Vista machine. So I end up killing Synergy to release the mouse and kbd for my Vista machine.

    Any help would be great.

    -dave

  16. Dave

    Addendum to the above.
    Configuration as follows:
    XP machine is a docked HP laptop with a second monitor as the primary display
    Vista machine is an HP desktop with single monitor attached

  17. jd2066

    @Dave: The solution to that is simple. I made the same mistake at first too. You need to configure the server to list both computer screens in it’s configuration.
    So in synergy put:
    MachineA is to the left.
    MachineB is to the right.

  18. Dave

    Yes, that was it. Thanks for the quick response to my question.

  19. Rainypm

    I’m having trouble getting Synergy to install on my Vista laptop. It says: Installer corrupted or incomplete. This coule be the result of a failed download or corruption from a virus. If desperate, try the /NCRC command line switch.

    I added the /NCRC command line switch and tried again with exactly the same results. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  20. jd2066

    That usually means the download failed. You need to redownload it.

  21. Olego

    @Allen

    I have exactly the same problem, and that is why I reached this page. I constantly have to restart Synergy because it causes some windows to lose focus. If only I knew how to debug it…

  22. byteheed

    Thanks for posting that… my systems are finally syngergized again!

  23. Holger

    I’m using Synergy that way for quite a while now with Vista as server and XP as client. I’m facing the same problem as Allen. Sometimes (well several times a day) especially Office applications loose focus after the first key stroke. The only help is to restart the server.
    Additionally on XP the Windows key seems to “hang”. Unlocking my computer (my password has a “u” in it) often start the “narrator” (Win+u). I can work aroung that by pressing an unused Win+whatever combination.

  24. ballgofar

    Thanks a crap load. :D Now I can run my server on Vista and client on my laptop running linux. I thought it was something like this but didn’t realize that services can’t interact with the desktop in Vista.

    Thanks again

  25. morphine

    Thanks a whole bunch! Now to figure out why Synergy seems to activate the Alt and Ctrl buttons randomly on my Vista server. I wish someone would crack open the code and update it..

  26. The Geek

    @morphine

    Happens to me too… drives me crazy. One of these days I’ll get fed up enough to open the source code myself.

  27. tobyt

    Man – thanks…
    I was tearing my hair out and you saved me from baldness…
    Running OSX leopard server and vista client… nice.
    Keep up the juice.

  28. Luchie

    @morphine & @the geek

    I’m having the exact same problem and it has made synergy unusable for me. I just upgraded to Vistax64 from XP32. On the XP it all worked a treat – even my custom mouse buttons worked on the 3 client machines I run.

    I would gladly pay to have this amazing piece of software polished up. (last official update was in 06 it seems). I’ll report back if I work out how to fix this annoying bug.

  29. Derek

    Interesting on the ctrl key problem – I just started experiencing it as well. Question for those of you who are seeing it – do you have Google Desktop installed by any chance? I’m trying to determine whether there is some interaction between those two and the ctrl-ctrl command combo.

  30. rothgar

    @Everyone using 2 Windows machines

    I would highly suggest using inputdirector instead of synergy. I switched to input director and never wanted to use synergy again between two windows computers.

    http://www.inputdirector.com

  31. Jaap

    Inputdirector not an option as it is windows only.

  32. Kalmi

    It’s possible to run Synergy as a service under Vista.
    https://sourceforge.net/forum/message.php?msg_id=5691469

  33. The Geek

    @Kalmi

    Actually the registry hack in that forum post details how to add it as a startup application, not as a service. The difference is that with that registry hack it will run only after you login, not before like if you run it as a real service under XP… so you can’t login manually or lock the screen.

    There’s no way that I know of to run it as a service under Vista.

  34. Pete Wood

    I’m a little late to the Vista game but have been using Synergy for a number of years now. Thanks for the quick walk through.

  35. Aaron

    I have a dual-boot Vista64/Ununtu machine as my main server.
    The synergy server works fine under ubuntu.
    It just won’t connect under Vista64.
    I changed it to run as admin, no help.
    I opened port 24800, no help
    I ran with firewall off, no help.

    Anybody know of any Vista oddity I might be bumbing into which is keeping
    the synergy server from running under Vista64?

