Software for Programming PIC Microcontrollers

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Microcontroller programming seems really hard for most of the beginners. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s just using some software to get some hardware to do something, say for example lighting an LED. You can see how to do just that in my blog post https://www.rukbook.com/beginners-guide-to-blinking-an-led-with-microcontroller-pic16f877a/. In today’s short guide, let’s take a look at the software for programming a PIC microcontroller and how to install them on your windows computer for free.

What are we going to achieve here?

At the end of this article, you should have a properly set-up software environment for programming PIC microcontrollers.

What are the software needed?

Two software are needed for programming PIC microcontrollers. These software are released by the manufacturer of PIC microcontrollers, Microchip. These are completely free downloads and you don’t need to sign up.

  • MPLAB X IDE (~1GB in size)
  • XC8 Compiler (~70MB in size)

Downloading and installing MPLAB X IDE

To do any kind of programming, you need a programming environment called an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), where you enter your code. The programming language used for microcontroller programming is the C Programming Language.

  • You can freely download MPLAB X IDE from https://www.microchip.com/mplab/mplab-x-ide.
  • Double click on the .exe downloaded and follow the instructions.
  • The default options are good for now and click Next several times to install the software.
  • After the installation is completed, double click on the MPLAB X IDE icon on the desktop or click on the icon by searching through the start menu (in Windows).
  • You should see a window like in the following image.
  • That’s it. You now have successfully installed MPLAB X IDE.

Downloading and installing XC8 Compiler

We use C language for programming the PIC microcontroller. C is a compiled language. Therefore we need a compiler in order to compile our source code into machine code.

Although there is also an XC16 compiler, we are going to use XC8 compiler since we will be using PIC16F877A microcontroller which is an 8-bit microcontroller. PIC16F877A is great for beginners in microcontroller programming.

  • You can freely download the XC8 compiler from https://www.microchip.com/mplab/compilers
  • Double click on the .exe downloaded and follow the instructions.
  • Click Next to get to the window shown in the following image.
  • It would generally be a good idea to have the compiler added to the System Path, by ticking the checkbox as in the diagram.
  • Click Next again to continue the installation.

Conclusion

Congratulations! That’s my short guide on how to install the software needed for PIC microcontroller programming. Now you are all set up on the software side, to start programming a PIC microcontroller.

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