How to access the JTAG port on GX3500 and GX3700 series cards

Knowledge Base Article # Q200336

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Summary This article will show you how to access the JTAG port on Marvin Test Solutions' GX3500 series and GX3700 series FPGA cards using Altera's USB Blaster.
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While all of MTS's GX3500 & GX3700 series cards are supplied with software panels that allow you to program and interact with the instrument, some users desire access to the built in JTAG port in these devices. Accessing the JTAG signals on these instruments gives users the ability to leverage on-chip debugging tools such as SignalTap II Logic Analyzer.

Required Items

  • GX3500 or GX3700 series card
  • 10-pin (2 x 5) 0.100”(2.54mm) pitch header (male)
  • USB Blaster Intel/Altera download cable
  • Soldering iron (to mount 10-pin header)

Installing the J6 Header

New GX3500/GX3700 series cards ship from the factory without the J6 header installed so the first thing you must do is solder the 10-pin header into J6, position shown below in red.

GX3500 J6 header

WARNING: MTS is not responsible if you damage your instrument during this step. Extreme caution should be taken and soldering should only be performed by qualified technicians.  

With the 10-pin header placed in the plated-through holes of J6, solder from the backside. Care must be taken not to apply too much heat and consequently reflow nearby surface mounted parts.

Now that you have your 10-pin header soldered into J6, you can now connect the JTAG connector from the USB Blaster (10-pin female connector) to the GX3500/GX3700 and place the card back into the chassis. You must install the JTAG connector from the USB Blaster to the J6 header with pin 1 of the USB Blaster cable oriented towards the rear of the GX3500/GX3700 card, as shown below.

USB Blaster connected to J6 header

Once you have attached the USB Blaster to the GX3500/GX3700, gently slide the card into the chassis, being careful not to let the USB Blaster ribbon cable bind on the chassis rails as you move it into position. As you will notice, you need to have the slots adjacent to the slot occupied by your GX3500/GX3700 clear so that the USB Blaster can fit in your chassis. Now that the GX3500/GX3700 has been installed into the chassis, connect the USB connector on the USB Blaster to an available chassis USB port and power up the chassis.

Setting Up the USB Blaster Driver

Once Windows has completed booting up, open the Windows Device Manager. Until you specify the proper driver for the USB Blaster, Windows will likely identify it as “Other device” as shown below.

Device Manager

Right click on the USB Blaster, select Update driver and then select Browse my computer for driver software. Now browse to: [Your Altera installation folder]\11.0sp1\quartus\drivers (shown below, using the default installation path) and select Next.

Driver location

Verifying JTAG Connectivity Using the JTAG Chain Integrity Test

Now that you have assigned the proper driver to the USB Blaster within Windows, you can open Quartus II and set the USB Blaster as the designated JTAG programmer/debugger. This is accomplished by selecting Tools->JTAG Chain Debugger from the main menu tool bar in Quartus II. You will then see the window shown below.

JTAG Chain Debugger

From this window’s menu bar select Edit->Hardware Setup. This will open the Hardware Setup window where you can select the USB Blaster from the Currently selected hardware drop-down list, as shown below.

Hardware Setup

Once you have selected the USB Blaster as your current hardware, select the Close button and you will be returned to the former JTAG Chain Debugger window. You will notice that the Test JTAG Chain button is now enabled. By selecting this button you can verify that all the solder connections on the J6 header are good and that JTAG connectivity has been established. After testing the JTAG chain you should see a message in the session log stating that the JTAG connection is good, as shown below.
JTAG chain connection
At this point you have established JTAG connectivity with the Cyclone III/Stratix III device on your GX3500/GX3700 card and you are now able to program and debug using many of the Quartus II built in tools. For more information on these tools and their usage please see the links provided below.


Quartus II System Debugging Tools Overview

Signal Tap Logic Analyzer: Intro & Getting Started

SignalTap II Logic Analyzer (Video)
Article Date 6/29/2020 , 7/13/2021
Keywords FPGA, JTAG, GX3500, GX3700, Debugging, SignalTap, Debugger, Quartus

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