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Virtual Serial Port over Ethernet - the main tips

Robert Agar Robert Agar

Virtual COM ports are used to extend the capabilities of computers and laptops that need to interact with serial devices but which lack physical serial interfaces. These machines may not have any serial ports or might not have the necessary number available for a specific use. A virtual serial port can be used to send and receive serial data over LAN or the Internet.

Virtual Serial Port over Ethernet

When using a serial port emulator, data generated from a serial application or device is converted from serial data to information that can be transferred over an IP-based network. A virtual serial port over Ethernet provides all of the functionality of a physical COM interface. Data is converted in both directions to allow network transmission and then turned back to serial signals for interaction with devices and programs.

Serial over Ethernet software allows users to connect remote, network-connected serial ports and devices. It accomplishes this by creating virtual serial ports that emulate physical interfaces. With this serial port emulation utility, you can use computers without COM ports to connect to remote serial devices without any additional hardware or cabling.

The application shares a serial interface over the network and creates a virtual copy of the port on a remote computer. Serial devices connected to the shared port are made available for network users.
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Virtual Serial port over Ethernet - software

Industrial automation systems and production lines achieve tremendous benefits by routing their RS232 data transmission over network. They are also useful when dealing with serially-based point-of-sale equipment that needs to be accessed from a remote location. The beauty of using virtual serial connectivity is that users gain the same level of functionality as if they were locally attached to the devices. Here’s a scenario where you could use Serial to Ethernet Connector to establish communication. You need to access a peripheral device located a considerable distance from your computer. The program that will process the information from the device is installed on your machine, but you have no serial interface. Simply follow this procedure to create a connection with a virtual COM port.

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Virtual serial port over Network passthrough technology

A network serial port server solves the problem of attaching to serial peripheral equipment that is not within the range of a direct cabled connection. Employing serial over IP network technology lets users access your serial devices no matter where they are without being physically connected to them.

The technology works by converting serial data to the network format so it can be transmitted over a network. The converters translate serial data over Ethernet and back. Once the COM signals are in TCP/IP format they can be transmitted over any IP-compatible network such as your company’s LAN or the Internet.

How to create virtual serial port on Windows

Download Serial to Ethernet Connector on both the computer that is physically connected to the device (server) and the one that needs to remotely access the peripheral (client). The client machine can be either virtual or physical and needs to be running Windows or Linux.
 Download Serial to Ethernet Connector
Launch the app on the server and configure the connection settings.
 Launch the app on the server
Click the button to create a Server connection which makes the device available over a network.
 Click the button to create a Server connection
Start the program on the client machine and click “Connect” to establish a connection with the previously shared device.
The client now can exert remote control over the device in the same way as if it were directly connected to it. You have all the functionality of a locally attached device.
 The client now can exert remote control
The software creates a virtual port on the client machine and connects it to the physical interface of the server computer. It operates as a virtual null-modem connection and emulates all of the functionality and characteristics of the remote physical port.
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Linux virtual serial port over ethernet options

Serial to Ethernet Connector also provides Linux virtual serial port over Ethernet capability. It offers the same functionality as the Windows version of the application and can easily be downloaded to your Linux machine.

Linux virtual serial port over ethernet

There are also alternative methods that you use to send serial data over the network using tools that are included as part of most Linux distributions.

One option is to use netcat to pipe serial data. This can quickly become messy as you need to open a separate instance of netcat for each serial connection. You can create a xinetd service to create persisting connections like this:

service testservice

port = 5900
socket_type = stream
protocol = tcp
wait = yes
user = root
server = /usr/bin/netcat
server_args = "-l 5900 < /dev/ttyS0"

Be sure to change the /dev/ttyS0 to the name of the serial device involved in the connection. This method provides a free virtual COM port over Ethernet solution.

Some other tools that have been tested and can provide virtual serial port over Ethernet on Linux machines are:

This utility allows users to connect to a serial port from the network. It is a self-developed program that gives the user a tool to setup and configure serial ports. It is also useful for modifying port parameters as well as controlling and monitoring serial interfaces.

Short for "remote tty”, remtty uses pseudo ttys to establish network connections. Using this tool enables Linux users to enjoy the same functionality of Cisco's Windows-based Dialout application and use direct connections to machines with dial-out modems for faxing and sending messages.

Frequently Asked Questions

A virtual serial port is an emulation of real serial port. Such port can be created by a software which enables extra serial ports in a system without the need to install additional hardware. Any name can be assigned to a virtual port and it is possible to create a large number of such ports in one computer.
The only limitation is the amount of available resources, such as operating memory and computing power.
The main reason that virtual serial ports over Ethernet are useful is due to the limitations forced upon users by modern computer manufacturers. The majority of modern computers have neglected serial ports in favor of the more universally used USB interface. If your computer does have serial connectivity, the number of ports will be extremely limited.

This can pose a serious problem if you use legacy applications that require serial interfaces with which to communicate. It’s not as simple as using a different physical interface on a peripheral device. Without rewriting the code, many legacy programs will cease to operate without serial connectivity. They do not have the ability to adapt to the modified data flow from a USB port.

So using virtual COM ports is a way to protect your investment in legacy serial-based equipment and applications. You can go ahead and buy that screamingly fast new laptop without worrying about the number of serial ports it does or does not have. Simply emulate them with as many virtual serial ports as you need.
A network serial port is a virtualized serial port established with a network socket on a host computer. The network socket has a port number and IP address and is the termination of a network connection.

The popularity of network serial ports is growing as a means of providing connectivity with serial devices. It expands the range and utility of serial equipment by eliminating the need for a direct connection to access the peripherals. Another benefit of network serial ports is the ability to share interfaces among multiple users.

Network serial port
Network serial port freeware or paid solutions enable the virtual ports to be accessed and managed from any location through the use of a simple web browser. On Windows systems, a driver installation enables a networked serial interface to behave the same way as a local COM port.
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