Exploring XBees and XCTU

Contributors: jimblom, Toni_K
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Drivers and Assembly

The USB-based XBee Explorers all operate using an FTDI FT231X chip, which converts serial to USB and vice-versa. This is one of our favorite chips because it supports all computer platforms and it's easy to work with. If this is the first FTDI chip you've ever connected to your computer (it probably won't be your last), there is some driver installation to get out of the way.

We've written a tutorial detailing How to Install FTDI Drivers tutorial. So go ahead and plug your USB Explorer into your computer, and head on to either the Windows, Mac, or Linux section there. (Ignore the final steps, where Arduino software is invoked.) Regardless of whether you're on Mac or Windows, once your Explorer's drivers are installed it will be assigned a unique COM port number. Take note of that port number, as you'll need it on the next pages.

How to Install FTDI Drivers

June 4, 2013

How to install drivers for the FTDI Basic on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Basic Assembly: Plug In an XBee!

Time to "assemble" the XBee Explorer. Grab your XBee of choice. Notice how it has a flat edge and a more angular/diagonal edge? Match that footprint up to the white lines on your XBee Explorer, and carefully insert! Take care not to bend any of the XBee pins -- be gentle when you're plugging it in. (And be even more careful if you're removing it!)

XBee Orientation

Nice work! You've assembled the XBee Explorer. You're ready for the next step. Or, if you're a power user, looking to get the most out of your explorer, you can check out the more "advanced" assembly below.

Advanced Assembly (Totally Optional)

For most basic-use cases, all Explorer boards should be good-to-go once you've installed drivers. If you want to use any of the XBee's I/O pins, you can solder male headers to the 0.1"-pitch pins inside the XBee headers. This will allow you to plug the board into a breadboard, so you can wire other components up to the XBee. Each XBee pin is labeled on the bottom side of the board. You can also check out the schematic for help locating a specific pin.

XBee Explorer Breadboard Example

The XBee Explorer can be used with a USB cable and breadboard concurrently -- just solder some headers into the breakout pins. (Actually solder them, don't pretend like we did in the image above.)

If male headers don't fit your purpose, you can alternatively solder in female headers (to plug jumper wires into), or even just bare wire. Just make sure you don't solder anything into the top side of the board -- or you may be unable to plug the XBee in!