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How to Choose a USB JTAG Adapter

How to Choose a USB JTAG Adapter

When one is heavily into computers, programming or even hacking or cracking hardware there is simply no better way to harness it than with a USB JTAG adapter. But what does this jumble of acronyms stand for?

Well most everyone in today’s world can tell you that USB stands for Universal Serial Bus, but what about JTAG? Joint Test Action Group was the industry group formed back in 1985 to create a standardized method of testing circuit boards after production. The need for this arose after multi layer circuit boards were becoming common place and the connection between them harder for test probes to access. The majority of production issues were the result of faulty soldering points onto the board. JTAG was developed to allow a pin out vantage point from one board to another so that faults could be found in a fast and economical way.

Now that technology has advanced even further with more complex circuitry and processors, the USB JTAG has become one of the key tools to diagnosing or troubleshooting problems.  This allows for several methods of use in the electronic world since the standardization in 1990, allowing companies worldwide to conduct quality control as well as research and development. Boundary scans are now synonymous with the JTAG terminology.

With a USB JTAG adapter, and a reliable computer, you can enter into several diagnostic modes on most electronic devices. Debugging with a USB JTAG adapter allows access to sub level blocks of integrated circuits and embedded systems that may otherwise have no other means of debug communication channels. Most system reboots allow for the USB JTAG adapter to access on chip debug mode in the targeted CPU. These modes allow software developers’ access to the embedded systems at a machine input level as needed and allows for source coding directly.

Aside from debugging, a USB JTAG adapter allows for hardware developers to transfer programming directly to the device. This is most commonly referred to as “Firmware” as it acts independently from the rest of the computers CPU, Operating software or other installed software. This is commonly used in routers, printers and other electronic devices found in almost every home or office around the world. 

A simple use for a USB JTAG tool is to conduct Boundary Scans. This utilizes the JTAGs ability to manipulate the chain of command that the integrated circuits follow and allows for ferreting out faulty soldering connections and allows for the combinational logical testing of several on chip registers. This is very important in testing devices before they are shipped out to customers to eliminate costly returns and other customer satisfaction claims.

When choosing the best USB JTAG adapter, there are several things to consider. The reputation of the manufacturer certainly weighs heavily in making an informed decision.

Does the adapter allow for multi- use Operating systems?

Does the interface software allow for your particular needs of access? 

Does the adapter need any additional power supply, or interface access to your particular device?

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