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CH341A USB to I2C and GPIO Linux kernel driver

The driver can be used with CH341A USB to UART/I2C/SPI adapter boards to connect I2C devices to a Linux host.

Additionally, CH341A data pins that are not used for synchronous serial interfaces can be configured as GPIO pins. The driver can generate software interrupts for all input pins. One input pin can be connected with the CH341A interrupt pin to generate hardware interrupts.

The I2C interface driver was initially derived from CH341 I2C driver from Tse Lun Bien [] and extended by GPIO and interrupt handling capabilities.

I2C interface limitations

By default, the driver uses the standard I2C bus speed of 100 kbps. I2C bus speeds of 20 kbps, 400 kbps and 750 kbps are also available.

Currently only basic I2C read and write functions (I2C_FUNC_I2C) are supported natively. However, SMBus protocols are emulated (I2C_FUNC_SMBUS_EMUL) with the exception of SMBus Block Read (I2C_FUNC_SMBUS_READ_BLOCK_DATA) and SMBus Block Process Call (I2C_FUNC_SMBUS_BLOCK_PROC_CALL).

The CH341A only supports 7 bit addressing.

Due of the limited CH341A USB endpoint buffer size of 32 byte that is used for I2C data as well as adapter in-band signaling, the driver supports only I2C messages with a maximum data size of 26 bytes.

GPIO limitations

Data pins D0...D7, which are normally used for SPI interface but not for the I2C interface, can be configured as GPIO pins as following.

Pin Name SPI Function (default) Configurable as (CH341 default in bold face)
15 D0 CS0 Input, Output
16 D1 CS0 Input, Output
17 D2 CS0 Input, Output
18 D3 SCK Input, Output
19 D4 OUT2 Input, Output
20 D5 OUT Input, Output
21 D6 IN2 Input
22 D7 IN Input

Please note:

  • Direction of pins 15 to 20 can be changed during runtime.
  • Pin 21 and pin 22 can only be configured as input and their direction can't be changed during runtime.
  • One of the inputs can be configured to generate hardware interrupts for rising edges of signals. For that purpose, the pin has to be connected with the CH341A INT pin 7.

Since USB access is asynchronous, it is not possible to guarantee exact timings for GPIOs and interrupts.

Installation of the driver


To compile the driver, you must have installed current kernel header files.

Even though it is not mandatory, it is highly recommended to use DKMS (dynamic kernel module support) for the installation of the driver. DKMS allows to manage kernel modules whose sources reside outside the kernel source tree. Such modules are then automatically rebuilt when a new kernel version is installed.

To use DKMS, it has to be installed before, e.g., with command

sudo apt-get install dkms

on Debian based systems.


The driver can be compiled with following commands:

git clone
cd i2c-ch341-usb

sudo make install

If DKMS is installed (recommended), command sudo make install adds the driver to the DKMS tree so that the driver is recompiled automatically when a new kernel version is installed.

In case you have not installed DKMS, command sudo make install simply copies the driver after compilation to the kernel modules directory. However, the module will not be loadable anymore and have to be recompiled explicitly when kernel version changes.

If you do not want to install the driver in the kernel directory at all because you only want to load it manually when needed, simply omit the sudo make install.


Once the driver is installed, it should be loaded automatically when you connect a device with USB device id 1a86:5512. If not try to figure out, whether the USB device is detected correctly using command


and try to load it manually with command:

insmod i2c-ch341-usb.ko


To uninstall the module simply use command

make uninstall

in the source directory.

Conflicts with CH341A USB to SPI Linux kernel driver

Since the CH341A also provides an SPI interface as USB device with same id, you have to unload the driver module with

rmmod i2c-ch341-usb

before you can load the driver module for the SPI interface.

Configuration of the driver

By default, the driver uses an I2C bus speed of 100 kbps, configures the GPIOs as follows, and polls the inputs every 10 ms. Outputs are always written directly when they change.

Pin Name GPIO name GPIO function Direction changable IRQ
15 D0 gpio0 Output yes software
16 D1 gpio1 Output yes software
17 D2 gpio2 Output yes software
18 D3 gpio3 Output yes software
19 D4 gpio4 Input yes hardware
20 D5 gpio5 Input yes software
21 D6 gpio6 Input no software
22 D7 gpio7 Input no software

GPIO configuration

To change the GPIO configuration, simply change the variable ch341_board_config before compilation that should be self-explaining. It contains an entry for each configurable pin. Each entry consists of the pin number, the GPIO mode used for the pin, the name used for the GPIO in the Linux host and a flag whether the pin is connected with the CH341A hardware interrupt pin INT. Default configuration is:

struct ch341_pin_config ch341_board_config[CH341_GPIO_NUM_PINS] = 
    // pin  GPIO mode           GPIO name   hwirq
    {   15, CH341_PIN_MODE_OUT , "gpio0"    , 0 }, // used as output
    {   16, CH341_PIN_MODE_OUT , "gpio1"    , 0 }, // used as output
    {   17, CH341_PIN_MODE_OUT , "gpio2"    , 0 }, // used as output
    {   18, CH341_PIN_MODE_OUT , "gpio3"    , 0 }, // used as output
    {   19, CH341_PIN_MODE_IN  , "gpio4"    , 1 }, // used as input with hardware IRQ
    {   20, CH341_PIN_MODE_IN  , "gpio5"    , 0 }, // used as input
    {   21, CH341_PIN_MODE_IN  , "gpio6"    , 0 }, // used as input
    {   22, CH341_PIN_MODE_IN  , "gpio7"    , 0 }  // used as input

