I'm trying to use GPIO on my Beaglebone Black, but I'm running into some behavior I don't understand. I have two pins (gpios 27 and 61) configured to input with active_low set to 0. There is nothing connected to either pin (or any pin on the board for that matter), but one of the pins (gpio 61) is showing a value of 1 while gpio 27 shows a value of 0.

Can anyone explain why this is happening?

Here are the exact steps I took to get this result:

echo 27 > /sys/class/gpio/export
echo 61 > /sys/class/gpio/export
echo in > /sys/class/gpio/gpio27/direction
echo in > /sys/class/gpio/gpio61/direction
cat /sys/class/gpio/gpio27/value
cat /sys/class/gpio/gpio27/active_low
cat /sys/class/gpio/gpio61/value
cat /sys/class/gpio/gpio61/active_low
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Without anything connected to a general purpose input the value is undefined or in other words floating and can take on the value of high or low. To combat this, normally pull-up or pull-down resistors are used either externally or internally. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2016 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ DigitalNinja is correct. You should not rely on a CMOS input to have one value or the other when nothing is connected to it. \$\endgroup\$
    – The Photon
    Apr 15, 2016 at 23:01
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Read Implications of Slow or Floating CMOS Inputs. \$\endgroup\$
    – CL.
    Apr 16, 2016 at 8:53

1 Answer 1


It's possible that one or both GPIOs are not floating. Those states that you see could be caused by the internal pullup/pulldown resisters.

Are you familiar with Debian's device tree overlays? That is what you would use to configure the I/O pins on the BBB. Besides input and output, you can configure pins for drive-strength and enable/disable pullup and pulldown resistors.

Have a look here for details: http://derekmolloy.ie/gpios-on-the-beaglebone-black-using-device-tree-overlays/

  • \$\begingroup\$ You can also enable/disable internal pullup/pulldown using config-pin options like 'gpio_pu', 'gpio_pd' and 'gpio' \$\endgroup\$
    – Kushal
    Apr 3, 2020 at 11:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AvadhanaSolutions - Yes, now you can. But that wasn't available four years ago. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark
    Apr 3, 2020 at 22:23

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