Introduction to MPLAB® X Programmers/Debuggers and Starter Kits


Programmers/debuggers are hardware devices connected to both the computer running MPLAB® X IDE and the MCU on the target hardware. Programmer/debuggers provide the ability to either program or to program-and-debug an application.



Programming involves placing application code built by MPLAB X IDE and an MPLAB XC compiler into the non-volatile program memory of the MCU. After the MCU has been programmed, the application will begin running each time the MCU exits reset.

Clicking on the Make and Program Device Main_Program_Target_Project.png button will cause MPLAB X IDE to build the current project and program it into the device.


Debugging enables you to interactively control the operation of the MCU and observe the devices registers and data variables. A special debug version of the application code is first programmed into the MCU's program memory. The programmer/debugger then acts as a communication conduit between MLAB X and the MCU providing you the ability to control and monitor application performance.

Clicking on the Debug Main Project Main_Debug_Project.png button will cause MPLAB X IDE to build and program a debug version of the application into the MCU.

Hardware Devices

Microchip offers a series of devices which enable both programming and debugging.


Microchip programmers/debuggers vary in price, MCU support, programming speed, and debug capabilities.

Connecting to a Programmer/Debugger

The programmer/debuggers connect to the host computer through USB. The connection to the target board is made through one of two industry-standard connectors.


Starter Kits

To reduce the cost of developing applications, or evaluating MCUs, Microchip offers a set of Starter Kits. Starter kits are target boards containing both the MCU and the programmer/debugger functions. By using a starter kit, you will not have to purchase a programmer/debugger.


Although boards with embedded programmer/debuggers are commonly referred to by the generic name "starter kits", they may each have their own product brand names such as Curiosity, Xplained, or Express boards,

© 2022 Microchip Technology, Inc.
Notice: ARM and Cortex are the registered trademarks of ARM Limited in the EU and other countries.
Information contained on this site regarding device applications and the like is provided only for your convenience and may be superseded by updates. It is your responsibility to ensure that your application meets with your specifications. MICROCHIP MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND WHETHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, WRITTEN OR ORAL, STATUTORY OR OTHERWISE, RELATED TO THE INFORMATION, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO ITS CONDITION, QUALITY, PERFORMANCE, MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR PURPOSE. Microchip disclaims all liability arising from this information and its use. Use of Microchip devices in life support and/or safety applications is entirely at the buyer's risk, and the buyer agrees to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Microchip from any and all damages, claims, suits, or expenses resulting from such use. No licenses are conveyed, implicitly or otherwise, under any Microchip intellectual property rights.