Pocket AVR Programmer Hookup Guide Datasheet by SparkFun Electronics

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Pocket AVR Programmer Hookup Guide
Do you need more control over your AVRs? Whether it’s an ATmega328,
ATmega32U4, ATtiny85, ATmega128RFA1, if it’s an AVR there’s a good
chance the AVR Pocket Programmer can program it.
There are many reasons for programming your AVR via an in-system
programmer (ISP). If your AVR doesn’t have a bootloader on it, it’s probably
the only way to load code. Or maybe you want to overwrite the bootloader
to squeeze out some extra flash space. Or maybe you want to poke at the
fuse bits, to change the brown-out voltage. Or maybe you just want a faster
and more reliable code upload.
Covered In This Tutorial
In this tutorial we will introduce you to all of the important aspects of the
AVR Pocket Programmer. It’s split into a series of sections, which cover:
Board Overview – A look at the hardware components that make up
the AVR Pocket Programmer.
Installing Drivers – How to install the AVR Pocket Programmers on a
Windows machine (Mac and Linux users can skip this page).
Programming via Arduino – How to use the ubiquitous “easy-mode”
AVR IDE to upload sketches via the AVR Pocket Programmer.
Using AVRDUDE – A more advanced, command-line-based
approach to using the AVR Pocket Programmer.
Required Materials
Most importantly, to follow along with this tutorial, you will need an AVR
Pocket Programmer and an AVR to program. On top of that, a mini-B USB
cable is required to connect the Programmer to your computer.
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That microcontroller-to-be-programmed can be any AVR with 64K or less
of flash. The ATmega328 on an Arduino Uno or RedBoard works perfectly,
but the ATmega2560 of an Arduino Mega does not.
Beyond that, you may need something to interface the Programmer to your
AVR. Here are some useful accessories, which might make the job
Straight Male Headers – If you have an AVR on a development
board – like an Arduino Pro – the 2x3 (or 2x5) ISP header may not
be populated. You can use straight male headers (also available in a
long-pinned version) to make a temporary contact between ISP cable
and your dev board. There is also a 2x3 pin version.
ISP Pogo Adapter – Like the headers, this ISP adapter is designed to
provide a temporary electrical connection between adapter and AVR.
This is a great, more reliable alternative to the headers.
AVR Programming Adapter – If you AVR is living on a breadboard,
you probably don’t have an interface to the standard 2x3 ISP pinout.
This simple breakout board makes interfacing the programmer with
your breadboarded circuit possible.
Suggested Reading
Whether you’re a beginner or experienced electronics enthusiast, the
Pocket Programmer should be easy to get up-and-running. If you’ve
programmed an Arduino before, you’ll be well-prepared for the next step.
Here are some tutorials we’d recommend reading before continuing on with
this one:
What is an Arduino? – If you’re unfamiliar with AVRs, check out this
tutorial to learn about the most popular one of the lot.
Installing Arduino – Arduino isn’t required to use the Programmer, but
it can make things easier, especially if you still want to program your
AVR using the Arduino libraries.
Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) – The Pocket Programmer uses an
SPI interface to send data to and from the AVR. Click this tutorial to
learn the meanings behind “MOSI”, “MISO”, and “SCK”.
Board Overview
Before we get to using the AVR Pocket Programmer, let’s quickly overview
what components fill the board out:
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USB Connector – This is your data and power input to the
Programmer. A mini-B USB cable plugs in here and connects your
computer to the Programmer.
2x5 ISP Header – This shrouded header mates with the included
Programming Cable, and allows you to send the programming
signals out to your AVR. It’s polarized to make sure you can’t plug
anything in backwards.
Power Target Switch – Unlike a lot of ISP’s out there, the AVR
Pocket Programmer can deliver power to the AVR-to-be-
programmed. Flick this switch to the “Power Target” side, to send 5V
to the AVR. More on this below.
ATtiny2313 – This is the chip that works the programming magic. It
converts between USB and SPI to turn commands from your
computer into words and instructions to load into your AVR-to-be-
programmed. Unless you want to customize the Tiny ISP firmware,
you can leave this chip alone.
The unpopulated ISP header, above the ATtiny2313, is broken
out in case that chip needs to be programmed. It’s mostly used
in production by those who program the programmers.
