USB to UART Converter using Microchip MCP2200

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In today’s world of advanced microcontrollers and embedded systems, the need for efficient communication protocols and interfaces has become paramount. One such interface that has gained widespread popularity is the Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART), which allows for serial communication between devices. However, with the ubiquity of USB (Universal Serial Bus) interfaces on modern computers and devices, the need for a USB-to-UART converter has arisen to bridge the gap between these two communication standards.

The Microchip MCP2200 is a highly versatile and cost-effective solution for this very purpose. This USB-to-UART bridge device provides a seamless interface between USB and UART, enabling communication between a host computer and various embedded systems, such as microcontrollers, sensors, and other peripherals.

In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the intricacies of the Microchip MCP2200 USB-to-UART converter, exploring its features, applications, and implementation details. We will cover the theoretical aspects of the device, as well as practical examples and code snippets to aid in your understanding and implementation of this powerful communication bridge.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to USB-to-UART Converters
  2. Overview of the Microchip MCP2200
  3. Understanding UART Communication
  4. Interfacing the MCP2200 with a Host Computer
  5. Communicating with Embedded Systems using the MCP2200
  6. Advanced Features and Considerations
  7. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
  8. Conclusion

Introduction to USB-to-UART Converters

USB-to-UART converters, also known as USB-to-serial adapters or USB-to-UART bridges, are essential devices that enable communication between USB-enabled devices (such as computers or embedded systems) and devices with UART interfaces. These converters bridge the gap between the USB protocol and the UART protocol, allowing for seamless data transfer and control between the two interfaces.

In the early days of computing, serial communication was the primary means of data exchange between devices. However, with the advent of USB technology and its widespread adoption, the need for USB-to-UART converters became increasingly important, particularly in the field of embedded systems and microcontroller development.

USB-to-UART converters typically consist of a USB interface on one end and a UART interface (typically implemented through a DB9 or similar connector) on the other end. These devices contain specialized chips or microcontrollers that handle the protocol conversion between USB and UART, enabling transparent communication between the two interfaces.

The primary function of a USB-to-UART converter is to act as a bridge, translating the data and control signals from the USB protocol to the UART protocol and vice versa. This allows devices with UART interfaces, such as microcontrollers, sensors, or legacy equipment, to communicate with USB-enabled devices, like computers or modern embedded systems.

USB-to-UART converters find widespread applications in various domains, including:

  • Embedded system development and debugging
  • Industrial automation and control systems
  • Scientific instrumentation and data acquisition
  • Robotics and mechatronics
  • Automotive and transportation systems
  • Telecommunications and networking equipment

By providing a seamless interface between USB and UART, these converters facilitate data exchange, firmware updates, and debugging capabilities for a wide range of devices and applications.

Overview of the Microchip MCP2200

The Microchip MCP2200 is a highly integrated and versatile USB-to-UART converter that provides a reliable and efficient solution for bridging the gap between USB and UART communication protocols. Developed by Microchip Technology Inc., a leading manufacturer of microcontroller and analog semiconductor products, the MCP2200 offers a cost-effective and feature-rich alternative to traditional USB-to-UART converters.

Features and Specifications

The Microchip MCP2200 boasts an impressive array of features and specifications, making it a compelling choice for various applications:

  • USB 2.0 Full-Speed (12 Mbps) compatible: The MCP2200 supports the USB 2.0 Full-Speed protocol, ensuring reliable and high-speed data transfer rates.
  • Integrated USB transceiver and serial engine: The device incorporates a USB transceiver and a serial engine, eliminating the need for external components and reducing board space requirements.
  • Configurable UART interface: The MCP2200 supports configurable UART settings, including baud rates up to 3 Mbps, data formats (5, 6, 7, or 8 data bits), stop bits (1 or 2), and parity settings (odd, even, or none).
  • Hardware flow control support: The device supports hardware flow control mechanisms, such as RTS/CTS (Request to Send/Clear to Send) and DTR/DSR (Data Terminal Ready/Data Set Ready), enabling reliable data transfer in high-throughput applications.
  • GPIO functionality: The MCP2200 provides general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins, which can be used for various purposes, such as status indication, control signals, or handshaking.
  • Low-power operation and sleep modes: The device offers low-power operation modes and sleep modes, making it suitable for battery-powered or power-sensitive applications.
  • Firmware upgradability: The MCP2200 supports firmware updates, allowing for future enhancements and bug fixes to be applied to the device.
  • Compact package options: The MCP2200 is available in various compact package options, including QFN, QFP, and TSSOP packages, enabling integration into space-constrained designs.


