FTDI make USB interface chips which are the industry standard around the world. Do the latest FTDI software drivers for windows deliberately and knowingly damage hardware?
There is a storm brewing and FTDI Chip are right in the middle of it. They are the world leader in USB interface chips, and hundreds of millions of devices around the world use them. Many manufacturers of USB devices and USB Interfaces either use the FDTI Chips directly, or use devices which are compatible with the FTDI USB Drivers on windows. However in a recent driver update they added a dangerous, and potentially illegal new feature.
The FTDI driver is installed with windows and updated with windows update. Your windows PC probably already has it.
If you connect a USB device which is only ‘compatible’ with the FTDI Driver, either it uses a ‘compatible’ chip, or a fake FTDI chip, then the FTDI USB Driver will disable that device permanently. This is not just a refusal of the driver to work with it, but it actually damages the hardware, and the damage probably cannot be reversed.
What it does is make use of a quirky feature in the FTDI chip that allows it to blindly send the damage to all USB devices that are using the FTDI driver, only genuine FTDI devices will survive the damage due to a limitation in their internal memory storage systems.
This means that if you buy a USB device from any supplier anywhere in the world, you have NO IDEA whether it is using a genuine FTDI chip, or a compatible chip, or even a fake chip. All you will see is that the device won’t work, and might not be repairable. This is not just troublesome I think it is potentially illegal!
Their license agreement states:
“The license only allows use of the Software with, and the Software will only work with Genuine FTDI Components. Use of the Software as a driver for a component that is not a Genuine FTDI Component may irretrievably damage that component. It is your responsibility to make sure that all chips you use the Software as a driver for are Genuine FTDI Components.”
But how are you, as a consumer supposed to know if that device you have just bought uses a genuine chip or not? The only thing the industry can do now, is move to a different supplier and a different driver, because you just don’t need the risk of not knowing if a device you will plug into your pc will be deliberately damaged by the driver.
Thanks to MikesElectricStuff and EEVBlog on twitter for bringing this to the world’s attention. You can read all about it, including a description of how the damage is done over at the EEVBlog forum here.