If you have used some form of hardware especially those legacy ones or something like the Arduino and other embedded systems you must have come across the term Serial Port, FTDI chip, USB to Serial, or RS232 at some point. So what are those? Well, they mean the same thing – Serial Communication
Serial Port is a serial communication interface that has been the backbone of industrial data transfer and even embedded computers (MCUs, SBC, SoC and Others) still provide support for it in one way or the other way. Although you might not be seeing the traditional RS-232 serial port again, the serial port still get used along with USB to Serial converters using things like FTDI chip.
Serial ports are not going out of market anything soon despite the fact we have modern – high speed interfaces like FireWire, USB, Ethernet, and Wireless, merely because they are super easy to use and require no particular custom driver and operating systems already provide support for them. But, what you can do when there is no Serial Port available to a system? What about creating a Virtual Serial (COM) port?
Virtual serial ports are great when access to serial ports is not available, and a software application needs a connection to a serial device but cannot connect to it due to a physical lack of serial ports. Here, the computer will be reconfigured to send serial port data over LAN (local area network) or some other interface and then send data back to itself. This is basically is a virtual serial port. So how do you create one? Use a virtual serial port software, they are several of them and the Virtual COM Port Driver from Eltima is one I have tried out that seems interesting.
The Virtual COM Port Driver allows anyone to create virtual serial ports and connect them via a virtual null modern cable. The serial port emulator by Etima seems to emulate a serial port behavior quite well if not entirely. The software provides flexible port creation, management, and removal of ports. With it, applications can exchange data on the virtual ports and this is a great way of testing embedded system communication without necessary having the device physically available .
The Virtual COM Port Driver is available in two licenses which are not free:
- Standard – $139.95
- Pro – $199.95
Virtual COM Port Driver is not a free software to use, but it offers 14 day trial for Pro version (didn’t try out the standard). Although both licenses state that you can create an unlimited number of virtual ports, but actually you can create a max of 127 virtual ports pairs (at least on my computer). This conclusion comes after giving the software a try. The ports created shown instantly on the computer.
The interface is pretty okay and offers enough information on how to navigate it. It provides 8 major operating modes:
- Pairing – For creating and pairing of the virtual ports.
- Split – Provides the ability to split a real port into several virtual ports.
- Join – Multiple real ports can all be joined into one single port.
- Merge – Multiple virtual and/or real ports can be merged.
- Switch – Something similar to join.
- Redirect – It can be used for redirecting all serial traffic from any real port to another real or virtual port.
- Share – Allowing sharing of a single port among multiple applications. it’s great if you don’t want always disconnect to use another app.
- Complex – It gives you options to add multiple operating modes together.
All these features combined make the Virtual COM Port Driver a compelling software for serial ports manipulation but what about the price tag? I must say the price tag is high, especially for someone looking for some virtual ports to play around but still, it provides functionality beyond what you will ever get from free software.
The Virtual COM port driver is great for industries and bushiness applications and especially if you work with a lot of legacy tools, it might as well be better off than free tools but if you do basic serial port stuff it might just be overkill.
So, do you think the Virtual COM Port Driver from Eltima is worth the price tag?
Eltima is giving away 2x free licenses of Virtual COM Port Driver for Electronics-Lab.com visitors. So if you want to get one for free just send your name and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide you the license key. First come – First served. [update 15:35pm GMT] The first two users who win the licenses are: Uwe Sedlak and Josue Sb. Thanks for your participation.