we7u's picture

Radio Programming from Windows: Counterfeit USB-to-Serial Chips

I generally avoid Windows but sometimes cannot: Radio programming where Linux open-source programs don't support particular models.

Usually I use CHIRP, a Python program that runs multi-platform, so can do the programming on Linux. Linux drivers usually talk to USB->Serial chips, whether genuine -or- counterfeit: They just don't care.

Windows drivers have been tweaked by the chip manufacturer to detect counterfeit chips, then refuse to talk with them. To get around this you must install OLD Windows drivers various people have spirited away and made available for download. That's where the difficulty comes in... I tried and tried to get the old driver installed. The popups led me to believe I was uninstalling the new driver and installing the old. Turns out Windows is misleading. There's a checkbox you must check along the way to actually remove the files, which may or may not get removed depending on your permissions. I ended up with both drivers installed and still USING the newest driver. To fix this: Go into Win10Pro Device Manager. Select the USB->Serial driver of interest. Tell it to "Upgrade" the driver, search on my computer, show me the installed drivers, then click on the OLD driver. After this the port comes up and starts working.

The Chinese have counterfeited both Prolific and FTDI chips, so you may have to go through this procedure with either if you're running Windows. Turns out my Wouxun programming cable I bought many years ago and have been happily programing with under Linux happens to have a counterfeit Prolific chip in it.

For the FTDI driver there was at least one Windows driver version that detected the counterfeit chip and wrote 0's to the PID for the chip, therefore making it unusable in ANY operating system. There's a way to re-write a valid PID to the chip under Linux again. The lastest Windows drivers don't do this write so you needn't worry as long as you update to the latest drivers before plugging in that cable.

The problem for the user is not that the Chinese copied the chips, it's that they decided to make the chip identify as the real chips so they'd use the FTDI or Prolific drivers. If their chips used a new identifier and a Chinese-provided driver, there's no problem getting them to work. I've heard they're doing this now for some chips.