I am very confused with the pins on the arduino micro. What are the 3v3, 5v, and Vin pins used for? Are they for power input, or power output, or both?


Vin is a power INPUT. It is connected to the input of the voltage regulator, which enables you to power the Arduino with voltages between 6V and 12V, while the Arduino itself is running on 5V.

The 5V pin can be both an power INPUT and OUTPUT. It is connected to the general 5V power rail inside the Arduino and thus to the power inputs of the microcontroller. This rail/pin needs to be provided with 5V power to let the Arduino work. Where this power comes from (from the voltage regulator, from USB or from your own external 5V power supply connected to the 5V pin) is irrelevant for the Arduino. The 5V pin can even be used to provide power to other components in your circuit (though with certain limitations, see below).

The 3V3 (meaning 3.3V) pin is a power OUTPUT. It is connected to the output of another voltage regulator, which brings the 5V from the 5V rail down to 3.3V. It can be used to power external parts, that need 3.3V to work.

Up to this point I only wrote about voltage. But depending on your circuit you also need to consider the current. The different electrical parts on the Arduino can only handle a specific power (measured in Watts). Thus with a given voltage you can only draw up to a specific amount of current through them, before you destroy them.

As an example, let's assume you provide the Arduino with 9V through Vin and you want to drive a middle sized motor. Motors in general can draw a lot of current. When you now drive the motor from the 5V pin of the Arduino, the motors current will flow through the Arduinos voltage regulator. Thus the regulator will go into emergency shutdown and cut the power (applies for a genuine Arduino) or it will get destroyed (applies for most cheap Arduino clones). To prevent that, you need to connect the motor directly with the power supply (or through an extra voltage regulator, suitable for the needed current), so that the current for it is no longer flowing through the Arduino.

This explanation is only to prevent you from destroying your board. That is always very annoying, when it happens.

  • Ahh, this makes much more sense! Thank you very very much! :) – Jas Jun 15 '20 at 14:32
  • Upvoted (also because of the last line, which is quite an understatement). – Michel Keijzers Jun 15 '20 at 15:49
  • Excellent answer. One point I would add is that if you are going to supply 5V to the 5V line, you need to make sure it is regulated 5V. If it strays too far from 5V it will cause the board to malfunction and may damage or destroy it. – Duncan C Jun 15 '20 at 17:01

VIN is power input. IN means INput.

Generally 5V and 3.3V are used for power output, but the 5V one can also be used for power input if you want to power the board from 5V.

But since they are just power they have no "direction" as such, only a voltage level.

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