View Full Version : Prolific CAT to USB Adapter with FT897D

26th February 2010, 20:35
I have accumulated more data on my Prolific PL2303 Based USB Adapter used with an FT897D, so I am starting a new thread on it specifically.

The problems started when I bought a CAT cable (Kawa from Ebay, uses Prolific PL2303 chip) to use with my new Windows 7 64 bit PC. Prior to that HRD had been working perfectly before using a CT-62 RS232 cable into an old Windows XP machine.

After finally finding a set of Prolific Drivers everything in HRD worked except for the bandscope. It turned out that there is almost a 1 second latency in the cable or drivers, which prevents the S meter function from registering rapidly enough - hence no bandscope vertical axis readings. I did quite a bit of trouble shooting with the following observations:

1 - Bandscope ran perfectly on FT897 with slow old Win XP PC and CT-62 cable at 4800 bps using HRD V4.0 build 1901

2 - Due to 1 sec. delay in S meter, bandscope does not work well on same FT 897 with Win 7, 64 bit fast PC using CAT to USB cable at 4800 bps and HRD 5.0 build 2434

3 - I then ran the FT897 on the same old slow PC as in item 1 above but with CAT to USB cable from Item 2 above, at 4800 bps using HRD V4.0 build 1901. Same 1 second S meter problem.

By deduction, the common denominator of the problem appears to be the Prolific PL2303 CAT to USB cable!!!

The Prolific Drivers I used were labeled Device Driver = Prolific dated 10/27/2008

After much effort I finally established an email dialog with Prolific in Tiawan and Charles there suggested I use Prolific Driver dated 11/19/2009. I just tried that and it does not work at all, returning error code 10.

So the bottom line is that one must be very, very careful about using these USB convertors. My new PC works perfectly with a large variety of new and old gadgets including cameras, webcams, various printers, MP3 players, etc at much higher speeds than the FT897D and HRD requires. Finding and loading drivers for all these widgets has been easy and flawless. This is the only device with which a simple serial connection has been so difficult.

I would really appreciate hearing from anyone who has a fully function HRD including the bandscope, using USB from an FT 897D. If your setup works, please describe it: What specific cable, USB or RS232, serial settings, HRD version?


Steve K2PBO

Rick WW3DE
8th May 2010, 13:40
Hi, Steve

I had another thread going in another part of the forum regarding Prolific CAT to USB adapters and ICOM radios. Perhaps we need a "Prolific USB Adapters" thread to put them all in the same basket.

I'm running a Vista PC and have two different Prolific adapters, both of which have worked fine in the past with my setup (IC-756PROIII). The major problem I'm trying to dope out now is trying to figure out why DM-780 crashes my computer whenever I start it up; I believe this may be related to driver issues.

I discovered by much trial and error, as you did, that some Prolific drivers work and some do not. In addition, Vista could not load certain criviers. I got the Error 10 (whatever that is) too many times to count in trying to get my Prolific (PL-2303) adapters to work with both HRD and N1MM Logger. One driver would work with one program, while another would work with the other. The one I located that did work with HRD is Prolific driver (10/27/08). That one also worked with N1MM Logger. I cannot attest that it will make the bandscope function -- I've had so many other issues I never even noticed, but I also do not recall EVER seeing the bandscope on HRD. I'm fairly new to the program, however.

Various other Vista-specific PL-2303 drivers, including the very latest (ie, 2010) versions I could find, simply would not work with either HRD or N1MM Logger; some also would not even work with my RIGblaster plus. HRD just will not connect, while N1MM polls the radio (I can see the display change) but never establishes a connection.

Just FYI, I did find that Prolific driver (8/3/05) works just fine with the RIGblaster USB-to-serial adapter, but other drivers, including later ones, would not.

The odd thing is that I had the same Vista PC and the same Prolific adapters working just fine with HRD and N1MM Logger before my hard drive crashed and I had to replace the hardware and reload the operating system. Since then I have had problems.

So, it sounds as if your frustration level is about as high as mine. The Prolific adapters work fine with my ooooold XP machine for both HRD and N1MM Logger, and I had DM-780 running last evening without incident.

I also would be interested to hear about others' experiences with the Prolific adapters.

73, Rick / WW3DE

8th May 2010, 21:52
My Prolific (And by the way I need to replace it) works great as a PTT controller, it also works great with the Garmin GPS (one way "Receive only" as it were) but with the radios, and with some other RS-232 hardware. It does NOT work at all.

RT-Industries suggests some voltage issues.

On my RS-232 to PTT adapter all it has to do is light up a LED so voltage is non-critical. Polarity is, but not voltage.

9th May 2010, 12:37
My usb to rs232 for my 817/897 by maxton, gives a blue screen of death and reboots all my vista machines, no matter what driver I use, but it works great with XP.

I run the 817 at 38400bps, the faster the interface is, the quicker the response.



Rick WW3DE
12th May 2010, 01:25
Interesting observations. Well, let me add some of my own. After my last post, I got another USB-to-CAT adapter cable from the Far East. I got it to use with the IC-706 onboard my boat, but just for fun, I tried it out with the PROIII, keeping the same drivers that would not let me connect with HRD on the USB-to-CAT adapter cable I'd purchased a couple of years ago.

To my surprised, HRD connected right off the bat, and even DM-780 ran okay--well, okay until I again got the BSOD.

My feeling is that there are perhaps subtle differences among these various third-party adapters that are supposed to use the same Prolific protocol (and driver).

I've seen USB-to-CAT adapters on the Web that sell for quite a bit more money (but still less than ICOM gets for its CT-17 accessory), and I have to wonder if they are any more reliable (and predictable) than the cheapie-do adapters from eBay? Anyone have any experience with the "other" third-party adapters?

73, Rick / WW3DE

Rick WW3DE
19th May 2010, 21:22
Further to my earlier post:

First, I finally got the laptop upgraded to Windows 7.

I also purchased a DigiMaster FTDI 232 chip USB-to-CAT interface (from ZLP). It has a nice little box with LEDs to let you know what's going on. It was less than half the price of an official ICOM CAT adapter, and it will work with other radios with the appropriate connectors.

It was virtually plug-and-play getting the now-Win 7 machine up and running with HRD, and, so far, it's even been playing nicely with DM780. I also have been able to interface readily with N1MM Logger. No BSODs -- yet.

The very inexpensive USB-to-CAT cables you can buy on eBay from the Far East typically use the Prolific PL-2303 protocol, and they may or may not work with all of your ham radio software. The first one I bought now appears to be defective, but considering what these cost (the last one I bought cost less than $2 and less than $10 with the shipping), you could buy a dozen and swap out when one goes south.

The USB-to-serial adapter I got with my RIGblaster a while back also uses the Prolific chip set. It would not work with the latest (March 2010) Prolific driver, but it does work with the ver PL-2303 driver dated 7/31/2007. Go figure.

The most recent USB-to-CAT adapter I bought on eBay is in service with my old XP laptop on our boat, interfaced with an old IC-706. That worked right off the bat with HRD. I've been able to control most of the radio, but for some reason the LSB and USB buttons, which the program says are mapped properly, do not work. I can switch modes among CW, RTTY, AM and FM, however. Any suggestions?

Bottom line: The Prolific protocol adapters can and do work fine and/or may not work with all software and/or may QRT suddenly. The FTDI protocol adapter seems pretty flexible, although I did have to dial the baud rate down to 4800 before it would connect with N1MM Logger. Again, go figure.

73, Rick / WW3DE