  36. Marquis

    Synergy works fine without disabling UAC nor running as admin on Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 with current updates from Microsoft. It automatically starts on log on and I’m logged in as Standard User and NOT as an Administrator. Auto Start on Log In is the only option, Auto Start When Computer Starts is grayed out.

  37. Seeking

    Hm. It seems that Microsoft’s own remote desktop service is able to do allow remote interaction with the Desktop (i.e. to login), yes?

    Also, RealVNC claims to be able to present the display remotely to log in.

    Does that imply that there might be some magic way to achieve synergy to run as a service?

    It is true that synergy looks an awful lot like the basis of a keystroke logger…

  38. technobabbler4u

    I have used this for 2 years on various XP and Vista machines, plus a few Linux distros I tried. pcOS 2007 (Linux) and Windows 7 Ultimate Beta are the only OS’s I’ve yet to have work. I just installed Windows 7 and can’t get a connection. If anyone has got it to work, email me!

    One of the best free software I have ever used. Occasional problem with cut/copy & paste but reboots usually take care of it. Probably wouldn’t have that problem if I rebooted more than monthly!

    Good post Geek…keep up the good work.

  39. Brant

    It works for me!
    But when I move my mouse to the client computer, it won’t come back to the server until I close Synergy on the client :(

  40. Seeking

    I can confirm that RealVNC server can allow keyboard and mouse to be fed to the login session.

    So in principle that means that Synergy could be written to be able to.

    I suspect that they are installing their own driver which may be what it takes.

  41. Arjan Salomons

    How to run Synergy on Windows 7 in 10 easy steps!

    First, make sure that:
    - you autologon to the system
    - Hide extensions for known file types is off (Windows 7: Folder and Search Options)
    - Synergy is installed
    - Your keyboard/mouse server is all setup

    All set? Ok here we go:
    1. Double click Computer on the desktop, then go to the folder C:\Program Files\Synergy
    2. Right click on synergyc.exe, click Properties, switch to the Compatibility tab and check the ‘Run this program as an administrator’ box.
    3. Click ok to close this window. You can also close the Computer window.

    4. Back on the desktop, right click on the desktop, point to New, click ‘Text Document’, name it something like SynergyStart.txt.
    5. Press Return/Enter twice to open the document.
    6. Paste in the following 4 lines of text (which you can find in the registry after you failed to install the service/autorun ;) ):

    @echo off
    C:
    cd “\Program Files\Synergy”
    start synergyc.exe –no-daemon –debug WARNING –name PC2 PC1:24800

    7. On the last line, change the name PC1 into the name of your keyboard and mouse server, and the name PC2 to the name of your client PC.
    8. Rename the file to SynergyStart.bat
    9. Drag the file it to the bottom left of your screen, all the way into the Startup folder of your Windows ‘All Programs’ menu.
    10. Sorry, no step 10, we are done!

    Enjoy!

  42. technobabbler4u

    Arjan Salomons,

    Thanks for the reply and the information needed. However I must have done something wrong OR -autologon means that i cannot have a user pass to logon to my compuer?)

    Thanks and I hope to hear back from you,

  43. technobabbler4u

    Update!!

    I have deleted the synergy program and then reinstalled it and it works like a charm! Wooo hooo!

  44. brettuthius

    My very recent problem with Synergy not working was caused by the Microsoft .NET 3.5 SP1 install that came out on 11/18/08 but I had not gotten it until today.

  45. Adam

    This was very helpful, Thanks!!

  46. debaser

    OMG, thank you!
    Thought I’m too stupid for that..but now it works fine :)

  47. CurtJ

    Losing focus on login / lock screen using XP and a Mac.

    I was having this problem – each time I pressed a key when typing in my password to unlock the machine the window would lose focus. I resolved it by going into services (I have synergy set to autostart as a service), and in the Synergy service properties under logon tab I changed it from -local system account- to -this account- which I changed to my administrator account. I restarted the service, and Synergy failed to connect to the other machine (the Mac). So I changed it back to -local system account- restarted the service, and now when unlocking the machine I don’t lose focus.

    Don’t ask me why, but this fixed it for me :]

  48. mados123

    Thanks jd2066 for explaining that it needs to be two ways. I can’t stop myself from moving the mouse around all the screens now!

