RS232 Pinout, Definition, Uses, Speed & Baud Rate

RS232 is a standard for serial communication between devices. It is commonly used to connect computer equipment, although it can also be found in other electronic devices such as TVs and printers. The pinout of the RS232 connector shows that it has 9 pins.

RS232 Male and Female connector
RS232 Male and Female connector

Similar article: RS232 VS RS485- Know the Difference

What is the RS232 Protocol?

RS232 is a standard for serial data communications between computers and other devices. The protocol uses a simple three-wire interface consisting of a transmit (TX) line, a receive (RX) line, and a ground (GND) line. Data is transmitted serially, meaning that each bit is sent one after the other on the TX line. The receiving line is used to receive data from the TX line.

RS232 is an asynchronous protocol, meaning that it does not require a clock signal to synchronize data transfer. The simplicity of the RS232 interface makes it widely used in a variety of applications including industrial control, barcode scanners, and GPS receivers. RS232 is also commonly used in debugging tools such as JTAG adapters.

Being one of the EIA standards, RS232 is also known as the EIA232 protocol. It is the most commonly used serial communication protocol in the industry.

RS232 was introduced in the 1960s. Back then, RS232 was preferred for connecting computers and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) with the peripherals such as printers, mice, and modems. But these are now being replaced with modern technologies like Universal Serial Bus (USB).

What does RS232 stand for?

All EIA standards start with RS. RS stands for Recommended Standard. But the numbers do not carry a specific meaning.

In this case, the number ‘232’ is assigned with ‘RS’ by EIA to denote the serial communication standard.

Thus RS232 interface is used for serial communication that transmits binary data for the communication of DTEs and DCEs.

RS232 Pinout

RS232 protocol uses a 9-pin DB9 connector. The pinout of the male and female RS232 connectors is shown below.

RS232 Male Connector(DTE) Pinout
RS232 Male Connector(DTE) Pinout
RS232 Pinout -Female Connector(DCE)
RS232 Pinout -Female Connector(DCE)

The description and arrangement of RS-232 male connector pins are given in the table below.

No.NameDescription/Signal
1DCDData Carrier Direct
2RxDReceive Data
3TxDTransmit Data
4DTRData Terminal Ready
5GNDGround
6DSRData Set Ready
7RTSRequest To Send
8CTSClear To Send
9RIRing Indicator
RS232 Pinout Description

The nine pins of the RS232 connector are divided into three categories:

Data Pins– The flow of the data occurs through the data pins. Pins 2 and 3 are the data pins. These are RxD and TxD pins. The DTE and DCE have the interchanged order for data pins.

Control Pins– The control pins are used to establish the interface between the devices. Pin 1,4,6,7,8,9 fall under the category of control pins.

Reference Pin– The reference pin is meant to be the reference voltage pin. Pin 5 is the reference pin that connects to Ground.

Note: Usually, DTE device(male connector) transmits the signal and DCE device(female connector) receives it. Both the ports have 9 pins. The only difference in their pinout is of the position of transmit and receive pin. The transmit pin in a DTE port is where the receive pin of DCE port is.

What is the Speed and Baud rate of the RS232 protocol?

A reliable data transfer with RS232 protocol is possible only for a distance up to 20 meters. The speed of asynchronous transmission using the RS232 protocol is up to 20 kbps(15-20meters). Whereas the maximum possible data rate is 1Mbps(very short distance).

As for the baud rate, standards are 9600, 19200, 38400; for cable length up to 20 meters. The higher baud rates may or may not work, but it’s possible. For example, 38400 and 57600 Baud (bits/s).

What is RS232 used for?

RS232 is mostly utilized in networks with PLCs where a PLC transfers data to other devices with the help of RS232 standard. In this case, the PLCs act as DTE, and the other devices like printers, modems, etc act as DCE.

Some of the common applications of RS232 in serial communication are:

  • Simple full-duplex communication with 2 pins.
  • Since RS232 supports asynchronous communication, it can replace the systems that face the difficulty of syncing different clocks.
  • It can be used for systems that demand better accuracy.
  • RS232 is the best choice to control one unit at a time without delay.

RS232 Cables and Connectors

RS232 protocol has dedicated cable and connector standards to support serial data exchange. Let’s know more about the connector and cable used for RS232.

RS232 Connector

RS232 connector is primarily used for serial data exchange between DTE and DCE. This exchange will be usually with the computer and the peripherals.

This protocol was introduced to overcome the limitations caused by the parallel data exchange methods.

As you can see, it is large in size compared to the other connectors. The old version of RS232 had 25 pins. This was later reduced to 9 pins which are being used currently.

RS232 Cable

The cables under the RS232 protocol provide the necessary electrical connection for the terminals during data transfer. Thus RS232 terminals should not be connected with ordinary cables.

The 9-pin DB9 cables are used to connect with the RS232 standard.

Since the connection is between the DTE and DCE, the pins are assigned a 1:1 order. That means the Nth pin of DTE should be connected to the Nth pin of DCE. Thus, no crossover connection occurs in the RS232 protocol.

**Read more about RS232 on Wikipedia.

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