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I bought this thing off of eBay:
USBtoFT232RL
eBay Link

Will it allow me to program an ATmega[xxx] (Arduino clone) with a bootloader?

--> If so, how would I go about it? What should I do, and what should I certainly not do?

--> If not, what do I need (or where can I learn) to be able to use an Arduino clone with the Arduino IDE?

I'm a bit new to Arduino, and since I learned that a fair amount of the clones being sold on eBay don't have a bootloader, I wondered how to fix this. (and the "barebones" seem to be quite a bit cheaper)



Answer - summarized from different answers below (as I can only mark one answer below as accepted):

  • Can you use an FT232R to burn a bootloader onto an AVR (such as an ATmega328)?
    • => Yes you can, though it's a bit annoying to do, as it's slow and a bit more complicated than just plug and play. See the first part of Chris Stratton's answer below.
  • I already have a working Arduino style board, can I use that?
  • The two options above are too much of a hassle for me, or I don't have an Arduino yet/available, is there another option?

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  • None of the Arduino clones I bought (from several web stores) came without a boot loader. They were all programmed with bootloader / blink example. How did you determine there is no bootloader on it? – jippie Jul 20 '14 at 8:04
  • Because I asked the seller, for example the Mini Pro on the page doesn't have one: ebay.com/itm/400683486113 (while their 'Nano' does). – DaJF Jul 20 '14 at 23:13
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In fact, you can, but you are unlikely to enjoy it as it will be fairly slow.

While this module is intended for serial communications - which the ATmega won't support until it has a bootloader on it - the chip around which it is built can also be operated in "bitbang" mode:

http://www.ftdichip.com/Support/Documents/AppNotes/AN_232R-01_Bit_Bang_Mode_Available_For_FT232R_and_Ft245R.pdf

Using reconfigured pins of this wired to the ISP pins of your target, and an implementation of the ISP algorithm running on the PC, it will indeed be possible to load a bootloader on to a new ATmega chip. However, USB is not designed for this type of usage - it is meant to move large blocks of data, rather than to efficiently do sequences of tiny operations. The result is that the loading process will be drastically slower than with other methods. You may also spend a fair amount of time tracking down software to do it, or writing your own.

If you have an already working Arduino-style board available, you can use that to program your new chip:

http://arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/ArduinoISP

  • 2
    avrdude has a number of programmer entries with ft232r in the name, implementing various bitbang configurations for FTDI chips, so the software side is pretty much solved. That said, I agree with @ChrisStratton that it's not much fun. – microtherion Jul 20 '14 at 9:01
  • Drastically slower, meaning a few minutes instead of seconds, or even more? (ballpark number's fine). That would only be the first time then, for burning the bootloader? Because after the bootloader's been put in it can be programmed through a serial connection, meaning seconds, right? – DaJF Jul 20 '14 at 23:07
  • I expect it would take less time to run than it would to find the software to do it that way, but yes, the bootloader is fairly small and only needs to be loaded once. – Chris Stratton Jul 21 '14 at 5:39
  • Ok, that's what I figured. I think I'll be using your second suggestion since I already have a UNO clone. – DaJF Jul 21 '14 at 8:29
1

You must use a ISP or (HV)PP programmer in order to write the Arduino (or similar) bootloader to the chip first. Only once you have done so will you be able to program it via a serial connection.

1

Will it allow me to program an ATmega[xxx] (Arduino clone) with a bootloader?

NO. The serial device can only be used when the Atmel ATmega chip has a bootloader burned onto it.

--> If so, how would I go about it? What should I do, and what should I certainly not do?

To burn a bootloader onto a Atmel AVR chip you need a "AVR ISP (In-System Programmer)". There is a small 2x3 pin contact on your Arduino board.

In the Arduino IDE under the menu "Tools", "Programmer" you will find the different "AVR ISP (In-System Programmer)" that you can use.

Please note that some programmer have an 2x5 pin ISP contact and if that is the case you will also need to buy a 2x3 to 2x5 adapter.

Ref.: http://arduino.cc/en/Hacking/Bootloader

--> If not, what do I need (or where can I learn) to be able to use an Arduino clone with the Arduino IDE?

Most Arduino clones bought on ebay have info witch clone of Arduino they are.

I'm a bit new to Arduino, and since I learned that a fair amount of the clones being sold on eBay don't have a bootloader, I wondered how to fix this. (and the "barebones" seem to be quite a bit cheaper)

Im a bit confused, I have bought ~10 Arduino clones from ebay and all had a bootloader. And they are clones of UNO, Nano, Leonardo and Mini Pro and that is what I uses for settings in my Arduino IDE.

I'm interested in witch ebay clones that doesn't have a bootloader, could you post a comment with that info?

I use a USBASP (example: http://goo.gl/kCiMd) as my external programmer.

  • The serial device can only be used when the Atmel ATmega chip has a bootloader burned onto it. — This is true, as far as that goes, but the FT232 also has bitbang mode. – microtherion Jul 20 '14 at 8:58
  • "Most Arduino clones bought on ebay have info witch clone of Arduino they are." > I'm not confused about which clone/model they are, just curious about how to burn the bootloader ;) I asked a seller of a 'Mini Pro' on the following page whether it has a bootloader, and he says it doesn't: http://www.ebay.com/itm/400683486113 (while their 'Nano' does). – DaJF Jul 20 '14 at 23:11
  • DaJF it was not my intention to be condescending. – MatsK Jul 21 '14 at 7:06
  • No problem, I didn't interpret it that way, just wanted to clarify :) The fact that you haven't come across a clone without a bootloader gives me hope I won't either, so thanks for the info. – DaJF Jul 21 '14 at 8:15
  • My FT232RL has a 2x3 pin ISP header eBay, but I did not check it yet. – user3028 Jul 22 '14 at 19:08

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