  49. krantz

    Something I have been having problems with is that when I’m running Synergy, of course with the same settings as this guide informs about, is that my Alt+Tab function in Vista stops working properly. I have to hit Alt+Tab repeatedly to make it browse through my running applications.

    Anyone who has the same problem?
    Anyone have a solution?

  50. Max

    http://quicksynergy.sourceforge.net/ could help those with mac & linux clients / servers and is more up to date than synergy is! I hope they produce a version for Win32.

  51. Dom

    Hi, I have a Laptop running Vista and a PC runing XP, I can use the XP as the server for synergy and it works… But i’d prefer to use Vista as the server but it won’t work! any tips?

  52. ubertod

    Here is my issue:

    When I run Synergy on my Vista machine as Server, none of my laptops connect.
    When I run Synergy on my either of my Laptops as Server, my Vista can connect as client.

    I want my Vista machine to be the Server. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

  53. Arjan Salomons

    Hi Dom, Ubertod,

    I think you are both suffering from the same issue. What you could do is 2 things:
    First, try connecting to your server by the IP address of the server. If that still does not work, check if a firewall (Windows or 3rd party) is blocking the connection
    If a connection by IP is possible, maybe the XP and Vista PC are not in the same workgroup?

    Second, if you still can not connect. the server process might not have proper rights on the Vista PC to act as a server, try starting synergys.exe with admin rights (right mouse button, run as Administrator), or try to install the service if you haven’t done so yet.

    I know Synergy is kind of buggy on these systems, but you can make it work, just test a little.

    Sadly I can not test Synergy server on Vista/Windows 7 myself, since I only run the server on XP. I have had clients running on XP, Vista, Windows 7, Ubuntu Linux and even OSX!

  54. phobic

    THANKS MAN!
    This have been bugging me for days, did a google search, and tadaaa. You helped at lot!

  55. Brandon

    I have this running on vista(server) and windows 7(client) and it’s working great if I disable the autostart.

  56. stephen

    you can also open a elevated cmd prompt and type ‘net user Administrator /active’ and use the administrator account without any annoy uac…

  57. Dex

    Running on two vista 64 systems, just changed compatibility mode in the properties onf both synergy.exe to run under xp service pack 2.

  58. Dustin Clonch

    Thanks a ton – that was driving me crazy – everytime UAC popped up or an app with Admin mode ran – freeze- not any more.

  59. SE7EN

    Thanks a bunch for that how-to! I wasn’t positive that the same steps could be issued on a vista box for automatic login.

  60. agrajag

    One thing I found is that you can also (now?) set XP compatibility mode in the same ‘synergy properties’ dialog, in the compatibility tab, from the example given above for setting it to run as a service as a default). This appears to have settled the “really wierd” copy paste issues I’ve been seeing… at least for now.

  61. Snevas

    This also works for Windows 7! Great article. 100+ kudos for you.

    Problems in Windows 7 w/o admin rights:
    When rightclicked the mouse is jammed in Windows 7.

  62. Ernie

    Dude…you rock! Thanks a whole bunch!

  63. Richard Burckhardt

    Synergy was working fine for me until Windows updated on both my XP (client) and Windows 7 (server) boxes last night. Now the client on the XP machine says it is connected to the server IP but the Windows 7 server isn’t seeing the client.

    Tried running in administrator mode, setting Synergy to run in XP Service Pack 2 mode, nothing works.

    Any ideas?

  64. Sam

    Thanks for the tip jd2066!
    “I figured out that you can use the Task Scheduler to launch programs elevated on login and it won’t show a UAC prompt.”

    I found the registry key with the command line options by searching for “synergy” in the registry. I added a new task to task scheduler and set it to start with the user logs on. Works great now with Win Vista (server) and Win 7 (client).

    Thanks again!

  65. Rebecca

    I am running 32-bit Windows Vista on both my desktop (server computer) and my laptop. And no matter what I do, it is not working for me. I don’t get it….I followed everything to the T. Oh well…thought this would be a good program so I didnt have to have 2 mice.

  66. NicT

    Hi,
    i’m running synergy on OSX as a server and on Windows 7 as a client. it freezes up when some admin stuff is running on the windows side. is there a way around this?

