I was reading back through the posts on Hackaday.com today and discovered this article.


From the page:

The FTDI FT232 chip is found in thousands of electronic baubles, from Arduinos to test equipment, and more than a few bits of consumer electronics. It’s a simple chip, converting USB to a serial port, but very useful and probably one of the most cloned pieces of silicon on Earth. Thanks to a recent Windows update,all those fake FTDI chips are at risk of being bricked. This isn’t a case where fake FTDI chips won’t work if plugged into a machine running the newest FTDI driver; the latest driver bricks the fake chips, rendering them inoperable with any computer.

Reports of problems with FTDI chips surfaced early this month, with an explanation of the behavior showing up in an EEVblog forum thread. The new driver for these chips from FTDI, delivered through a recent Windows update, reprograms the USB PID to 0, something Windows, Linux, and OS X don’t like. This renders the chip inaccessible from any OS, effectively bricking any device that happens to have one of these fake FTDI serial chips.

Because the FTDI USB to UART chip is so incredibly common, the market is flooded with clones and counterfeits. it’s very hard to tell the difference between the real and fake versions by looking at the package, but a look at the silicon reveals vast differences. The new driver for the FT232 exploits these differences, reprogramming it so it won’t work with existing drivers. It’s a bold strategy to cut down on silicon counterfeiters on the part of FTDI. A reasonable company would go after the manufacturers of fake chips, not the consumers who are most likely unaware they have a fake chip.

The workaround for this driver update is to download the FT232 config tool from the FTDI website on a WinXP or Linux box, change the PID of the fake chip, and never using the new driver on a modern Windows system. There will surely be an automated tool to fix these chips automatically, but until then, take a good look at what Windows Update is installing – it’s very hard to tell if your devices have a fake FTDI chip by just looking at them.

Link is Here

This is important information for all diy'ers. Im sure a lot of the cheaper imported modules,boards etc will no doubt have these in them.

Fortunately there is a fix in the comments for bricked devices.

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  • Hey guys, it looks like I have inadvertently soft brick all of my radios, including one 3DR branded models. They don't even work on my android tablet anymore. I only have a windows 8.1 tablet and a MacBook Air. Is there a piece of software for either that will allow me to unbrick my radios? I don't have access to a windows xp machine
  • I will bow out at this point, certainly a tempest in a teapot.

    I see it just as symptomatic of a much bigger and more destructive problem requiring solutions that are unlikely to be put into effect before absolute catastrophe forces the issue.

    But this is entirely too much soap box, certainly for a site devoted to UAVs.

    On the one hand what FTDI did can be simply looked at as watching out for their own interests, on the other hand it seems incredible that they thought it would be OK.

    Best Regards,


  • Gary I had not followed this thread as closely as I may have should, your comments resonate, and nor I was effected by this recent issue, which I guess speaks to my supply chain

  • Retired, so your right it's easy for me, but I have seen Open source, open hardware and FOSS working remarkably well and still providing many opportunities for myriad business's to succeed in an open and unrestrained intellectual property world.

    It actually goes a long way towards making a myth of the value to the general public of intellectual property rights.

    Another recent example when it was noted that in many instances what used to be generic inexpensive but necessary for survival medicines had recently been noted as doubling, tripling, quadrupling and more in price and when asked about it the drug companies response was "of course, market demand drives the price".

    Basically we want to get whatever we can out of them and if you require them for your survival you will pay whatever we want and if you don't you will die.

    Or then there are student loans a brilliant plan by Universities, banks and lending institutions in concert with our government to make life long indentured servants out of our entire population, the debt that never goes away.

    All of this has had the considerable effect of removing wealth from the middle and lower classes and concentrating it in the hands of a very few who have no regard at all for where it came from.

    The only corporate and stockholder consideration is at all times only do what maximizes profits in this quarter, anything else is considered malfeasance and subject to immediate management replacement.

    It is no way to run business and it is certainly no way to run a country, especially America. 

  • "Personally at this point I would favor complete elimination of the concept of intellectual property, it is at this point in time doing far more damage than good.

    I am sure that modern business would immediately collapse without this legal protectionism, they might actually have to rely on creating quality products instead."

    I'd love to know what you do for a living?  If there was no protection for intellectual property, there would be minimal incentive to innovate, unless you could guarantee by some other means ... like abusive drivers ... that you would remain some form of market lead.


    I think FTDI went a step too far in bricking devices and would have been justified in not supporting clones, but for a portion of the population the two are effectively the same - either way, your device stops working.


    What it would really take is a boycott of countries that don't respect or enforce IP laws - not at the consumer level, but at the manufacturer level. If you don't want your stuff copied, then don't send it over there to be manufactured. If they start losing business, then the government has an incentive to enforce it.


    What's the price difference?  How much does a "real" FTDI chip cost vs. a fake?  I've noticed some of the cheap Arduino "clones" (which aren't really clones as it's open HW) actually use an alternate chipset (?CH430?). 

  • Hi Alex,

    Dead wrong, I have no counterfeit products and no problems with fake FTDI chips.

