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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Quickly test a bare esp8266 (ESP12) module with no extra bells and whisles [quick start]

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ESP8266 is an extremely popular module among hobbyists for building inexpensive and powerful internet connected projects. The module can connect to a wifi access point and can exchange data. It can act as a wifi access point and can be used to control devices. The GPIO pins on the module can be used for automation and much more (SPI, I2C, I2S).

This post is a log of my quick and dirty test for a fresh bare module from AI-THINKER +25dBm (with 16+6 pins) as shown below

ESP12 module from AI THINKER

To test this we need the following things

1) The module works on 3.3 volt and minimum 300ma (while wifi is active, it draws more current, so needs a regulator 1117 or a battery ( 3-3.4 volt is fine) ). I used a simple regulator as shown below to use the 5 volt supply
ESP12 power supply


2) USB to the Serial module for communicating from the PC to esp8266 ( i used a cp2102). The RX  pin goes to TXD on esp module and vice versa. The ground pin on the usb the o serial module should be connected to ground oin on esp module. This boards rx and tx pins are 3.3 v ( make sure of this, otherwise you need a level shifter)

usb to serial based on CP2102

3) A bit of soldering to add some legs to the module. See figures to sort out how i did in my test to make a simple protoboard

Adding legs to esp12 using some waste leads from resistors

ESP module with leads soldered loks like the one below. The extra six on one side can be avoided as it is for internal eeprom and not necessary for most of the uses

ESP12 "spider"


The next is keep it on  a prototyping board. in addition i placed the regulator (3.3v)and  a capacitor (100uF) fromm vcc to ground. Added some sockets for easy access
A simple ESP12 prototype

ESP12 pin connections

The pins on esp12 are arranged as shown below

ESP12 pins layout


A more useful pin layout is shown below with different pins and their roles (some pins have multiple roles)

ESP12 pin layout, image courtsey: github.com/esp8266

First test of esp12 module


Connect the module to the powersupply (3.3volt) and make sure the module is connected as shown below

ESP12 quick test circuit with a usb to serial module

After connecting the stuffs as above, it is time to check it. I am using a linux computer so, the serial post will be under tty/USB* and in windows use the appropriate COM ports. (Refer to cp2012 manual or www for setting up the usb-serial port). To see the messages , i used an arduino 1.6.5 ide's serial monitor. But any other serial monitor should work (putty, screen etc). Arduino is good as it can be used later for custom firmware development.

Set the serial monitor as shown below ( 115200 baud rate)

See serial settings, baud rate 115200, Both NL & CR

Now leave the GPIO0 unconnected ( see diagram above) and open the serial port. Briefly touch the reset to ground (may use a push to on switch). Serial should show some garbage as below and some messages

AI thinker serial messages from ESP12 module

Now you could use some of the AT commands to see the modules factory firmware features (basic wifi access over serial). Just type AT and press enter

AT mode on ESP12

If this is working you could try various AT commands to see the results. But basically it shows your module is working fine and it is better to update the firmware to something else which does a lot more useful things than At commands and wifi over serial port. There are several ways and if you are an arduino user, i would recommend it as it is much simple and easier.

Common AT commands for esp12 (click to enlarge)


For teaching kids and for simple usage there are some firmwares like ESP8266 basic (very easy) and other useful ones are MICROPYTHON, NODEMCU. All these can help to establish internet connected projects in  a simple and easy manner.

NOTE: One of the main challenge here is the proper wiring and gpio pin connections needed to put the module in to different modes. (e.g BOOT MODE). If it is in wrong mode you wont be able to see anything. Keeping the serial port on and resetting the module should show some garbages on the serial port of  anormal working module.

GPIO modes:

0 Low
1 High
x floating

MODEGPIO15GPIO0GPIO2
SDIO (BootSDCard)1xx
UART (UploadCode)00x or 1
FLASH (NormalRunning)01x or 1

Restoring the ESP8266 module to the factory firmware with AT mode (Restore AT commands on an esp8266 module)


This can be done by restoring the factory firmware. We use esptool.py to do this and flash the factory firmware from AI thinker.

To do this just download this script. Then run /bin/bash factory_reset.sh in  a terminal. This works on a debian/ubuntu based systems. In other cases just go through the commands and install esptool.py and run the following command (Download firmware)

esptool.py --port /dev/ttyUSB0 write_flash -fm dio 0x00000 ai-thinker-v1.1.1.bin

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