  67. Todd

    Have you ever configured synergy with 2 pcs where one machine is an L configuration and the 2 remaining monitors fill out the full rectangle? (6 monitors total)…….. 1 machine is in an L shape with 3 monitors across the bottom and then the 4th is positioned right on top of the far left monitor. The second PC is then filled in above the middle and far right monitor. How would synergy be configured to work like this?

  68. Rob

    Thanks allot! I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working.With your help it works now and I don’t have to start in manually, wich was a pain in the ass.
    Sincere, Rob

  69. Diego

    All this time I was having to switch into another app before moving over to other desktops and I never thought about this. Wonderful piece of advice, thanks.

  70. langustengratis

    If you run your client on Windows 7 be sure that your network settings are “private network” or “home network” (i’m not sure about the term in the english version). However it will not work in “Public Network”.

  71. Ben

    Excellent! This was the first result on Google, and it solved my problem with Synergy+ in less than five seconds. Thank you so much!

  72. Hameed

    Guys, I am trying to run synergy 1.3.1 on an XP box as the server and a CentOS5.5 as the client. I installed several times and I have a perfectly fine configuration file, both machines can ping each other. The firewall on the windows box is allowing the port 24800 and is having an exception for synergys and synergyc. I have tried it both ways and none of them work. Neither one works for a client nor for a server. If the windows box is the server, I get a red don’t enter/wrong way sign instead of the green synergy icon in the task bar and the status is always not running. The connection from the linux box is always timing out or getting refused. When I tried to use the linux box as the server, the log says that it is connected to the windows box but the mouse nor the keyboard never move. It records the connection only once and records entering the client once and then returning also once and never again.
    I have administrator privileges on both machines but nothing works. This is frustrating since I did have synergy working on another windows box but since I upgraded to this one it doesn’t work. It is just windows XP not VISTA nor 7.

    Any help would be appreciated. I even got the guys who are the global administrators and still using their accounts it doesn’t work at all.

    Any help is highly appreciated.
    Thanks.

  73. Thomas S

    Hmph… without the ‘start synergy on startup’ (ie it runs as a service AND it can interact with the user destop) working, synergy is useless to me. I’m in a corporate environment.. I CANNOT turn of the need to log in. I’ve got to be able to emulate the ctrl-alt-del from the server to the windows 7 synergy client laptop sitting in a docking station. I’ve also got to be able to log on via the synergy system.

    Any progress made there or has Microsoft’s new ‘secure desktop’/UIAccess and whatever other technology they have thrown in the way made it impossible for synergy to really replace a physically attached keyboard and mouse for a windows 7 box?

  74. Manoj

    Hi Everyone, I am using Synergy between XP (Server) and Vista (client)..all works fine between the computers at first but after few hours the mouse will start freezing when switching between the screens (freeze for about 5 – 10 seconds) other applications i have running at the same time are (Firefox, IE, Outlook, excel and word) any idea what could be causing this problem? any suggestions on how to fix this? Thanks :)

  75. Michael Warshum

    I am running Synergy 1.3.4 on Windows XP 32bit(Server) and Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit(Client) and I keep getting the following error message

    connecting to ‘SPCR’: 192.168.2.3:24800
    failed to connect to server: The attempt to connect was forcefully rejected
    stopped client

  76. Phil A

    I’m using Sunergy on three XP machines – A & B are the clients, C is the server. A works fine, B won’t connect – message identifies C “connecting to “C” [gives IP add] … failed to connect … cannot connect socket -r equested address is a broadcast address but the appropriate flag was not set”. Have disabled firewall, checked all settings – A & B should be identical. User on C is Administrator. ?? What am I missing. Thanks – if you have any suggestions.

  77. Phil A

    Fixed problem – it was Macafee services running on the machine that couldn’t connect. Although Macafee was not running, it loaded three services – once disabled, client could connect to server.

  78. Kent

    Thanks a lot! The same applies on windows 7 of course. Can’t be run as a service.

  79. Callum Donez

    Fantastic – it was really winding me up ….

  80. Duty Manager

    Thank you so much for this, I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out what was causing that

  81. Anushka

    @ Manoj > Ane pako.. Danna deyak kata karapan wal keriya

  82. jasong

    thanks for the admin thing, you’re a dead set legend

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