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Turning a Microchip MPLAB Snap Into a UDPI AVR Programmer


The Unified Program and Debug Interface (UPDI) is Microchip’s proprietary interface for programming and on-chip debugging, and has become the standard on AVR MCUs after Microchip’s purchase of Atmel. Being a proprietary interface means that even entry-level programmers like the Atmel-ICE are rather expensive at over $100. That’s when for [Scott W Harden] the question arose of whether the much cheaper MPLAB Snap board (~$34) could be used as well for AVR UDPI purposes.

The stages of grief that [Scott] went through before he had it working involved among others the updating of the MPLAB Snap board firmware, getting yelled at by the Microchip Studio IDE when attempting to use the Snap for AVR MCU programming, and ultimately fixing the board following the relevant Microchip Engineering Technical Note (ETN #36) that specifies the removal of a 4.7 kΩ pull-down resistor (R48) on the Snap board. This allows the UDPI line to be pulled high by the MCU.

As the ETN notes, an external pull-up may also be used to override the pull-down, which would leave the ICSP functionality of of the Snap intact. As [Scott] mentions in his conclusion, it feels as if UDPI AVR support with the Snap is really an afterthought for Microchip. Meanwhile there are also more DIY solutions as [Scott] adds, which are useful for just flashing the MCU. An example is with a USB-TTL serial adapter and pymcuprog.

The problem with DIY solutions like jtag2updi, ftdi2updi, and their kin is the effort required to assemble them, and the uncertainty of long-term support as the UPDI ecosystem keeps evolving with new devices and new features. The MPLAB Snap with resistor mod may be just that middle ground between an Atmel-ICE and reverse-engineered OSS projects.

(Featured image: MPLAB Snap resistor mod illustrated, from Microchip ETN #36)

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