BusPirate V3 Hardware

NOT another “How To Use Bus Pirate under the Mac OS X” I can hear you say….

We all know there are other resources on the web for using the BP (Bus Pirate) under OS X. Unfortunately many of these guides are either out of date or just plain wrong, sometimes this is due to the Bus Pirate(BP) software being more up to date than when the Information was initially written, other times it is due to some software running under OS X that is interfering with the installation process, thirdly it may be a misunderstanding about how each individual BP is identified under the OS X USB chain.

To assist in setting up the BP correctly, each stage of this tutorial will be shown using images of the OS X screen or BP device.

Without further ado:

How to setup and use a BP(Bus Pirate) under the Mac OS X operating system

The following items WILL be needed, so it’s better to download and install them now, just incase a restart is required during installation:

1. A terminal program.{ZTERM” href=””>ZTERM/ZOC/COOLTERM/MACWISE} (Hands up all the whiners who say they cannot find a terminal program on OS X)

Initially, we will be using ZTERM for the rest of the setup procedure, but it is strongly recommended to use a more up to date application after initial setup, personally I would splash the cash on ‘ZOC’, mainly because it is still under active development.

2. The FTDI drivers. {FTDI}
3. The software from Dangerous prototypes. ONLY needed if you want the latest and greatest BP mix{the-bus-pirate}, the BP manual is available here BP Manual

Pre-amble before initial installation, at this stage Please:

DO NOT connect the BP to your apple COMPUTER until software is installed, nothing will be damaged, but it may make the setup more difficult, especially if you have other FTDI devices installed on your device chain.

Also whilst there are all sorts of procedures for opening terminals and hunting through ‘/dev/’ for the BP, there is actually no need to do any of this.

The procedure:

So we have the software (Terminal program/ FTDI drivers) as well as a suitable USB to BP cable.

Again: ensure the BP is NOT connected to the computer.

1. Initially Unplug/disconnect any other FTDI devices from your computer USB chain(these are usually USB to RS232/485 devices, or GPS connection dongles)
2. Install the FTDI drivers and the terminal program (To be 100% safe, restart the computer)
3. Now we connect the BP to the USB port of the Computer/Hub.

The PB PWR LED should be on.

BP PWR Light

🙁 If the BP PWR LED is NOT on, then there is no point in continuing until you have tracked down the reason.

Some possible reasons include:

1. Your USB ‘HUB’ is not up to the job of supplying enough power, this should not be an issue unless the BP has an assembly error, whilst it may be difficult to believe unfortunately the Quality Assurance on the BP is quite poor.(out of 3 I purchased one did not work, which is a 33% failure rate)

2. If you have an Apple remote keyboard, sometimes the power supplied via the integral hub is not sufficient.
3. Watch the length of your USB cables, even though the standard allows for 5M, I have seen situations recently where the Mac wimps out after a couple of meters (this caused me no end of problems with the OSX 10.6.8 update, when my HP printer went tits up, refusing to print reliably)

🙂 If your BP PWR light is on, then continue.

Open the OS X ‘system profiler’ (Apple Menu->About This Mac->More Info)

On the lefthand side, open the “Hardware” section then select USB

You should see something similar to the following image:

Image of mac System profile for USB

The important information is the SERIAL NUMBER. Make a note of YOUR serial number, also be aware that EACH BP has a different serial number.

This serial number is not confidential, but rather information to uniquely identify different BP’s on the same USB port. (it is also WHY many BP OS X connection guides don’t work)

*NOTE this information will NOT be available if you have not installed the FTDI drivers, so If you cannot see the FTDI information check the FTDI drivers and the USB cables.

Close the ‘System Profiler’ application as we have finished using it.

Open ZTERM, if this is the first time you have ever used ZTERM , the application will ask you for your connection details. (normally under the Settings ->Modem Preferences)

You can CLEARLY see the correct port to use because it matches the SERIAL NUMBER from the “System Profiler” , also note that in my image below there is a secondary FTDI device connected to the system. (this is why we needed to identify the serial number previously)

Choose BP port

Select the “OK” button to save the settings.

We now have ZTERM configured for the correct driver and port, now we set the speed and protocol that ZTERM will use for communication.

Note that it is under the Settings->Connection section, also observe that we gave the settings a name ‘Seagate’, this is to enable us to easily recall the settings when needed.

BP protocol and speed

Again select the “OK” button to save the settings.

Now press the {Return key} a couple of times to wake up the BP, and enter “i” then press the {Return key}


At this stage we should see the Information for a Bus Pirate V3 device.

The information shows we have boot loader version V4.2 and a firmware version V4.2 (As a result the screen content may appear to be different to your BP)

However the report does show that the device shipped with an older version of firmware than is currently available.


Well we have a step by step setup of connecting the BP to Apple’s OS X we can clearly see the startup information, therefore we have accomplished our initial goal.

Want to update the BP to the latest bootloader and firmware? BUS PIRATE FIRMWARE UPDATE

Want to start using the BP and you have the SeeedStudio RFID module? BP and the 13.56Mhz RFID MODULE

Leave a Reply



  1. Robert Rau

    September 29, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Very nice job. Thanks for the pictures and detail. I keep a list of OS X compatible products/SW for embedded development on my web site.

    While trying to get my ChronoVu logic analyzer to work I found out a ugly fact about the FTDI drivers on OS X. According to a FTDI FAE:
    “With Mac OS X, our VCP and D2XX drivers are mutually exclusive.  You can only have one driver installed at a time.
    With Linux and Windows, you can have both drivers installed with no problems”.

    It might be worthwhile mentioning this since some people may have installed drivers for hardware they have no idea use a FTDI chip at the USB interface. They could follow your nicely detailed process to the letter and still fail.

    • Destroyer

      September 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm

      This is down to incorrectly written drivers and the way the PID is setup rather than a OSX kernel issue, and I have run into it myself on a number of occasions.
      I’m a bit surprised as to why they would use an FTDI chipset between the logic analyzer and the computer anyway, still.

      the Intronix logic analyzer is the one I use, unfortunately the software is a bit gash and windows only.