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Connection sockets and headers used in embedded projects

Probably everybody gets confused each time when considering what connectors to use in electronic projects. There are so many connector types and technologies that can be chosen. So what connectors is the best choice, or there is no single answer? Before answer these questions lets go through several points. First of all why do we need connectors? There is no problem to solder all components and wires together without ability to loosen or wear out. But in fact there are much more advantages of using connectors comparing to reliability of connection.

  • Connectors make it easier to assemble electronics products;
  • Allows easier to repair devices with ability quickly to replace faulty parts;
  • Easier to upgrade old components or blocks with newer ones;
  • Ads flexibility to design.

Probably most common connector used by embedded electronics hobbyists are 0.100″ spaced pins as its step is same as of widely used DIP chips and prototyping breadboards.


Even most of PCBs comes with predrilled holes that fit these connectors. Whys these connectors are so popular? Because they are flexible and easy to work with. These connectors can be simple un-shrouded – single or dual row duct tape that you can cut in whatever length pieces like 1×4, 1×10, 2×5, 2×7 and so on. This is ideal for matching cable sockets or other specific needs. The main shortcoming with these headers is that they aren’t very tight. Female headers may easily sip off because there are no any key-locks used.

For this there are more advanced version box headers used.



They have same pin configuration but also have plastic surrounding with key-locks that keeps tight connection with sockets. So each advantage gives several disadvantages. These connectors cannot be trimmed to desired size and don’t do well with jumpers. So they may be used for peripherals like LCD, JTAG, ISP, but probably for general purpose microcontroller ports it would be better to use un-shrouded headers.

Where male headers are there always a female sockets are needed. Female sockets also can be various: crimped down to the ribbon cable, soldered to cables. As DIP pin step is the same, there also can IC sockets be used depending on needs.


Pinhead connectors can be soldered or crimped down to a ribbon cable. Crimped connection is considered to be more reliable and is easier to use and can be made faster.



In my practice I like using crimped connectors as they are to make and take less time. Also they are more stable when connected, and probably most important thing is that you don’t have to think about direction as they also are polarized. But in prototype boards where various experiments may be run, use simplest pin headers without any special coatings as you may never know what peripheral you are going to connect to development board.

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