74AC125 Buffer – This chip helps to add some protection to the
programmer by buffering the data-line outputs. Another IC to mostly
The board also includes a variety of LEDs to indicate power, status, and
data transfers.
AVR ISP Pinouts
AVRs are programmed through an SPI interface. There are six unique
signals required for communication between ISP and AVR: VCC, GND,
Reset, MOSI, MISO, and SCK.
To route those signals between devices, there are two standardized
connectors – one 6-pin, 2x3 connector and another 10-pin, 2x5:
AVR ISP pinouts – top view.
The AVR Pocket Programmer includes an on-board 2x5 connector, and the
included AVR Programming Cable terminates with both 2x5 and 2x3
Power Target Switch
If you’re working with an AVR on a breadboard or a prototype, power may
be hard to come by. The AVR Pocket Programmer allows you to route 5V
out to your AVR. It can deliver upwards of 500mA before tripping the
onboard PTC.
If the switch is in the Power Target position, it will route 5V out to your AVR.
Otherwise, if the switch is pointing towards No Power, no signal will be
connected to the 5V pin on the ISP connector.
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Be careful using this feature! It will output 5V and only 5V! If you’re working
with a 3.3V or 1.8V system, make sure this switch is in the No Power
Installing Drivers
Driver installation is required on Windows machines only. If you’re using
Mac or Linux, feel free to click over to the next section. Otherwise, follow
along below as we overview the installation process.
There are two sets of instruction for driver installation on this page. The first
is the easiest, quickest method, and should work for most everyone. The
second installation process is only required if the first one fails – it takes a
more manual approach to the driver installation.
Install the Drivers Automatically with Zadig
To begin, plug the AVR Pocket Programmer into your computer. Upon
initially connecting the board, Windows will try to automatically install the
drivers. Some computers may be lucky, but most will turn up with a
message notifying you that the driver install failed.
Click the link below to download the drivers:
Download the Zadig USBtiny Drivers
Use your favorite unzipper to extract the ZIP file. Don’t forget where you put
the extracted folder!
After you’ve plugged the AVR Pocket Programmer into your computer and
your machine has run through the process of checking for and failing to
install drivers, proceed to the “zadig_v2.0.1.160” folder you just unzipped.
Then Run zadig.exe.
Zadig is a wonderful tool that can install the drivers on just about any
Windows platform out there. Upon opening the program, you should be
greeted with a window like this:
There are a few options to verify before installing the driver:
Select the device – The top dropbox controls which device you want
to install the driver for. Hopefully you only have one option here,
something like “Unknown Device #1”. If you have more than one
option, check your device manager to see if you can make sense of
which is which (plugging and unplugging a device usually helps).
Select the driver – Click the arrows in this box until you happen
upon libusb-win32 (vx.x.x.x), that’s the driver we want to install.
After verifying those two selections, click “Install Driver”. The installation
process can take a few minutes, but after you’ve watched the scroll bar
zoom by countless times, you should be greeted with a “The driver was
installed successfully” message.
If you were successful, close out of the Zadig program and proceed to the
next section!
If Zadig didn’t work for you, check out the instructions below for help
manually installing the drivers.
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Manually Installing the libUSB Driver
If, for some reason, Zadig didn’t work for you. Read the instructions below
to manually install the drivers.
Note: If you are using a Windows 8 machine, before you can install the
drivers you’ll need to disable driver signature enforcement. Follow along
with our tutorial to turn that overzealous safety guard off for a minute.
Click the link below to download the drivers:
Download the USBtiny Drivers
Use your favorite unzipper to extract the ZIP file. Don’t forget where you put
the extracted folder!
After you’ve plugged in the Programmer, and Windows has failed to install
the driver. Follow these steps to install the driver:
1. Open the Device Manager – There are a few routes to open up the
device manager.
You can go to the Control Panel, then click Hardware and
Sound, then click Device Manager.
Or, simply open the run tool (press Windows Key + R), and
run devmgmt.msc .
2. In the Device Manager, you should see an “Unknown device” listed
under the “Other devices” tree. Right click “Unkown Device” and
select Update driver software….
3. Click Browse my computer for driver software in the “Update
Diver Software - Unknown Device” window that pops up.
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4. Click “Browse…” and navigate to the “../usbtinyisp_libusb-
win32_1.2.1.0” folder you just downloaded. Then click Next.
5. Windows will begin installing the driver, and then immediately notify
you that the driver isn’t signed. Click Install this driver software
anyway option, to proceed with the installation.
