Mail bag: PIC programmer for beginner?



Recently I start to read dangerous proto blog and I must say that I am a fan of your site and your projects. I am not a PIC guy but recently I decided to make a bus pirate using a free pcb I got through the site.

I have a question to ask. Which programmer should I buy to program?? Pickit3or Pickit2??
From searching in net, Pickit2 seems to contain a useful logic analyzer and is cheaper. Is there similar feature in pickit3?? Does i really need to buy pickit3??


Head to eBay, buy a PICkit2 clone. It will program AND debug most PIC chips. Catch a deal and you can get one for $25 shipped

PICkit2, and ICD2 if you feel posh, is one of the pros of PIC microcontrollers. One cheap debugger not only programs most chips, it lets you single-step code and read memory locations. We’re not very good coders, we have to see the code execute step-by-step or some bugs are impossible to find.

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  1. just my 2 cents, but with the pickit2 you can only program 5v pics (12f-16f-18f series)
    if you want to program and debug 3v pics (pic24 pic33 dspic) you NEED a pickit3 …

      1. I thought it was released? The IOIO board uses it and I’ve gotten samples of it off microchip in an attempt to make my own IOIO. Would there be a good chance of it being able to be programmed by pickit2 though?

      2. The product page on Microchip’s site states: Future Product. But you’re right, there are prices and even samples listed down the bottom of the page. Strange.

        It seems to share the same programming chapter with other members of the PIC24 family, so I would bet that it could be supported with the PICkit2 by adding the device and memory regions etc to the device data file.There’s a GUI tool a user wrote to let you duplicate a similar PIC24 device and then make the necessary changes. I included details on the Wiki in the PIC Resources section at

  2. in fact I was comparing a pickit3 and an icd2 (you can build yourself)
    and between these two you have the 3v pic problem…

    another thing does anyone know how to use the pickit memory program ?
    I didnt find any tutorial on this feature and how to use it ?

  3. I have both a PK2 and a PK3. The PK3 is more advanced, can program a greater number of chips, is faster, and has a wider voltage range than the PK2. That being said, I still use the PK2 more often than the PK3. The PK2 has a decent voltage range (including the 3.3v chips), a fantastic GUI (with logic and UART functions which are pretty nifty) and it can also be used as an Atmel programmer and a USB-to-serial converter ( The PK3 does not have an *official* standalone GUI and must be used from within MPLAB (there is a beta GUI that is still a little buggy; sadly, the UART/LA features have not yet been implemented). Both programmers also allow you to program most common serial EEPROMs.

    The bottom line –
    If you’re cost conscious and only want to ‘test-drive’ the PICs buy the cheaper programmer. The PK2 programs almost the entire range of PICs (barring a few PIC32s and a few others).

    Even if you’re planning on long term PIC usage, buy the PK2. Its GUI is clean and easy to use, it’s got good community support, and even though it programs marginally slower than the PK3 you won’t notice the difference. By the time you reach the really high end chips *not* supported by the PK2, you’ll probably already have bought a PK3, an ICD and maybe even an ICE :-P

  4. Building your own pk2 is really easy, you will find a lot of single sided designs on the internet to build at home with easy to find parts.
    Probably the hardest thing, is to program the 18F2550 without having a programmer. I solved this building a serial programmer wich Ian published years ago on DIY life.

  5. thanks Ian for the advice,

    Ian I thought of replying to you in the forum, but at the same time I didn’t want anyone to come and spoil my bid in ebay. Yesterday night I bought a pickit2 from sure electronics for 13 GBP less than half the price of an original pickit3. Actually I wanted to buy a new and original stuff but at the same time I wanted that cool feature of pickit2 to be used as a logic analyzer. I thought, anyway I am not a pro in this PIC field, I want to start learning PIC, so by the time I feel that pickit2 is outdated( when I become a super pic programmer) I might buy a pickit4 :-). As Ian said, for a beginner it is the best. Also the original pickit3 from microchip costs 29 GBP!!!

    1. That’s good news. I came here to comment that $25 for the clone is not worth it since MIcrochip sells the official PICkit 2 (PG164120) for $34.99, so it’s not worth saving a mere $9.99 when you can get better build quality and a more robust circuit that doesn’t burn out so easily. I blew up a couple of clones before getting the official Microchip part, and now I only use the Microchip PICkit 2.

      Looks like the current exchange rate puts the Sure Electronics clone at $21.37 to $24.66, so I’m not really sure it’s worth the loss in quality. I guess it all depends upon whether you need a dependable programmer.

      1. I have to agree with you rohit, My first programmer was a no name i thought I was saving money. It cost me 80$ (cut me some slack this was 10 years ago or so) , the board design was faulty and worst yet it was a severe pain to set up in mplab. If money is an issue, get the pickit 2, if its not get the pickit3. There is something to be said about having a legitimate programmer that you know works , that is plug and play, and has a case and warranty .

        Your comment should be taken seriously by any one who is considering the nock offs. Its just not worth the potential headache to save a few dollars. Trust us.

  6. PICKIT2
    Has uart tool
    has logic tool
    has programer to go feature
    does NOT program all pic but a bunch 3.3 and 5v
    Does NOT have stopwatch for debugging.

    does NOT have uart tool or logic tool
    has programmer to go
    has stop watch and more advanced debugging features as compared to pickit2
    Programs nearly all, if not all pic .
    Requires a firmware download to switch the pic its programing (this is done automatically)

    My recommendation would be the pickit3 as I found the debugging features a must have . You already have a logic tool so that is of no consequence to you.

  7. I have both the PICkit2 and PICkit3, and the PK2 wins hands down partly because it just works. The PK3 requires constant firmware downloads which, under Win7 64 bit, always fail (I found I need to unplug/re-plug the PK3 multiple times for each firmware download part which gets old real fast).

    As for chips not supported by the PK2, many can simply be added to the standalone program’s device file provided it’s (oh yes, the PK3 standalone program simply does not work, just continually crashes under XP or Win7).

    The only PK3 advantages I can see are:

    1) PK2 VDD down to 2.5v vs PK3 VDD down to 2v (affects some PIC24s, PIC32s)
    2) PK2 cannot debug PIC32 devices vs PK3 can

    The PK3 disadvantages are, well, too numerous to list here!

  8. Stopwatch function on debug, for timing pickit 3 only…..

    Also the small issue of uploading firmware is nothing compared to exporting and programing with another program all together. I use xp so I never have any problems.

    The pickit3 is also loads faster as a general rule.

  9. Well, just to be fair, I think the PK3 has a lot of potential. It uses a faster PIC24 part that can be packed with many more features. Now if only the designers put their heads together and fix the buggy GUI, and the crappy requirement of loading new firmware every time you change processor families…..

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