    I am passionate about this because it is a case of the consumer paying for a Corporations actions to protect itself at the clear expense of the consumer.

    In fact a consumer who more than likely didn't think they were purchasing anything other than a perfectly legitimate product.

    The concept that the products are fake or clones or copies is wrong in any case, we are talking about one minor chip that there is as good a liklihood as not that not even the manufacturer of the product it is embedded in knew was fake.

    Distributors to manufacturers are the ones selling the fake chips and it is even possible that many of them were unaware that they were fakes too.

    By pursuing them at this end of the chain they are generally punishing people who had no way at all to know that they had a "fake" chip or that anything at all was wrong with their system in the first place.

    Probably one way to ensure this didn't happen would be to simply not buy products from countries where this can happen - Oh wait - there aren't any such countries.

    It has become popular in recent decades for intellectual property to be more and more concentrated in corporations solely interested in exploiting and profiting from control of that intellectual property.

    This incident just represents the most recent and most blatant exercise of that abuse.

    Personally at this point I would favor complete elimination of the concept of intellectual property, it is at this point in time doing far more damage than good.

    I am sure that modern business would immediately collapse without this legal protectionism, they might actually have to rely on creating quality products instead.

    As a side note, I purchased one of the Nexus tablets when Google first brought it out, on the last automatic update of the operating system it bricked, after much time wasted, Google told me they couldn't do anything about it and since it was out of warranty they suggested I buy a new one.

    There was nothing broken, just their new Android wasn't compatible with it and once you loaded it you couldn't go back and since it was out of warranty tough luck.

    This is becoming normal American and Global business practice and is yet another reason I now view our political corporate crony structure as the enemy.

    After following an incredibly convoluted set of online articles I did eventually get it working again in spite of Googles tech help, but not one person in 100 would be likely to be successful by that route (and no it wasn't rooted).

  • So do we know what vendors were selling products with the fake chips?

    Even if the drivers were recalled I'd still like to avoid the fake chips!

  • Gary, first thing I would do in your position is stop using counterfeit anything's. The amount of passion your posts contain leads me to believe you are one of the population FDTI is directly targeting. Those who willfully purchase, install and use counterfeit technology. Perhaps FDTI was a little harsh, perhaps they should have just have crafted the update to just not work on the fake chips, but this pinch by a manufacturer is what hope just the beginning of manufacturers taking back what has been stolen, copied and profited upon by those who have zero regard.

  • Micro$oft successfully created a monopoly, without allowing their brand to be diluted to the point of becoming a generic term.

    In fact, they even bailed out Apple with straight up cash AND supported their platform (unprofitably) by providing Mac versions of Office software.  All in order to keep themselves at a 92% monopoly instead of a 99.5% monopoly, which also prevented their trademarks from becoming generic terms, and thus unenforceable.

    FTDI did not have the business smarts to do that.  They allowed countless noobs to use "FTDI" as a generic term for "5v serial".  Thus they cannot legally prevent copycats from stamping "FTDI" on their chips and end user products.  It would be a real uphill legal battle to restore their trademark and successfully sue the many companies across many countries that are using it as used in common use (as a generic term).

    So who is to blame? NOT FTDI.  They used one of the few options available to them to try and re-establish their brand.  Defending a trademark is critical to maintaining this as enforceable.  Directly defending their trademark in this fashion gives them an enormously better legal standing to take back their trademark from general use.

    Who's really to blame?  Well, ignorant noobs that use "FTDI" as a generic term to mean a "5v serial" communications or "USB -> serial" device.  That includes 3DR and probably a majority of the people here.

    So if you're looking for someone to blame, then blame yourselves, and the companies that think you're too stupid to understand that you need a "Xerox" when they say "photocopy".

    Next time you can only find "tissues" when you're looking for a "Kleenex" take time to think about the unintended consequences of your stupidity.


  • Hi Tearig, thank you for the update.

    FTDIs thinking is that the customer needs to guarantee that the item they are buying actually contains genuine FTDI products, of course that is hampered somewhat by the fact that FTDI resfuses to divulge the names of their own customers..

    The net result is that there is no way whatsoever that the end user can guarantee that the products they buy have genuine FTDI products in them and many of the fake chips are stamped with FTDI markings.

    Aside from the depth of irony, the hypocrisy also stinks.

    With counterfeit windows, the product was always obvious and the thing that was protected was windows itself, not some tiny little subsystem part deeply embedded in a computer and for which the end user would never have any reason to even question.

    In the case of Windows, Microsoft targeted the product itself and provided a clear path to fixing it.

    In the case of this chip there is no such avenue available, the system it is contained in is essentially destroyed.

    There have to be limits to corporate power and there is no excuse that says we did it because it was the only option available to us.

    That is never a reason, only an excuse for, in this case, exceptionally bad, destructive and almost certainly illegal behavior.

    They were behaving worse than the counterfeiters and at our expense.

    The current corporate business model is becoming entirely destructive over all, far more damage than good is being done to the welfare of people everywhere, by just this sort of self important, self serving and ultimately destructive behavior.

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