How to Use Arduino Serial Ports

Arduino boards such as the Uno, MEGA2560 and Due all have a serial port that connects to the USB device port on the board. This port allows sketches to be loaded to the board using a USB cable. Code in a sketch can use the same USB / serial port to communicate with the PC by using the Arduino IDE Serial Monitor window, or a Processing application for example. The USB port appears as a virtual COM port on the PC.




This article shows how to use Arduino serial ports when additional serial ports are needed for a project.

Arduino Serial Ports Available

The serial port for programming the Arduino mentioned above is a hardware serial port. The microcontroller on the Arduino board has a hardware serial port built-in, so that after the port has been initialized by software, a byte sent to the port will be sent out serially by the hardware.

The Arduino Uno has only one hardware serial port because the microcontroller used on the Uno has only one built-in serial port. The Arduino MEGA 2560 and Arduino Due both have 3 extra hardware serial ports.

Serial Port Technical Details

The hardware serial ports referred to here are UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter) ports. They may be referred to as USART (Universal Synchronous Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter) ports in the microcontroller documentation if they are configurable in both synchronous and asynchronous modes.

Arduino Uno Serial Port

This image shows the only serial port available on the Arduino Uno highlighted in red. The port connects through a USB chip to the USB device port.

Arduino Uno Serial Port

Arduino Uno Serial Port

Arduino MEGA 2560 and Due

Both the MEGA 2560 and Due have 4 serial ports in total. One that connects through a USB port chip to the USB device port on the board and three extra serial ports that connect to pins on one of the pin headers of the board.

Arduino Due Serial Ports

Arduino Due Serial Ports

 

Arduino MEGA 2560 Serial Ports

Arduino MEGA 2560 Serial Ports

Pins 0 and 1 of the Due and MEGA connect serial port 0 through to the USB device port so that these Arduino boards are compatible with the pin numbering of the Uno and therefore with Arduino shields.

The extra serial ports are ports 1 to 3 with each port having a transmit and receive pin.

It is important to be aware that the MEGA 2560 serial port pins use 5V voltage levels, but the Due uses 3.3V voltage levels.

How to Use Additional Arduino Serial Ports

An extra serial port can be used on an Arduino Uno, but must be simulated in software by using the SoftwareSerial library.

Arduino Uno

The following code is taken from the article on serial communications with the GT-511C3 fingerprint scanner which connects the fingerprint scanner to a software serial port on an Arduino Uno.

#include <SoftwareSerial.h>

SoftwareSerial gtSerial(8, 7); // Arduino RX, Arduino TX

void setup() {
  Serial.begin(9600);    // serial / USB port
  gtSerial.begin(9600);  // software serial port
}

byte rx_byte = 0;        // stores received byte

void loop() {
  // check if byte available from USB port
  if (Serial.available()) {
    rx_byte = Serial.read();
    // send a byte to the software serial port
    gtSerial.write(rx_byte);
  }

  // check if byte available on the software serial port
  if (gtSerial.available()) {
    // get the byte from the software serial port
    rx_byte = gtSerial.read();
    Serial.write(rx_byte);
  }
}

To use the software serial port, first the header file for the software serial library must be included.

#include <SoftwareSerial.h>

Next create the software serial port, selecting the Arduino pins to use for receive (RX) and transmit (TX). Here pin 8 has been set as the receive pin and pin 7 as the transmit pin.

SoftwareSerial gtSerial(8, 7);

The software serial port had been given the name gtSerial which will be used in the sketch to refer to this serial port.

The port can now be checked for incoming data.

if (gtSerial.available()) {

If data is available, it can be read from the port.

rx_byte = gtSerial.read();

Data bytes can also be sent on the port.

gtSerial.write(rx_byte);

How to Use Additional Serial Ports on the Arduino MEGA 2560 and Due

The additional hardware ports on the Arduino MEGA 2560 and Due can be used in the same way as the main USB serial port is used in sketches, only changing the name of the port. The USB serial port, or serial port 0 is referred to as Serial in sketches. To use serial port 1, the name changes to Serial1. Serial ports 2 and 3 are referred to as Serial2 and Serial3.

This sketch shows serial port 3 being used which transmits on pin 14 of the MEGA or Due and receives on pin 15.

void setup() {
  // initialize serial ports
  Serial.begin(9600);    // USB serial port 0
  Serial3.begin(9600);   // serial port 3
}

byte rx_byte = 0;        // stores received byte

void loop() {
  // check for data byte on USB serial port
  if (Serial.available()) {
    // get byte from USB serial port
    rx_byte = Serial.read();
    // send byte to serial port 3
    Serial3.write(rx_byte);
  }
  // check for data byte on serial port 3
  if (Serial3.available()) {
    // get a byte from serial port 3
    rx_byte = Serial3.read();
    // send the byte to the USB serial port
    Serial.write(rx_byte);
  }
}

The additional serial ports are immediately available in the sketch without having to include any libraries.

Serial port 3 must first be initialized to the desired baud rate.

Serial3.begin(9600);

The port can be checked for incoming data.

if (Serial3.available()) {

If a byte has arrived on the serial port, it can be read.

rx_byte = Serial3.read();

A byte can be written to the serial port.

Serial.write(rx_byte);

Arduino Serial Port Resources

Arduino Website References for Software and Hardware

Projects, Articles and Tutorials

2 thoughts on “How to Use Arduino Serial Ports

  1. i tried the above code , but it not yet worked. when i copy , paste and compile the same program there occurs an error like this serial3 was not declared in the scope
    this is the error message:
    ‘Serial3’ was not declared in this scope

    • Only Mega and Due boards have Serial3 ports. If you try to compile the code for an Uno or other board that does not have Serial3 it will give an error.

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