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Home > Parallel Port Central

Parallel Port Central

The PC's parallel port, including ECP, EPP, bidirectional, and IEEE-1284 modes (and other I/O ports as well).

Basics | ECP & EPP | Hardware | Troubleshooting | Connecting 2 PCs
Using Printers | Programming

Parallel Port CompleteParallel Port Complete

For all you ever wanted to know about the parallel port, order a copy of Parallel Port Complete. Read Chapter 1 on-line.

The Basics

  • External Parallel Port devices and Linux. Many links and info. From Tim Waugh.

  • If you have a (usually old) device that sends data to a line printer, and you want to instead read the data into a PC, you have a couple of options. One is to buy or make a parallel-to-serial converter and read the data at a serial port, using a terminal emulator or software you write. LPTCAP is another approach, consisting of circuits and software for reading the data into a PC's parallel port. From Kris Heidenstrom. Also see JADTech's Silent Hawk.

  • A tutorial on motion control from the parallel port. From cncKITS.

Enhanced and Extended Ports

Including the bidirectional (PS/2) port, extended capabilities port (ECP), and enhanced parallel port (EPP), and the IEEE-1284 standard that descibes them all.

General Information

  • A table showing the pinouts of all three of the commonly used parallel-port connectors, including the 25-pin D-sub, the 36-contact Centronics connector, and the new IEEE-1284C connector. (6K PDF (Acrobat) file)

  • Warp Nine Engineering has descriptions of the EPP, ECP, and other IEEE-1284 modes. Warp Nine's products include ECP/EPP parallel-port cards, EPP and ECP drivers, and a peripheral interface controller that provides the logic between a general-purpose microcontroller and a PC's parallel port, to enable a peripheral to support EPP and ECP modes. Also check here for the latest information on IEEE standards relating to the parallel port. And there's a link to Microsoft's document describing ECP mode. (325k, PDF file).

  • Various files relating to the IEEE-1284 standard, from Lexmark's FTP site

  • The title of the IEEE parallel port standard is 1284-2000 IEEE Standard Signaling Method for a Bidirectional Parallel Peripheral Interface for Personal Computers. Available from IEEE.

  • Standard Microsystems Corp. has preliminary versions of the daisy-chain specification and EPP BIOS, plus drivers and source code for SMC chips.

  • Trans Digital has a high-speed universal parallel-port product.

Hardware

Boards

  • Winford Engineering has very handy breadboard adapters and breakout boards with DB-25 connectors.

  • Zanthic has inexpensive proto boards for parallel-port interfacing with EPP handshaking. Some also have a CAN interface.

  • Byte Runner Technologies has parallel-port expansion cards, both ISA and PCI-based.

USB Converters

To connect a parallel-port printer via USB, use a USB/parallel-printer converter, available from many sources.

To connect a USB printer to a parallel port, see LPTzUSB from Henrik Haftmann and LPT2USB from ePaperSign.

For other legacy parallel-port applications, see Converter From USB To Parallel from Henrik Haftmann.

Chips

The data sheets for parallel-port controller chips include timing diagrams, register assignments, and other useful details about accessing and using the new modes. PC-side chips are for use in PCs; peripheral-side chips are for use in peripherals.

  • AMD's Am29202 processor (PDF), for use in EPP/ECP (peripheral-side).

  • National Semiconductor has a variety of Super I/O chips that include an IEEE 1284-compatible parallel port with EPP and ECP modes. (PC-side)

  • Fairchild's 74VHC161284 Transceiver contains eight bidirectional data buffers and eleven control/status buffers to implement an IEEE-1284 Level 2 interface. Outputs on the cable side can be configured to be either open drain or push-pull.

  • Standard Microsystems Corp., (SMSC), another manufacturer of EPP/ECP parallel-port chips. (PC- and peripheral-side).

  • Exar/Startech's ST78C34 and ST78C36 are EPP/ECP chips. Look under Products/Communications/General Purpose. (PC-side).

  • Texas Instruments' TL16PIR552 includes a PC-side ECP+EPP, plus a dual UART and IrDa interface.

  • Warp Nine's W91284PIC supports all modes, plus daisy-chaining and negotiating. (peripheral-side).

Cables

  • NFPT (No-Frills Parallel Transfer) includes a DOS program with source code and instructions for building an ECP test cable for transferring files between two PCs using ECP mode. From Kein-Hong Man.