In this configuration, pins 15 to 18 are used as outputs while pins 19 to 22 are used as inputs. Additionally, pin 19 is connected with the CH341A hardware interrupt pin INT that produces hardware interrupts on rising edge of the signal connected to pin 19.

Please note:

  • Pin 21 and pin 22 can only be configured as input. Their direction can't be changed during runtime.
  • Hardware interrupts can only be generated for rising edges of signals.
  • Only one of the input pins can be configured to generate hardware interrupts (hwirq set to 1).
  • The signal at the input pin that is configured to generate hardware interrupts (hwirq set to 1) MUST also be connected to the CH341A INT pin 7.
  • If there is no input that should generate hardware interrupts, set hwirq to 0 for all entries.

Configuration of GPIO polling rate

GPIO inputs are polled periodically by a kernel thread. GPIO polling rate defines the rate at which the kernel thread polls the GPIO inputs and determines whether to generate software interrupts. That is, it defines the maximum rate at which changes at GPIO inputs can be recognized at all and software interrupts can be generated.

The GPIO polling rate is defined by its period in milliseconds using the constant CH341_POLL_PERIOD_MS. The period must be at least 10 ms, but should be 20 ms or more, if possible, depending on the performance of your system. Please check your syslog for messages like "GPIO poll period is too short by at least %n msecs". This message is thrown if the defined CH341_POLL_PERIOD_MS is shorter than the time required for one reading of the GPIOs.

The higher GPIO polling rate is, the higher is the system usage by the kernel thread. On the other hand, the probability that short interrupt events will be lost grows, the lower the GPIO polling rate becomes.

GPIO polling rate can also be changed using the module parameter poll_rate either when loading the module, e.g.,

sudo modprobe i2c_ch341_usb poll_rate=50

or as real root during runtime using sysfs, e.g.,

echo 50 > /sys/module/i2c_ch341_usb/parameters/poll_period

Please note: Since the CH341A hardware interrupt signal INT uses a separate USB endpoint, the maximum rate of hardware interrupts is independent on the GPIO polling rate and can reach up to 400 Hz.

Configuration of I2C bus speed

The I2C bus speed can be configured using the module parameter speed. The following I2C bus speeds are supported.

Parameter value I2C bus speed
0 20 kbps
1 100 kbps
2 400 kbps
0 750 kbps

By default the driver uses an I2C bus speed of 100 kbps (speed=0). It can be changed using the module parameter speed either when loading the module, e.g.,

sudo modprobe i2c-ch341-usb speed=2

or as real root during runtime using sysf, e.g.,

echo 2 > /sys/module/i2c_ch341_usb/parameters/speed 

Usage from user space

Using I2C slaves

Once the driver is loaded successfully, it provides an new I2C bus as device, e.g.,


according to the naming scheme /dev/i2c-<bus> where <bus> is the bus number selected automatically by the driver. Standard I/O functions such as open, read, write, ioctl and close can then be used to communicate with slaves which are connected to this I2C bus.

Open the I2C device

To open the I2C bus device for data transfer simply use function open, e.g.,

int i2c_bus = open ("/dev/i2c-2", O_RDWR));

Once the device is opened successfully, you can communicate with the slaves connected to the I2C bus.

Function close can be used to close the device anytime.

Data transfer with function ioctl

Before data are transfered using function ioctl, a data structure of type struct i2c_rdwr_ioctl_data has to be created. This can either contain only a single I2C message of type struct i2c_msg or an array of I2C messages of type struct i2c_msg, all of which are transfered together as a combined transaction. In latter case each I2C message begins with start condition, but only the last ends with stop condition to indicate the end of the combined transaction.

Each I2C message consists of

  • a slave address,
  • some flags combined into a single value, e.g., read/write flag,
  • a pointer to the buffer for data bytes written to or read from the slave, and
  • the length of data in bytes written to or read from the slave.

The following example shows an array of messages with two command messages written to the slave and two data messages to read the results from the slave.