6. After a few moments, the driver should successfully install. You’ll be
prompted with a “Windows has susccessfully updated your driver
software” window. Close that, and you’ll see a “USBtiny” entry
populated in the Device Manager, under the “LibUSB-Win32
Devices” tree.
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Congratulations! Proceed over to the next section, and we’ll start using the
Breathe easy now! Once you’ve installed the USBTinyProgrammer drivers
on your computer, you shouldn’t ever have to do it again. Now it’s time to
program something!
Programming via Arduino
Arduino has a built-in tool that allows you to upload your sketch via a
programmer instead of the serial bootloader. If you’re just taking your first
steps toward ISP-ing your Arduino-compatible AVR, this is a good place to
Connect the Programmer
First, let’s connect the programmer to our Arduino. Most Arduinos break out
the standardized 2x3 ISP header towards the edge of the board. Plug the
2x5-connector end of included programming cable into your AVR Pocket
Programmer, then connect the other, 2x3 end into your Arduino.
Note the notch on the connector facing the same direction as pin 1 (marked
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with a small white line here) on the 2x3 Arduino connector.
When connecting the programming cable to you Arduino, make sure you
match up the polarity! The cable has a “notch” on one side of the plastic
housing. This should point towards pin 1 of the Arduino’s ISP header. Pin
1 is usually indicated by a stripe next to the hole or pin.
If your Arduino doesn’t have the ISP pins populated, check out the bottom
section of this page for some tips and tricks we’ve used through the years.
Powering Target
While connecting your programmer, double-check to make sure the “Power
Target” switch is in the correct position. The programmer can power your
Arduino alone! If you want it to handle that task, slide it over to the Power
Target position.
The “Power Target” feature is especially useful if you only have one USB
slot/cable available.
Unplug your Arduino from USB if you’re going to power it via the
Programmer – you don’t want to create any ugly reverse current flows
through your power sources.
Programming via Arduino
Now that the programmer is connected to your Arduino, open up the IDE.
Then open an example sketch like Blink (File > Examples > 1.Basics >
Before uploading, we need to tell Arduino which programmer we’re using.
Go up to Tools > Programmer and select USBtinyISP.
Also make sure you’ve set the “Board” option correctly! The serial port
selection isn’t required for uploading the sketch, but is still necessary if
you’re doing anything with the serial monitor.
To upload the sketch using the programmer you selected, go to File >
Upload Using Programmer. If you’ll be doing this a lot, get used to
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The Arduino will run through its normal process of compiling. After the
sketch compiles, the Programmer will start lighting up blue everywhere –
the “D+” and “D-” LEDs will light up, and so will the “Stat2” LED. When the
“Stat2” LED turns off, the upload will be finished. Check the status area of
your Arduino IDE to verify that the sketch is “Done uploading.”
If you’ve uploaded a sketch via the programmer, you’ve also wiped off the
bootloader. If you ever want to put the serial bootloader back on your
Arduino, check out the next section.
Programming a Bootloader
The Arduino IDE also has a feature built-in to allow you to (re-)upload a
bootloader to the AVR. Here’s how:
Make sure you’ve set the Board option correctly – among other things, that
will set which bootloader you’ll be uploading. Then, simply navigate up to
Tools > Burn Bootloader at the very bottom of the menu.
This process may take a minute-or-so. Not only will the bootloader be
written into the flash of your AVR, the fuse bits (setting the clock speed,
bootloader space, etc), and lock bits (barring the bootloader from
overwriting itself) will also be (re)set.
The bootloader upload process is complete when the “Burning bootloader
to I/O board (this may take a minute)…” message turns to “Done burning
bootloader”. It really does take a while – it’s not lying when it says it “may
take a minute.”
Pogo Pins or the Angled Header Press
Most Arduino boards should have male pins populated on this 2x3
connector. If your board doesn’t have pins shooting out of those holes,
there are a few options.
You can solder a couple strips of 3 straight male headers in there, to get
the best, most reliable connection. But if you want to avoid soldering, you
can use those same headers (long headers work better for this), plugging
the long end into the programming cable and pushing the short end into the
empty holes, while angling them to make contact on all six pins.
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Another solder-less option is to use the ISP Pogo Adapter, which will afford
you a more reliable electrical connection.
