USB SERIAL DRIVERS released by Scottish chip designer FTDI and distributed by Microsoft Windows Update are bricking knock-off Chinese USB chips used in many Arduino microcontrollers, rendering the devices unusable.
The latest FTDI driver released in August contains the warning: "Use of the software as a driver for, or installation of the software onto, a component that is not a genuine FTDI component, including without limitation counterfeit components, MAY IRRETRIEVABLY DAMAGE THAT COMPONENT."
Indeed, hardware hobbyists have found that the FTDI driver software update detects counterfeit FTDI USB chips and writes over their product IDs in flash ROM with zeros.
As you might expect, this bricks these FTDI USB interface chips, making them unusable under any operating system, including Windows and Linux.
Since it's hard to determine by physical inspection whether the affected chips are genuine FTDI parts, even people who thought they had bought legitimate devices have been affected.
FTDI has taken this approach apparently to defend against makers of knock-off chips that don't purchase licences, rather than suing them instead.
Hardware enthusiasts bitten by the latest FTDI software driver update rather understandably aren't very happy with firm, but it has provided a remedy.
Affected punters can download the FT232 tool under Windows XP or Linux to change the chip product ID back to its proper value by restoring an older version of the software driver.
Following that, they just have to avoid letting the Microsoft Windows Update service replace the FTDI USB interface driver ever again. µ
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