|Getting the camera to talk to your computer!|
This is one of the most-common subjects on our discussion forum. (Or at least it was, until Gerald Payne generously wrote this excellent little debugging guide. :-)
PC serial ports are notorious for being a non-standard "standard" connection, as they're often difficult-to-impossible to get working properly. All sorts of seemingly unrelated things can cause them to malfunction, making getting your new digital camera and old computer talking anything from a walk in the park to a hair-tearing experience.
Reader & Q&A-forum regular Gerald Payne kindly took the time to walk through a typical debugging process to get your camera up and running. If the process described below doesn't work, you may want to consider an separate card-reader to just pull images from your digicam memory cards directly. (But then, that's a topic for another FAQ...)
Do you have relevant experience that might save someone else hours of effort? Click the link here and leave it as a comment! Don't be bashful, the little detail that finally got your camera working might be just the tidbit someone else needs to save them hours of frustration!
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(or How I Spent My Life... Well, it seemed like it!)
by: Gerald M. Payne
Many digital cameras are designed to connect to a computer
through a serial port. This can often be a source of problems
since one has limited resources in a PC and ports may not be
available, connected, or properly configured. The average PC
is set up for up to 4 physical serial port connections, each
of which is provided with a software driver called a COM or
communications port. For the most part, Serial and COM
ports can be thought of as the same thing by the average user.
Typical serial peripherals are modems, mice, and digital cameras.
Internal cards (mostly modems) also use COM ports.
First things, first:
READ THE MANUALS FOR THE CAMERA AND THE SOFTWARE! I know, I know, but try...
Make sure that your camera is turned on and properly set up.
Check your manuals to make sure you have the cables connected
properly and that you have the camera set to the proper mode
or menu option to transfer images to your computer. Make sure
the batteries are fully charged or use an adaptor. If you have
an option to turn off the LCD display you might want to do that
to save power if you're running off batteries.
PC serial ports are usually terminated in a 9 or 25 pin connector mounted on the back of the PC's case. These ports are relatively easy to identify since they are typically the only 9 and 25 pin ports that have pins rather than sockets.
If these basic items can be checked off your list it's time to shut the camera off and check the Windows port settings.
Click the [Start] button on the Windows desktop, highlight
Settings, then select Control Panel. Double
click the Computer icon, select the View Resources
tab and select Interrupt request (IRQ). This will display
the Computer Properties dialog and a list of your PC's
Interrupts or IRQ's. Interrupts are just what they sound like,
a signal that interrupts what the processor is doing and says
"Hey! Look at me." Each Com port will ideally have
it's own Interrupt number. If two ports share an interrupt they
can't both be used at the same time. In some cases one may not
work at all. Scroll down through the list and make a note of
each COM port and what IRQ it uses (the number in the left column)
and also make a note of which IRQ your modem uses, if you have
one(bet you do if you're reading this...). Now look for unused
IRQ's. There are 16 IRQ's labeled 0-15, if unused they won't
appear in the list. Make a list of any unused IRQ's. If all your
COM ports use a separate IRQ, it's time to go back to the drawing
board. If not, cancel the Computer Properties dialog and go back
into the device manager. At this point you must assign the COM
port you wish to use an unused IRQ or disable another device
and use it's IRQ.
Select the + next to Ports and then select the COM port you'd like to change and press the Properties button. Click the Resources tab and highlight Interrupt Request and then unclick the checkbox next to Use automatic settings. Now you can click the Change Setting button and select the IRQ you wish to use. You'll probably have to reboot in order for the changes to take effect.
At this point you should try the image transfer again and see what happens. If you're still unsucessful, try swapping your mouse(assuming you have a serial mouse) with the camera cable and rebooting to see if your PC can find the mouse. If it can you have at least proven that the port you were trying works. If it doesn't go back and check that port out again and make sure there are no conflicts displayed in the Settings dialog. If you've gotten the mouse working on the other port then the next step would be to try the camera software again with the cable connected to the port that you were originally using for the mouse. You might have to re-install the software or manually configure it to use the port. You might even need to reboot again to get all the details worked out so that Windows and the image transfer program both know where everything is connected.
If you've followed along carefully by this point you've eliminated
all the simpler and obvious pitfalls. If you still can't get
your mouse to work on the other port move it back to the original
position and shut your system down. Open the case and make sure
that the cable for the port you can't get working is physically
connected at both ends and that it's plugged in the right direction
on the motherboard. You can usually determine this by looking
for a notch or mark on the motherboard and matching a stripe
on the cable up with it, or by looking at how the cable for the
port that works is connected. If it all checks out, button up
the case and reboot. Stop your PC during the bootup and run the
system monitor program for your BIOS. This is usually done by
waiting for a message that says "Press DEL for setup menu"
during the boot up process and then pressing the key before the
BIOS goes to the next step in the Boot up process. You might
be able to find settings in this program that let you set how
your communication ports are configured or if they are activated
at all. Make sure you know what you're doing if you attempt this.
Incorrect settings could prevent your PC from booting properly
or keep Windows from running at all. If you do change any settings
make a note of which ones and make sure you save the changes
before exiting your setup program. Reboot and try it again.
If you're still unsucessful it's time to think about consulting the camera's manufacturer and their service department or a local technician to determine just what your problem may be. Better yet, buy a media reader and save yourself a lot of grief.
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about The Imaging Resource's Tip for Troubleshooting PC Serial Port Camera Connections, or add comments of your own!