Which Programmer Should be used for the PIC Microcontroller Including PIC16 and PIC18

The Microchip PIC line of microcontrollers has a long history. The original architecture can be traced back to the late 1970s. In that time Microchip has offered hundreds of devices ranging from One Time Programmable (OTP), windowed EEPROM, flash, and advanced eXtreme Low Power (XLP) microcontrollers.

As the Microchip line grew, so too did the available programmers, in circuit debuggers, and emulators. This can lead to confusion as we attempt to match a particular programmer with a particular microcontroller. As of this writing (04 Dec 23) Microchip features 3 programmers as shown in this table.

Product Image Price Description
MPLAB SNAP $39.98 Low cost, limited support for older and some new PIC devices. Review MPLAB device support matrix (more information below).
PICKIT 5 $96.89 Good general-purpose programmer, supplies up to 150 mA to your project.
ICD 5 ICD 5 Image $407.99 High speed, power over ethernet, supplies up to 1A to your project.
ICE 4 $2,110.22 Provides in circuit emulation.

This table provides a good starting point if you wish to purchase a new PIC programmer. However, many of you already own a PIC programmer. Perhaps you have a PICKIT 3 and are wondering if it can program the latest PIC18F16Q20.

To determine programmer to microcontroller compatibility, you will need to locate the MPLAB Device Support matrix. The best place to find the information is on your C drive in the MPLAB folder as shown in the next picture. You may also be able to find the information here. However, the link may change or become outdated in the future.

Note that Microchip purchased Atmel in 2016. The device support matrix also includes the AVR line of microcontroller and associated programmers.

As Microchip’s technology evolves this information may become dated. Please let us know if this happens so that we can better serve you.

Best Wishes,