About 3 years ago Sparkfun had a sale on Arduino Minis, so I bought 6 of them (3 x 3.3 V @ 16 MHz and 3 x 5 V @16 MHz). I used two of them for separate projects (everything worked flawlessly) then stored the rest. Then last night I grabbed one of the 5 V and 3.3 V Minis and tried to upload the Blinking LED program to them. But I kept getting this error:

avrdude: stk500_recv(): programmer is not responding

I'm getting similar results on all of these computers: Mac OS X 10.10, Mac OS X 10.7, and Windows 7. I tested with default drivers and I tried installing fresh drivers based on the HardwareID's of the devices. I used both the newest version of Arduino IDE and a few older versions.

I've tried two different USB devices: Sparkfun Basic FTDI and a Generic USB to Serial PL2303 similar to this one. They both produce the same error, however the FTDI seems to be somewhat able to communicate since the RX & TX lights are flashing as well as the Arduino LED. With PL2303, the LED is lit constantly.

While searching last night, I found a few forums where people suggested things like hitting the reset button and selecting different Arduino boards in the IDE.

  • How did you store them?
    – Majenko
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 13:47
  • @Majenko I stored them in the original box & antistatic case they came in from Sparkfun. The FTDI I stored in a plastic drawer where I organize the rest of my electronics.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 14:07
  • Can you show how you wire the USB interfaces up?
    – Majenko
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 14:08
  • The FTDI is a direct connection (BLK->BLK, CTS->GND, 5V->VCC, TX->RX, RX->TX, GRN->GRN) and the PL2303 I had to make jumpers from (GND->GND, RX->TX, TX->RX, 5v->VCC)
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 14:18
  • I don't know what BLK and GRN are, nor why CTS would be connected to GND...
    – Majenko
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


Things have changed in the three years since you last used your FTDI board.

Most importantly avrdude has changed.

You will most likely find that you can program your boards perfectly fine using Arduino IDE 1.0.1.

What has changed is that avrdude has been modified to counter a change in the FTDI drivers. It used to be that the FTDI drivers would pulse the DTR line when the port was opened, but that stopped happening with newer drivers. So AVRDude started asserting the DTR line instead. However it doesn't pulse it, it just holds it low.

The problem with that is if the DTR is connected direct to the RESET pin the main chip is held in reset mode all the time instead of it just being reset briefly to reset the board.

The "fix" is to place a 100nF capacitor between DTR and RESET instead of directly connecting it. That converts the steady low into a short pulse which resets the board and enters the bootloader.

  • Thank you! That worked for my 3.3v. One small correction though, there is an inline SMD capacitor on the Mini board between reset and DTR, I needed to connect the 100nf in series rather than bypassing it and going directly to the RESET pin. Also, this trick didn't seem to work with my 5v board. Is there a different configuration I need for that Arduino?
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 15:23

For programming a Pro Mini, I find the CP2104 adaptor works better than the FTDI or PL2303 based units, on both Mac and PC. You can find the CP2104 adaptor from many sources, such as TxHang Electronic:


(You may need to install CP2104 software drivers on some platforms) This is how I wire them together:

  • CP2104_________PRO MINI

    • DTR------------DTR
    • 3.3V--------- - * NOT USED (VCC)
    • 5V --------- - -* NOT USED (VCC)
    • TXD------------RXD
    • RXD------------TXD
    • GND-----------GND

    Note: * While you may be able to power your (unloaded) Pro Mini from your CP2104 adaptor, it's better to use a separate supply that is appropriate for the version of the Pro Mini you use. Good luck. /DerrickA

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.