  • Denis Kondakov has figured out how to do Direct Cable Connection ECP transfers between PCs using a simple, home-brewed cable configuration. It requires a patch to paralink.vxd (zip file, 36k).

  • Parallel Technologies' Universal Cable contains active circuits for high-speed parallel-port communications using Windows 95/98's Direct Cable Connection. Parallel Port Development Kits are available as well.

  • Trans Digital's Universal Parallel Port is a high-speed, long-distance link between parallel-port peripherals and a PC-ard (PCMCIA) slot.

  • If you want to connect your parallel printer to a USB port, USBGear has a True-Bi Directional USB Printer Cable adapter (USBG-1284Bi) that claims to support bidirectional printer communications. (Most other adapters don't.)

Troubleshooting

  • Para14.zip. Parallel-port diagnostic and information utility from Parallel Technologies. (88K)

  • PortMon for Windows monitors and displays all serial and parallel port activity on a system. From Mark Russinovich.

  • JadTech's Silent Hawk products non-obtrusively capture parallel-port data. The Silent Hawk III Model 1284 functions as a protocol analzyer.

  • QualityLogic has a protocol analyzer and test suite for IEEE-1284 links as well as a variety of products for printer testing.

Connecting Two PCs

Connecting two PCs via their parallel ports requires a special cable. For software, you can use Windows 95/98's Direct Cable Connection, a third-party product, or write your own program to do the transfers. To find out about Direct Cable Connection, click F1 on the desktop and search for Direct Cable Connection.

  • The Connect Pages have information on how to connect two PCs running various combinations of operating systems, using serial and parallel ports. From Kime.Net.

  • Sewell Development's Fast Lynx works with everything from DOS through Windows XP.

  • Laplink and pcAnywhere support PC-to-PC transfers.

  • Also see the information under Cables.

About Using Printers

Various Projects

Projects that use the parallel port or an I/O chip like the 8255 Parallel Peripheral Interface chip.

Programming

There are various ways for applications to access the parallel port and other I/O ports in PCs, including directly accessing port addresses, communicating with a driver that accessing port addresses and using Windows' built-in drivers.

Under Windows 3.x/95/98/Me, applications can read and write directly to port addresses. Use your compiler's built-in functions (inp and out or similar) or in-line assembly code. (See the source code in my inpout32.zip below for an example.) This method is simple, but it's slow, it can't protect the port from access by other applications, and it doesn't work at all under Windows NT/2000/Xp. If you use Visual Basic or another language that doesn't have functions for port I/O or allow in-line assembly code, you can use a DLL or a custom control that adds port I/O functions to an application.

A system-level device driver enables faster port access and can manage access by multiple applications. Driver types include VxD (virtual device driver) for Windows 9x/Me, WDM for Windows 98/NT/2000/Me/Xp, and kernel-mode driver for Windows NT/2000/Xp. Hardware interrupts must use a system-level driver under Windows 9x/NT/2000/Me/Xp. If you don't want to write your own driver, there are custom controls and other tools that enable applications to access ports and respond to interrupts via a driver.

A third way to access ports is to use the drivers included with Windows. Windows 3.x/9x/NT have no functions for generic port access, only functions tied to specific uses. For example, there are API calls for accessing printers and for accessing serial ports controlled by UARTs. In Visual Basic, the Printer object and MSComm control are other options for parallel and serial-port access. Built-in functions and controls like these are usually the best solution when their abilities match what you're trying to accomplish.

Windows 2000/Xp add improved drivers for accessing parallel-port devices with support for SPP, PS/2 (Byte), EPP, and ECP modes and daisy-chaining. Parclass is a system class driver for parallel-port devices, and Parport is a system function driver for the parallel port. The Windows DDK has details. Search for Parallel Devices and Drivers in the documentation index.

Below are links to tools that you can use for port access. I've grouped them according to which operating systems they're supported in. The list includes freeware, shareware, and commercial products.

Programming Tools for Port I/O and Interrupts

For Windows

  • Inpout32.dll is compatible with my Win9x inpout32.dll (below) but works under all Windows editions from Win95 forward. Download Just the binaries and libs requred to integrate with your own program. The file includes both 32- and 64-bit versions. Freeware. A big thank you to LOGIX4U for coming up with this and making it available. For testing inpout32.dll in Visual Basic 6, see my example program Test_inpout32_vb6.zip. For testing inpout32.dll in Visual Basic .NET, see my example program Test_inpout32_vbdotnet.zip.