#define I2C_SLAVE_ADDR   0x18

uint8_t i2c_id_cmd  [] = { 0x0f };  // get ID command 
uint8_t i2c_rd_cmd  [] = { 0xa8 };  // read data command

uint8_t i2c_id_data [1];            // ID is one byte
uint8_t i2c_rd_data [6];            // data are 6 bytes

struct i2c_msg i2c_messages[] = 
        .addr  = I2C_SLAVE_ADDR,
        .flags = 0,
        .buf   = i2c_id_cmd,
        .len   = sizeof(i2c_id_cmd)        
        .addr  = I2C_SLAVE_ADDR,
        .flags = I2C_M_RD,
        .buf   = i2c_id_data,
        .len   = sizeof(i2c_id_data)
        .addr  = I2C_SLAVE_ADDR,
        .flags = 0,
        .buf   = i2c_rd_cmd,
        .len   = sizeof(i2c_rd_cmd)
        .addr  = I2C_SLAVE_ADDR,
        .flags = I2C_M_RD,
        .buf   = i2c_rd_data,
        .len   = sizeof(i2c_rd_data)

These messages can then be transfered to the slave by filling a data structure of type struct i2c_rdwr_ioctl_data with them and calling function ioctl, e.g.,

struct i2c_rdwr_ioctl_data ioctl_data = 
    .msgs  = i2c_messages,
    .nmsgs = 4

if (ioctl(i2c_bus, I2C_RDWR, &ioctl_data) < 0)
    return -1;

Using read and write for data transfer

Functions read and write can also be used for data transfer. However, since these functions do not allow to specify the slave address, it has to be set before using function ioctl.

if (ioctl(i2c_bus, I2C_SLAVE_FORCE, I2C_SLAVE_ADDR) < 0)
    perror("Could not set i2c slave addr");
    return -1;

This slave address is then used for all subsequent read and write function calls until it is changed again with function ioctl.

Supposing the data are preparated as in the example with ioctl, the transfer of them is quite simple.

if (write(i2c_bus, i2c_id_cmd, sizeof(i2c_id_cmd)) != sizeof(i2c_id_cmd))
    perror("Could not write id command to i2c slave");
    return -1;

if (read (i2c_bus, i2c_id_data, sizeof(i2c_id_data)) != sizeof(i2c_id_data))
    perror("Could not write read id from i2c slave");
    return -1;

if (write(i2c_bus, i2c_rd_cmd, sizeof(i2c_rd_cmd)) != sizeof(i2c_rd_cmd))
    perror("Could not write read data command to i2c slave");
    return -1;

if (read (i2c_bus, i2c_rd_data, sizeof(i2c_rd_data)) != sizeof(i2c_rd_data))
    perror("Could not write read data from i2c slave");
    return -1;

Using GPIOs

To access GPIOs from user space, sysfs can be used . For each configured GPIO, a directory


is created by the system, where <gpio> is the name of the GPIO as defined in the driver variable ch341_board_config. These directories contain

  • the file value that can be used to read from and write to GPIOs,
  • the file edge that can be used to control whether and what type of interrupt is enabled, and
  • the file direction that can be used to change the direction of the GPIO if possible.

Please note: For read and write operations from and/or to these files, the user requires read and/or write permissions, respectively.

Open a GPIO

Before a GPIO can be used, file value has to be opened

int  fd;

if ((fd = open("/sys/class/gpio/<gpio>/value", O_RDWR)) == -1) 
    return -1;

where <gpio> is again the name of the GPIO.

Write GPIO output

Once the file value is opened, you can use standard I/O functions to read and write. To write a GPIO value, simply use function write as following. The value is written to the GPIO out immediately.

if (write(fd, value ? "1" : "0", 1) == -1) 
    perror ("write");
	return -1;

Read GPIO input

To read values from GPIOs immediately, you can simply use function read as following:

char buf;

if (read(fd, &buf, 1) == -1) 
    return -1;

value = (buf == '0') ? 0 : 1;

After each read operation, file position has to be rewound to first character before the next value can be read.

if (lseek(fd, 0, SEEK_SET) == -1) {
    return -1;

Reacting on GPIO input interrupt

Function poll can be used before function read to react and read values from the GPIO only on interrupts.

struct pollfd fds[1];

fds[0].fd = fd;
fds[0].events = POLLPRI;

if (poll(fds, 1, -1) == -1) 
    return -1;

Function poll blocks until the specified event on the file descriptor happened.

Please note: The interrupt has to be activated before as root with command

echo <type> > /sys/class/gpio/<gpio>/edge

where <gpio> is again the name of the GPIO and <type> is the type of the interrupt that should be used. Possible interrupt types are

  • rising for interrupts on rising signal edges,
  • falling for interrupts on falling signal edges, and
  • both for interrupts on rising as well as falling signal edges.

For example, following command would activate interrupts for rising edges of the signal connected to gpio4. The command has to be executed as real root, using sudo command doesn't work.

echo rising > /sys/class/gpio/gpio4/edge

Even though the driver defines software interrupts for GPIO inputs as well as GPIO outputs, they can be activated only for GPIO inputs.

Full examples for GPIO output and interrupt input can be found in the driver's directory.

Change the GPIO direction

To change the direction of a GPIO pin configured as input or output, simply write as real root keyword in or keyword out to the file direction, e.g.

echo out > /sys/class/gpio/gpio4/direction


A Linux kernel driver for ch341 emulating the I2C bus




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