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Are all Arduino shields compatible with all Arduino boards? Like is the Wi-Fi one compatible with the Arduino Nano & Micro as well as the Uno, etc., or do I need to be careful when buying shields that they'll be compatible with my board? Also, the shields just plug into the boards, don't they?

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When you want to choose a shield for your board you should check:

1- Pin-out, this one is the least concerning one , Most arduino boards are Shield pin-out compatible and you can verify it visually, for others, normally there are some converter boards (e.g for NANO), and in the worst case, building a converter board or wiring the shield to board is trivial in most situations.

2- Shield operating voltage should match your board's, most shields operate at 5V, 3.3V or both. Normally AVR-based boards (e.g. UNO, Mega, ...) operate at 5V and ARM based ones (e.g. Due, ...) operate at 3.3V, So we should choose the shield accordingly (just keep in mind that most shield are designed with Arduino UNO in mind so it's more likely that your shields operate at 5V).

3- Library, Lots of Libraries for Arduino shields bypass Arduino library abstraction (mostly for performance reasons) and use hardware specific features (e.g directly write on specific ports), here is source of some incompatibilities between your board and the shield, for example there are handful of TFT LCD shields in the market which their library only supports UNO boards, in these cases you should either port it to your board's (based on micro-controller model and it's architecture, sometimes its as easy as changing some pin/port definitions and sometimes as hard as writing the library from scratch).

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For the most part, all the shields are compatible with all the boards that have a matching shield footprint. For example, the Uno, Leonardo, and the front half of the mega all have their header pins laid out in the standard arduino shield shape. If your board has this shield footprint, then all you have to do is plug the shield in on top and upload the right code to make it work.

The nano and micro have a different size and shape than a standard arduino, and so shields will not have a handy way of attaching to them. Since they do have standard arduino chips on them, they are technically compatible, but you would have to make your own wiring to attach them.

  • Can you point me to documentation that shows what I need to look for so I'll be able to work out whether shields and boards are compatible please? – alice fey Oct 4 '14 at 17:09
  • All you have to do is look at a picture. If the pins on the board are shield shaped (like this: themaximitecomputer.com/max/Programs/Hardware/Dontronics/… ) Then any arduino shield should work. – BrettAM Oct 4 '14 at 18:55

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