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Certain serial applications are designed to function properly only when connected to specific COM ports. In most cases, these are the standard COM1/COM2 or COM3/COM4 interfaces. This can pose a problem when your device needs to work with a designated port that is not available on your machine.
A solution to this issue is COM Port Redirector. You can create virtual serial interfaces with a serial port redirector that you can name in whatever manner your application requires. The virtual port provides the same functionality of a physical interface and receives and sends traffic redirected to and from the real port. Redirecting serial port over a network is one of the primary uses of a COM port redirector. It increases the value of your peripheral devices by making them accessible to any user on the network.
A virtual serial port redirector should enable the virtual COM ports it creates to emulate the functionality of physical serial interfaces, for instance, to interact with a locally attached peripheral device. Creating the virtual port itself is not a complex task and can be performed by the same type of software that implements physical COM port drivers. The behavior of the device server and the network connections to it are issues that are more challenging and will be discussed below.
Serial port redirectors, utilizing virtualization, let “client” machines (remote computers) connect to resources virtually. “Resources” could mean anything from files or peripheral devices (i.e, printers and scanners).
The COM Port Redirector bridges the connection between a “server” machine (local computer) and the client machine (remote computer) trying to access resources.
This connection redirects a serial transmission back and forth between both machines. The client machine can “request” serial port accessibility to be redirected from the server computer so that it (the client computer) can utilize the device.
Serial Port Redirector provides users with full functionality of a remotely accessed serial port device - as if the client machine and resources (files or peripherals) are directly connected.
Network connectivity problems can arise, making proper remote data transmission an issue. Serial Port Redirector software makes several “satisfaction” requests before returning a message outlining the RDP/remote resources connectivity error.
If a connection can’t be established, the client computer receives an error message promptly.
A serial IP port redirector allows the user to create and configure virtual COM ports which it uses to forward serial communication. Programs that open a virtual serial port rely on the redirector to establish a network connection to the IP address and TCP/UDP port number belonging to the remote equipment connected to the device server. Once the connection is made, the software relays the data stream between the device server and the virtual serial port.
It is common for a serial to IP port redirector server to allow at least 256 virtual interfaces to be active simultaneously. In practice, this number is often greatly reduced due to several limiting factors. The physical limitations of the device server such as its usable memory and the available network bandwidth will influence the number of connections you can run concurrently.
Most serial IP redirector software for Windows includes a graphical user interface that is used to create virtual serial ports and configure them for optimal functionality. The GUI will also often provide a display of the activity of the virtual ports as well as offering diagnostic capabilities.
A virtual serial port can be seen as a form of COM port redirector that operates without dedicated network software support. Creating two virtual COM ports on the same computer enables legacy serial applications to communicate directly without resorting to other methods such as communicating over named pipes.
Serial port redirection software enables the user to control data flow by emulating signal lines (DTR / DSR / CTS / RTS / DCD / RI). You can customize the pinout and replicate all serial port parameters such as Baud rate, parity and stops bits to ensure compatibility with all of your serial applications and devices.
Emulating serial ports is extremely useful when faced with a lack of physical COM ports on a computer that needs to connect to a serial device. It can also enable you to establish communication between devices or applications without the need for additional physical connections requiring cabling or hardware.
Any serial program can make use of virtual serial ports to transmit data over a TCP/IP network. A complete client-server infrastructure can be implemented using virtual COM interfaces. The data sharing capabilities and multiple connections of the virtual infrastructure let any member of your organization access legacy serial devices no matter where they are located. Virtual ports can split data streams so that many applications can access the information simultaneously.
SerialToIP is a serial port redirector freeware solution that provides the ability to connect to a serial port from a network using TCP socket communication. The tool can be used with either a command-line or graphical interface. The app is a simple implementation of Terminal Server software written in C#. Any TCP/IP network can be used to send and receive data from serial ports, including those of the USB variety.
This COM port redirector is open source and is freely available to be modified to address your specifications. The open source nature of the project means that you get access to the serial port redirector code. The developers have made it point to provide working code that can be easily understood by other technicians with a knowledge of programming serial ports and sockets with C# and .NET. If you are looking for a basic and free serial port redirector, this solution is worth a look.