This is a really inexpensive way to program your Arduino. In fact, it’s a really cheap way to program any ATmega8 chip. However, there are a few drawbacks. It only works with Windows, and you can’t communicate back to the host computer for serial communications. Despite some of the drawbacks, I still like this solution since many people would have all the parts needed to make one right now. Check out the link for the complete build details.


  • Soldering iron
  • Hot glue gun (optional)

You’ll need (parts):

  • (2x) 470 ohm resistor (yellow-purple-brown)
  • (1x) 220 ohm resistor (red-red-brown)
  • (1x) Parallel port cable or parallel-to-serial adapter
  • (2x) Three wire cables with female connectors on one end, unattached wires on the other

More about making a Parallel Port Programmer

In the Maker Shed:


More about the Arduino Mega in the Maker Shed

  • Avr Dude

    “It only works with Windows, and you can’t communicate back to the host computer for serial communications.”

    It does not only work with Windows, you can use this parallel programmer just as well under Linux, and while I don’t have experience with that, I’d be surprised if it wouldn’t work under MacOS as well.
    As for the serial communications, of course, this is a programmer, what do you expect ;) Talking to the chip _does_ work, and you _do_ get the responses as well…

    This has been around for at least as long as the AVRs themselves.

    • Marc de Vinck

      Yeah, I was a little hesitant to add that to the post, but it was on the original site. I assumed it would work on Linux. On a mac, well, no parallel ports on a Mac, but I guess you could use a USB -> Parallel, but that defeats the ‘cost savings’ right?

  • worf

    cant you find any older stuff?
    this is yeaars old and the should be more interesting things to blog here.
    have a try.

    • Marc de Vinck

      Yes it’s old….and yes I think a lot of our readers could benefit from posting about it.

  • Gizmo

    And this post describes the differences and how to build them:

  • Drew

    Whether information is old or new, there’s someone out there that doesn’t know it. Namely, me. :) I didn’t know that such a thing was so easy to build. Thanks, Make:, for sharing this!

    • Marc de Vinck

      Thanks Drew….and you are very welcome!

  • DoScythes

    an instructable on the same thing was posted a long time ago:

    Can’t complain about the repost; I got into microcontrollers after I discovered that I could make a microcontroller programmer entirely out of parts on hand. It’s pretty rare that a single post leads to so many new projects.

  • Nuno

    Wow. A bit scary to see one’s crappy sketch on the Make blog.

    Funnily enough, I just found the parallel programmer pictured in the tutorial in an old box of junk. It stills work too!

    • Marc de Vinck

      OK, it may not be the “best” illustration, but it did get the job done, so it’s perfect. Thanks for sharing and posting your sketch!