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I am a final year student and am going to use a PIC device for my project, so am getting familiar with it early.

  1. I will be using MPLAB X IDE to program the PIC. How is the code actually downloaded onto the microcontroller? I have read that the 'PIC KIT 3' programmer/debugger is the easiest.

  2. With the PIC KIT 3, is it possible to debug online in real time and see the status of I/O pins and registers etc?

  3. What other methods are available to program a PIC?

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    \$\begingroup\$ PIC is a really large microcontroller family. Which one specifically are you considering? If the answer is "don't know, any one?!", then my follow up recommendation is not to use one of the classical PICs for your project but to directly go to one of the thousands rich-peripheral, rich-memory, low-power, high-speed ARM microcontrollers, many of which, unlike the PICs, come with a bootloader in system ROM, which makes flashing them a whole lot easier. 8-bit PICs and their beefier cousins have their niche in some low-power, or low-cost, or speciality applications, but don't complicate… \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Aug 4 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ … your final year project by restricting your microcontroller to low resources. For a one-off project, using PICs is typically not even a cost-effective choice. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Aug 4 at 16:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ David, what is the final yr proj (or capstone?) It would help us help you evaluate the your processor choice to know details. And what is the processor you are currently examining? If you use the PIC, then yes MPLAB X IDE is probably the right IDE to use for development. Regarding tools, I use MPLAB REAL ICE (and appropriate kits for the device.) What's appropriate in your case varies. You can get demo boards with a socket that can program some devices for you. You can use PICkits (I have v2, v3, not yet v4.) Microchip supports professional devices and CPUs, forever. Not so, hobbyist stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – jonk Aug 4 at 17:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @David777 My experience as a developer with a wide variety of manufacturers has led me to conclude that Microchip is always the partner I want to have, unless technical details force me elsewhere (for example, for extreme low-power I may go to the MSP430.) They support their tools, without equivocation. They support my development. They provide very good professional level tools. Etc. They stand out uniquely against a much poorer background of "others." But you have to focus on what you need to achieve, and how quickly, and then match this up with what's available to you. No bright lines. \$\endgroup\$ – jonk Aug 4 at 18:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to look at Microchip's former Atmel line, particularly chips such as the SAME70 series. For dealing with 3-phase state space control and such like it's nice to have good PWM peripherals with enough features and an on-chip FPU. You can use an eval board to deal with the SMT issue or just learn to solder a SMT (non-BGA) package, it's not all that hard, especially for those with young eyes or a good microscope. \$\endgroup\$ – Spehro Pefhany Aug 4 at 18:12
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The PICKit3 is a little bit old as @Marcus already mentioned and not really recommended. If you are looking for a easy, fast and also cheap debugger/programmer have a look at the MPLAB Snap.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This looks like what I need. I will take a look in more detail today. Thank you \$\endgroup\$ – David777 Aug 5 at 6:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess there is a 50% discount on that tool, so you will pay less then 10€ .microchipdirect.com/product/search/all/PG164100 \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Aug 5 at 7:03
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As with any microcontroller, you'll need some kind of hardware interface to load the program code onto it.

Often, such interfaces also assume the rule of Debug Interface.

I have read that the 'PIC KIT 3' programmer/debugger is the easiest.

well, I don't know that one. But if it's this one, then its website says

The PICkit 3 is not recommended for new designs and no new device support will be added to it as of June 1, 2019. For new designs, please see the MPLAB PICKit 4.

And I'd argue that yeah, don't go for something that the manufacturer explicitly states desire to drop support.

Anyway, from the description:

Microchip’s PICkit™ 3 In-Circuit Debugger/Programmer

yeah, so it's a programmer and debugger. Check.

With the PIC KIT 3, is it possible to debug online in real time and see the status of I/O pins and registers etc?

That would be the purpose of a debugger. I doubt the both of us have the same understanding of the term "real time", because such microcontrollers run at megahertzes and you can't see that fast, but yeah, I'd presume that's the case, together with adequate software, which I guess the MPLAB X IDE is.

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