  • InpOut32 and InpOutx64. InpOut32 ported to 64 bits.From Highresolution Enterprises.
  • I/O Ports Uncensored. How to access ports in C# (CSharp) using inpout32. By Levent S. and the Code Project.
  • Before you can access an I/O port, you need to know its address. The get_io DLL finds port addresses and has been tested in Windows 98/2000/XP. It does not work under Windows NT. (See Jan's FAQ for NT info.) Free. From Graham Bartlett.
  • GetPortAddress is an application that retrieves parallel-port addresses. Free. From Servo Wizard.
  • Parallel Port Direct I/O Access package. Shareware. Supports: port I/O. Supports access under NT by changing the I/O permission map for the process that claims the port. From Peter Shoebridge at Zeecube Software

  • ParPort provides a DLL with functions that enable applications to read and write to a parallel port using the enhanced drivers provided with Windows 2000 and Windows Xp. Free for non-commercial use. From ParaPort.net.
  • RapidDriver generic driver for parallel-port, USB, and other devices. From EnTech Taiwan.
  • TVicHW32 & TVicPort. Shareware. Supports: port I/O and hardware interrupts. From EnTech Taiwan

  • WinIO. Freeware. Supports: port I/O. Includes a DLL, declarations, and C source code. From Internals.com.

For Windows 95/98/Me Only

  • Inpout32.zip. Freeware. Supports: port I/O. The file contains inpout32.dll, which I wrote in Delphi 2. The zip file includes the DLL, Visual-Basic declarations for inp and out, documentation, a test program, and the Delphi source code, which includes assembly code for port I/O. If you don't see the DLL file after you unzip the files, you probably have system files hidden. To unhide them, go to My Computer > View > Folder Options > View > Hidden Files and select Show All Files. Instructions for using inpout32 with C++ are in Jan's FAQ. To add port access under Windows NT/2000/XP with no changes to application code, see Inpout32.dll above.

  • Win95io.zip. Freeware. Supports: port I/O. Another inpout DLL. The DLL is just 2048 bytes. From Jonathan Wood at Softcircuits.

For Windows NT/2000/Xp Only

  • Direct I/O. Shareware. Incluces interrupt emulation. From Ingenieurbuero Paule.

  • NTPort Library. Shareware. From Zeal SoftStudio.

  • PortTalk. Freeware. From BeyondLogic.

  • The SHA toolkit. Freeware. Enables port I/O, hardware interrupts, and DMA from C++ and Delphi applications. From Sybera.

  • Thesycon has a driver for NT and Windows 2000.

  • UserPort is a kernel mode driver for Windows NT/2000/XP that gives usermode programs access to I/O ports. From Tomas Franzon. Inspired by the article "Direct Port I/O and Windows NT" by Dale Roberts, which describes a way to defeat NT's security for port I/O. Dr. Dobbs' Journal, May 1996.

16-bit-only Tools

Use these with products such as Visual Basic 3 or 16-bit Visual Basic 4 under Windows 3.x.

  • inpout16.zip Freeware. Supports: port I/O. Includes an inpout DLL, source code in PowerBasic, and an example VB project. From Lakeview Research.

  • inpout.zip. Freeware. Supports: port I/O. Another inpout DLL. Includes assembly-language source code. From Jay Munro.

  • vbasm.zip. Freeware. Supports: port I/O. A DLL that adds Inp, Out, Peek, Poke, Call Interrupt, and more for accessing ports and memory. From Jonathan Wood at Softcircuits.

For 16- and 32-bit Programs (Windows 3.x, Windows 95/98)

  • PowerBasic is the source for several products that are useful for applications that access ports. PowerBasic's 16-bit and 32-bit DLL compilers enable you to write and compile DLLs in Basic. The Basic syntax is nearly identical to classic QuickBasic. Because the DLLs are compiled, not interpreted like Visual Basic code, they're fast. The 16-bit edition includes inp and out for port access. The 32-bit edition allows port access under Windows 95/98 via inline assembly code. There's also a 32-bit Basic console compiler for text-only Windows applications and even a DOS compiler.

  • Vbio.dll. Freeware. From Zeal SoftStudio.

Other Driver Information and Sources

Linux

  • The ppdev driver enables accessing port bits, interrupts, negotiating, and setting modes.

Partner Links

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