MPLAB® Development Ecosystem: Debugger/Programmer Interfaces

To debug or program a target device, you must connect the debugger/programmer to the target using a communication interface supported by the device. See your device datasheet and hardware tool documentation for details.

Hardware Tools - PIC® MCUs

All MPLAB® Development Ecosystem hardware tools use in-circuit serial programming (ICSP) for communication with a PIC MCU target. This is also called standard communication. For an example, see Emulator Standard Communication.

Current tools:

Legacy tools that are still supported:

  • PICkit 3 In-Circuit Debugger
  • MPLAB ICD 3 In-Circuit Debugger
  • MPLAB REAL ICE™ In-Circuit Emulator
  • MPLAB PM3 Programmer

Other communication options are available depending on the device, tool, and available accessories.


  • High-Speed Communication - High-speed 40-pin ribbon cable for ISCP or JTAG (included in the kit).
  • JTAG - PIC32 Instruction Trace Adapter Board (included in the kit).

For legacy MPLAB REAL ICE:

Hardware Tools - AVR®, SAM, CEC MCUs

There are many different target communication choices depending on the target device. Below is a list of hardware tools that support some of these connections:

  • MPLAB PICkit 4 In-Circuit Debugger with the Debugger Adapter Board (AC102015) - JTAG, SWD
  • MPLAB ICD 4 In-Circuit Debugger with the Debugger Adapter Board (AC102015) - JTAG, SWD
  • MPLAB ICE 4 In-Circuit Emulator with the High-speed 40-pin ribbon cable (included in the kit). Legacy communication adapter boards are also included.
  • Atmel-ICE Debugger - JTAG, PDI, ISP/debugWire, SPI, UPDI, SWD
  • Xplained and Curiosity boards - dependent on on-board device communication features

Select the interface in MPLAB X IDE through Project Properties > Debug Tool > Communication > Interface.

As more device support is added in MPLAB X IDE, more interface options may also be supported.

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