arduino SPI Communication


Chip select signals

Most slaves have an active low chip select input. So proper code to initialize and use a chip select pin is this:

#define CSPIN 1 // or whatever else your CS pin is
// init:
digitalWrite(CSPIN, 1); // deselect

// use:
digitalWrite(CSPIN, 0); // select
... perform data transfer ...
digitalWrite(CSPIN, 1); // deselect

Deselecting a slave is just as important as selecting it, because a slave may drive the MISO line while it is selected. There may be many slaves, but only one may drive MISO. If a slave is not deselected properly, two or more slaves might be driving MISO, which may lead to shorts between their outputs and might damage the devices.


Transactions serve two purposes:

  • tell the SPI when we want to start and end using it within a particular context
  • configure the SPI for a specific chip

The clock line has different idle states in the different SPI modes. Changing the SPI mode while a slave is selected might confuse the slave, so always set the SPI mode before selecting a slave. The SPI mode can be set with an SPISettings object passed to SPI.beginTransaction:

SPI.beginTransaction(SPISettings(1000000, MSBFIRST, SPI_MODE0));
digitalWrite(CSPIN, 0);
... perform data transfer ...
digitalWrite(CSPIN, 1);

SPISettings may also be stored elsewhere:

SPISettings mySettings(1000000, MSBFIRST, SPI_MODE0);

If another part of the code tries to use the SPI between a pair of calls to beginTransaction() and endTransaction(), an error may be raised - how that is done depends on the implementation.

Also see Arduino Reference: SPISettings

Using the SPI in Interrupt Service Routines

If the SPI has to be used within an ISR, no other transaction may be taking place at the same time. The SPI library provides usingInterrupt(interrupt_number) to facilitate this. It works by disabling the given interrupt whenever beginTransaction() is called, so the interrupt cannot fire between that pair fo calls to beginTransaction() and endTransaction().

Also see Arduino Reference: SPI: usingInterrupt

Basics: initialize the SPI and a chip select pin, and perform a 1-byte transfer

#include <SPI.h>
#define CSPIN 1

void setup() {
  pinMode(CSPIN, OUTPUT); // init chip select pin as an output
  digitalWrite(CSPIN, 1); // most slaves interpret a high level on CS as "deasserted"


  SPI.beginTransaction(SPISettings(1000000, MSBFIRST, SPI_MODE0));
  digitalWrite(CSPIN, 0);

  unsigned char sent = 0x01;
  unsigned char received = SPI.transfer(sent);
  // more data could be transferred here

  digitalWrite(CSPIN, 1);


void loop() {
  // we don't need loop code in this example.

This example:

  • properly initializes and uses a chip select pin (see remarks)
  • properly uses an SPI transaction (see remarks)
  • only uses the SPI to transfer one single byte. There is also a method for transferring arrays, which is not used here.