The versatility and feature set of the Microchip MCP2200 make it suitable for a wide range of applications across various industries. Some notable applications include:

  • Embedded system development and debugging: The MCP2200 is extensively used in the development and debugging of embedded systems, enabling communication between a host computer and microcontrollers, sensors, or other peripheral devices with UART interfaces.
  • Industrial automation and control systems: In industrial environments, the MCP2200 can be integrated into control systems, PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), and HMIs (Human-Machine Interfaces) to facilitate data exchange and monitoring.
  • Scientific instrumentation and data acquisition: The device can be utilized in scientific instruments, data loggers, and data acquisition systems to enable communication with sensors, analyzers, or other equipment with UART interfaces.
  • Robotics and mechatronics: The MCP2200 finds applications in robotics and mechatronics projects, allowing for communication between a host computer and various robotic components, such as motor controllers or sensor modules.
  • Automotive and transportation systems: In the automotive and transportation industries, the MCP2200 can be employed in various subsystems, such as infotainment systems, telematics, or diagnostic tools, to facilitate communication with embedded controllers and sensors.
  • Telecommunications and networking equipment: The device can be integrated into telecommunications and networking equipment, enabling communication with various components, such as modems, routers, or network devices with UART interfaces.

With its rich feature set, compact size, and low-power operation, the Microchip MCP2200 provides a versatile and cost-effective solution for bridging the gap between USB and UART communication protocols across a diverse range of applications.

Understanding UART Communication

Before delving into the intricacies of the Microchip MCP2200 USB-to-UART converter, it is essential to understand the fundamentals of UART communication and serial data transfer. This section will provide an overview of serial communication basics, the UART protocol, and the associated concepts of baud rate and data formats.

Serial Communication Basics

Serial communication is a method of transmitting data sequentially, one bit at a time, over a single communication channel or wire. This contrasts with parallel communication, where multiple bits are transmitted simultaneously over multiple parallel wires.

Serial communication offers several advantages over parallel communication, including:

  • Reduced wiring complexity: Serial communication requires fewer wires, typically two or three, compared to parallel communication, which requires multiple wires for each bit of data.
  • Longer transmission distances: Serial communication supports longer transmission distances without significant signal degradation, making it suitable for applications where devices are physically separated.
  • Lower cost: Due to the reduced wiring requirements, serial communication interfaces are generally less expensive to implement than parallel interfaces.

However, serial communication also has some limitations, such as lower data transfer rates compared to parallel communication and the need for synchronization between the transmitter and receiver devices.

UART Protocol

The Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART) is a widely adopted protocol for serial communication. It is commonly used to establish communication between microcontrollers, embedded systems, and other devices that require serial data transfer.

In UART communication, data is transmitted asynchronously, meaning that there is no shared clock signal between the transmitter and receiver. Instead, the UART protocol relies on start and stop bits to synchronize the data transfer and determine the beginning and end of each transmitted character or data frame.

A typical UART data frame consists of the following components:

  1. Start bit: A single bit that indicates the beginning of a new data frame. The start bit is always set to logic 0.
  2. Data bits: The actual data being transmitted, typically ranging from 5 to 8 bits per character.
  3. Parity bit (optional): An optional bit used for error detection. The parity bit can be set to even or odd parity, or omitted entirely.
  4. Stop bit(s): One or more bits that indicate the end of the data frame. The stop bit(s) are set to logic 1.

The UART protocol defines the structure of the data frame and the timing requirements for transmitting and receiving data. It also specifies the idle state (logic 1) when no data is being transmitted, ensuring proper synchronization between the transmitter and receiver.

Baud Rate and Data Format

Baud rate and data format are crucial aspects of UART communication that must be correctly configured for reliable data transfer.

Baud Rate

The baud rate, also known as the bit rate or symbol rate, is the measure of the number of signal or symbol changes (bits) that occur per second in a communication channel. In the context of UART communication, the baud rate determines the speed at which data is transmitted and received.

Common baud rates used in UART communication include 9600, 19200, 38400, 57600, 115200, and higher rates up to several megabits per second (Mbps). Both the transmitter and receiver must be configured to use the same baud rate for successful communication.

Higher baud rates enable faster data transfer but may be more susceptible to noise and signal degradation, especially over longer distances or in noisy environments. Lower baud rates are generally more reliable but result in slower data transfer speeds.

