USB to Serial Adapters in VMWare

I needed to do some work using a pin pad (a device that allows you to enter a numeric code at a point-of-sale or other system) and needed to test it in a 32bit Windows environment. The pin pad uses a serial port to communicate to a computer. Of course no portable computers (maybe no desktops either, it’s been years since I’ve had one) have serial ports anymore, so you have to use a USB to Serial adapter. It seems like many brands of these converters use a chip by a company called Prolific. Prolific makes the chip that lives in the converter that does the translation from serial to USB and back. I found the drivers from prolific and the device loaded just fine on Windows 7. I then created a Windows XP image in VMWare.

This is where the fun started.

I loaded the driver in Windows XP but no matter what I tried I couldn’t get VMWare to take control of the adapter. Every time I chose Virtual Machine -> Removable Devices -> Prolific USB device -> Connect it would give me an error: “Driver error”. Nice and specific and helpful right? I rebooted the host and the guest, tried without the driver installed on the host and rebooted again. Try as I might nothing worked.

Long story short, I was plugging the adapter into a USB3 port and either VMWare or the driver didn’t like USB3. So If you are seeing a similar problem, try and find out what kind of USB port it is. I was using Windows 7 on a Lenovo W510. This machine has USB2 and USB3 ports. The 2 obvious USB ports on the left hand side are USB3. There is a USB2 port on the back, but I keep another device plugged into that one so I didn’t even think to try it. It turns out though that the W510 has dual ESATA/USB2 port next to the USB3 ports. That dual port looks physically different than a normal USB port so I assumed it was just ESATA. I plugged the usb to serial adapter into this dual port and everything worked flawlessly.

Hopefully that will helps someone save a bunch of time that I wasted trying to get it to work.

8 thoughts on “USB to Serial Adapters in VMWare”

  1. Hi Geoff,

    I had the same issue with a DELL Latitude E5520.
    My problem was I did not configure the correct port.
    My laptop also has that “special port” you mentioned, although I don’t have any idea how to connect a usb to a usb/eSATA port, because the plug does not go in.

    Anyway, the reason I left this message was to inform that the PROLIFIC usb to serial converter came with a CD with the drive to Windows 7 and the drive to XP.
    I have installed both and the converter works fine in the real and in the virtual XP machine.

    Regards,
    MifPT

  2. Just wanted to say thanks a lot for this post – I had exactly the same problem with a W510 and using the eSata port worked a treat :-)

    Cheers,

    Dan

  3. THANK YOU,

    This post saved me ALLOT of time!!!

    I have USB3 on my laptop and because of it suffered the same ailment.
    But your solution worked perfectly.

    THX from Holland!

  4. @MifPT,

    No kidding. You don’t even have usb3. (as fare as google allowed me to find)
    Its a bit hard for usb3 to screw something up if you don’t even have it.

    ;)

    Greetings from The Neterlands

  5. Hello
    I am using HP Probook 4530s i have windows 7 . I want to use USB to serial convertor cable but i came to know that cable is not working in Windows7 . Can any one tell me how can i use it in windows 7 can VMware be helpful

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