Both of these methods can be tricky – you have to hold those pins steady
while the code uploads to your Arduino – but they’re a good solderless,
temporary option.
If you’re looking for more control over your AVR Pocket Programmer – and
the AVR it’s connected to – follow along below. We’ll demonstrate how to
use AVRDUDE, an open-source command line wonder-utility for reading,
writing and manipulating AVRs.
If you have Arduino, then you already have AVRDUDE installed – it’s the
tool Arduino uses under the hood to upload sketches. If you need to install
AVRDUDE separately, check out the download documentation.
Sanity Check – Device Signature Verification
AVRDUDE is a command-line tool, so, in order to use it, you’ll need to
open up the “Command Prompt” (Windows) or “Terminal” (Mac/Linux).
To make sure AVRDUDE is working, and your AVR Pocket Programmer is
connected correctly, it’s good to do a little sanity check first. Type this into
your command prompt:
avrdude -c usbtiny -p atmega328p
(Note: This is all assuming you have an ATmega328P connected at the
other end of your programmer. If you have a different type of
microcontroller, you’ll need to formulate a slightly different command, check
the Specify AVR Device section below.)
If everything is connected correctly, you should get a response like this:
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This basic command defines the programmer type you’re using and the
AVR it’s talking to. AVRDUDE will attempt to read the Device Signature
from your AVR, which is different for each AVR type out there. Every
ATmega328P should have a device signature of 0x1E950F .
Flash Programming
Now that you’ve verified that everything is in working order, you can do all
sorts of memory reading and writing with AVRDUDE. The main piece of
memory you probably want to write is flash – the non-volatile memory
where the programs are stored.
This command will perform a basic write to flash (using this HEX file as an
avrdude c usbtiny p atmega328p U flash:w:blink.hex
Writing to flash will take a little longer than reading the signature bits. You’ll
see a text status bar scroll by as the device is read, written to, and verified.
The -U option command handles all of the memory reads and writes. We
tell it we want to work with flash memory, do a write with w, and then tell
it the location of the hex file we want to write.
Flash Reading
The -U command can also be used to read the memory contents of an
AVR. A command like below, for example, will read the contents of your
AVR and store them into a file called “mystery.hex”.
avrdude c usbtiny p atmega328p U flash:r:mystery.hex:r
This is incredibly useful if you want to copy the contents of one Arduino to
another. Or maybe you’re a masochist, and you want to try reverse-
engineering the mystery code in an AVR.
Useful Options
Here are just a few last AVRDUDE tips and tricks before we turn you loose
on the AVR world.
Specify AVR Device
Two options required for using AVRDUDE are the programmer type and
AVR device specification. The programmer definition, assuming you’re
using the AVR Pocket Programmer, will be -c usbtiny . If you need to use
a different programmer check out this page and CTRL+F to “-c
The AVR device type is defined with the -p option. We’ve shown a few
examples with the ATmega328P, but what if you’re using an ATtiny85? In
that case, you’ll want to put -p t85 instead. Check out the top of this page
for an exhaustive list of compatible AVR device types.
Verbose Output
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Adding one, or more -v ’s to your AVRDUDE command will enable various
levels of verbosity to the action. This is handy if you need a summary of
your configuration options, or an in-depth view into what data is being sent
to your AVR.
There’s plenty more where that came from. Check out the AVRDUDE
Option Documentation for the entire list of commands.
Resources & Going Further
Here are some more AVR Pocket Programmer related resources, should
you need them:
AVR Pocket Programmer GitHub Repository – Here you’ll find
everything from PCB design files, and firmware to custom enclosure
AVR Pocket Programmer Schematic
AVR Pocket Programmer Firmware
Going Further
We’ve got plenty more tutorials where that came from. If you’re looking for
more stuff to learn, or are looking for some project inspiration, check out
these tutorials!
Wireless Arduino Programming with Electric Imp – If you’re feeling
constrained by the USB cables, check out this tutorial where we
upload code to an Arduino wirelessly!
Tiny AVR Programmer Hookup Guide – If you’re looking to program
ATtiny85’s specifically, check out the Tiny AVR Programmer.
Using the Arduino Pro Mini 3.3V – If you’re already directly
programming your Arduino, take it a step further with the Arduino Pro
Wireless XBee/AVR Bootloading – Use your AVR Pocket
Programmer to upload a custom bootloader, then wirelessly program
your Arduino.
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