Data Format

The data format in UART communication refers to the configuration of the data frame, including the number of data bits, parity settings, and stop bits. The transmitter and receiver must be configured to use the same data format for proper communication.

The common data formats used in UART communication include:

  • Data bits: The number of bits used to represent a single character or data value, typically ranging from 5 to 8 bits. The most common settings are 7 or 8 data bits.
  • Parity: The parity bit is an optional error-checking mechanism used to detect errors in the transmitted data. The parity can be set to even, odd, or none (no parity bit).
  • Stop bits: The number of stop bits used to indicate the end of a data frame. Typically, one or two stop bits are used, with one stop bit being the most common setting.

Proper configuration of the baud rate and data format is crucial for successful UART communication, as any mismatch between the transmitter and receiver settings will result in corrupted or unintelligible data.

Interfacing the MCP2200 with a Host Computer

To utilize the capabilities of the Microchip MCP2200 USB-to-UART converter, it must be properly interfaced with a host computer or USB-enabled device. This section will cover the hardware connections required and the necessary driver installation and configuration steps.

Hardware Connections

The MCP2200 can be integrated into various circuits and systems, depending on the specific application and requirements. However, the basic hardware connections for interfacing the device with a host computer typically involve the following steps:

  1. Obtain the MCP2200 module or evaluation board: The MCP2200 is available in different form factors, including module boards, evaluation boards, and bare chips for integration into custom designs.
  2. Connect the USB interface: The MCP2200 features a USB interface, typically a USB Type-B or USB Micro-B connector. Connect this USB interface to an available USB port on your host computer using a suitable USB cable.
  3. Connect the UART interface: The MCP2200 provides a UART interface, which may be exposed through various connectors or pins, depending on the specific module or evaluation board. Connect the UART interface to the target device or microcontroller using the appropriate wiring and connectors.
  4. Optionally, connect any additional signals: Depending on your application and the features you plan to utilize, you may need to connect additional signals, such as handshaking signals (RTS/CTS or DTR/DSR), GPIO pins, or power supply connections.

It is important to consult the product documentation and reference manuals provided by Microchip to ensure proper hardware connections and pin assignments for your specific MCP2200 module or evaluation board.

Driver Installation and Configuration

To facilitate communication between the host computer and the MCP2200 USB-to-UART converter, appropriate drivers must be installed and configured. The process may vary depending on the operating system and the specific module or evaluation board being used.

Windows Driver Installation

For Windows operating systems, Microchip provides a dedicated driver package for the MCP2200. Follow these general steps to install the driver:

  1. Download the latest MCP2200 driver package from the Microchip website.
  2. Connect the MCP2200 device to your computer’s USB port.
  3. Windows should automatically detect the new hardware and prompt you to install the driver.
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to locate and install the downloaded driver package.
  5. After successful installation, a new virtual COM port should be available in the Device Manager.

Linux Driver Installation

Most modern Linux distributions include built-in support for the MCP2200 USB-to-UART converter. However, if the device is not automatically recognized, you may need to install the appropriate kernel module or driver package.

  1. Connect the MCP2200 device to your Linux computer’s USB port.
  2. Open a terminal and check if the device is recognized by running the dmesg command.
  3. If the device is not recognized, you may need to install the appropriate kernel module or driver package specific to your Linux distribution.

macOS Driver Installation

macOS includes built-in support for the MCP2200 USB-to-UART converter. Once the device is connected to a USB port, it should be automatically recognized and accessible through the appropriate terminal application or programming interface.

After successful driver installation and configuration, the MCP2200 device should appear as a virtual COM port on your host computer. This virtual COM port can be used for serial communication with the target device or microcontroller connected to the UART interface of the MCP2200.

Communicating with Embedded Systems using the MCP2200

One of the primary applications of the Microchip MCP2200 USB-to-UART converter is enabling communication between a host computer and embedded systems, such as microcontrollers, sensors, or other peripheral devices with UART interfaces. This section will explore the process of establishing UART communication with embedded systems using the MCP2200, including UART communication with microcontrollers, serial terminal software, and data transfer and debugging techniques.

UART Communication with Microcontrollers

Microcontrollers are at the heart of many embedded systems, and they often rely on UART interfaces for communication and data exchange. The MCP2200 USB-to-UART converter provides a convenient way to establish a communication link between a host computer and a microcontroller with a UART interface.

To establish UART communication with a microcontroller using the MCP2200, follow these general steps:

  1. **Connect the MCP2200