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Using MCP3008 ADCs with Raspberry Pis

31 Jan 2017

The Microchip MCP3008 is a popular ADC for use in a Raspberry Pi projects. You can get them from Adafruit.

They are SPI devices requiring 4 pins to the RPi (MOSI, MISO, CLK and CS).

A Linux IIO device driver for these chips exists drivers/iio/adc/mcp320x.c and is enabled as a loadable module in the default Raspberry Pi kernels (CONFIG_MCP320X).

Here’s the relevant Kconfig block

config MCP320X
        tristate "Microchip Technology MCP3x01/02/04/08"
        depends on SPI
          Say yes here to build support for Microchip Technology's
          MCP3001, MCP3002, MCP3004, MCP3008, MCP3201, MCP3202, MCP3204,
          MCP3208 or MCP3301 analog to digital converter.

          This driver can also be built as a module. If so, the module will be
          called mcp320x.

So other chips besides the MCP3008 are supported, but I’ve only tested the MCP3008.

A device tree overlay is necessary to enable and configure the driver for use with an RPi.

The overlay is called mcp3008-overlay.dts.

The help for it in the overlays README is a bit cryptic.

Name:   mcp3008
Info:   Configures MCP3008 A/D converters
        For devices on spi1 or spi2, the interfaces should be enabled
        with one of the spi1-1/2/3cs and/or spi2-1/2/3cs overlays.
Load:   dtoverlay=mcp3008,<param>[=<val>]
Params: spi<n>-<m>-present      boolean, configure device at spi<n>, cs<m>
        spi<n>-<m>-speed        integer, set the spi bus speed for this device

The overlay takes advantage of the RPi DTS extension that allows parameters to be passed to a DTS when it’s loaded.

For this overlay, the two available parameters are for telling the driver the SPI bus and CS line where the MCP3008 is attached (mandatory) and the speed you want the SPI clock to run (optional, defaults to 1MHz).

To use SPI on the RPis you need to enable it which you can do with this line in your config.txt


SPI bus 0 is always enabled in the main DTBs for the RPis and so doesn’t need any additional help.

The SPI0 pins are

Here are some SPI0 examples

SPI0.0, 1MHz clock


SPI0.0, 3.6Mhz clock




SPI0.0 and SPI0.1


For SPI buses 1 and 2 (CM modules) you need to separately enable the bus.

There are existing overlays available to enable the SPI buses in different configurations. The CS pin or pins used can be overridden with an argument to the overlay.

The SPI1 pins configured by the spi1 overlays are

Here are some SPI bus 1 examples





Note that spi1-0-present is used for the mcp3008 overlay argument since this is still the first SPI1 device the kernel finds.

SPI1.0 and SPI1.1


With the mcp3008 overlay loaded you should see the mcp320x driver

root@rpi3:~# lsmod
Module                  Size  Used by
ipv6                  349231  26
mcp320x                 6136  0
industrialio           33957  1 mcp320x
brcmfmac              188704  0
brcmutil                5789  1 brcmfmac
cfg80211              437224  1 brcmfmac
rfkill                 16838  1 cfg80211
bcm2835_gpiomem         3036  0
spi_bcm2835             6626  0
bcm2835_wdt             3225  0
uio_pdrv_genirq         3164  0
uio                     8128  1 uio_pdrv_genirq

The mcp320x driver interface is through sysfs.

The first device will be found here /sys/bus/iio/devices/iio:device0

Additional devices will be device1, device2, etc…

root@rpi3:~# ls /sys/bus/iio/devices/iio\:device0
dev                       in_voltage2-voltage3_raw  in_voltage5_raw           name
in_voltage-voltage_scale  in_voltage2_raw           in_voltage6-voltage7_raw  of_node
in_voltage0-voltage1_raw  in_voltage3_raw           in_voltage6_raw           power
in_voltage0_raw           in_voltage4-voltage5_raw  in_voltage7_raw           subsystem
in_voltage1_raw           in_voltage4_raw           in_voltage_scale          uevent

To get the value of channel 0 of the ADC do a read of in_voltage0_raw

root@rpi3:~# cat /sys/bus/iio/devices/iio\:device0/in_voltage0_raw

You could script it with something like this (read channels 0 and 1 every 3 seconds)


while true; do
        for i in 0 1; do
                echo -n "adc[${i}]: "
                cat /sys/bus/iio/devices/iio:device0/in_voltage${i}_raw

        echo ""
        sleep 3

To go fast you’ll probably want to code something.

Here’s a little C program you can use for testing mcp3008-poll.

With the bus running at 3.6 MHz (MCP3008 powered at 5V) I get around 40 KHz sample speed for one channel reads with an RPi3.

# mcp3008-poll -d0 0

(use ctrl-c to stop)

ADC                0
Read   750001:   380  ^C

  Elapsed: 19.09 seconds
    Reads: 750875
     Rate: 39323.67 Hz

The sampling speed scales as you would expect with multiple channels

# mcp3008-poll -d0 0 1

(use ctrl-c to stop)

ADC                0      1
Read   626001:   380    381  ^C

  Elapsed: 31.82 seconds
    Reads: 626293
     Rate: 19680.62 Hz

When using the sysfs interface, remember to either open/close the file handle between reads or reset the file location back to zero before each read.

In C, something like this

lseek(fd, 0, SEEK_SET)