Universal Serial Bus Support for Windows CE 2.1

Windows CE 2.1

Microsoft Corporation

April 2000

Summary: This paper provides a brief introduction to Universal Serial Bus (USB) technology, an overview of the USB support present in Windows CE 2.10, and an overview of how to write USB device drivers for Windows CE 2.10. (9 printed pages)


USB System Architecture
USB Support in Windows CE 2.1
For More Information


As its name suggests, Universal Serial Bus (USB) is an external bus architecture for connecting USB-capable peripheral devices to a host computer. USB was not designed to be used as the internal bus for connecting CPUs to main memory and other motherboard-resident devices. Instead, USB is a communication protocol that supports serial data transfers between a host system and USB-capable peripherals. USB technology was developed as a solution to the increasing end-user demands on computers and the need for flexible and easy-to-use peripherals. A number of standard PC peripherals such as keyboards, mice, joysticks, digital cameras, CTI (computer telephone integration) and Video conferencing products benefit directly from USB.

USB offers a number of benefits to system designers:

  • USB provides a single, well-defined, standard connector type for all USB devices. This simplifies the design of USB devices as well as simplifying the end-user's task at figuring out which plugs go into which sockets.
  • Reduced hardware complexity-no need for separate keyboard, mouse, modem, and printer ports.
  • Hot-Pluggable support, meaning USB devices can be safely connected and disconnected without requiring that the host be shut off. Other generic peripheral connection standards, such as the Small Computer Systems Interface (SCSI), do not offer this feature. Hot-pluggable support is a key feature behind USB.
  • Plug-and-Play support so the host computer can identify USB devices when they are plugged in and configure them by loading the appropriate driver. This is another key feature for the inception of USB technology.
  • USB devices can either be powered by drawing current directly from the USB cable (known as bus power). They can use external power, or a combination of both.
  • USB supports power saving suspend/resume modes.
  • USB offers high speed (12 megabits/second) and low speed (1.5 megabits/second) modes that can support a variety of peripherals.
  • USB can guarantee certain amounts of bandwidth for devices that cannot tolerate "bursty" transmission, such as streaming audio and video devices.
  • The USB protocol offers four different transfer types, suited to the needs of various types of peripherals.
  • Multiple peripherals can communicate with the host simultaneously.

Note that the official Universal Serial Bus Specification uses the term function to refer to USB-capable peripheral devices. To avoid any confusion with the term function as it refers to callable units of C/C++ code, the Windows CE documentation set will use the term USB device instead.

USB System Architecture

This section provides a brief overview of the organization of the Universal Serial Bus itself and of the software that must be present on the host computer.

A USB system is composed of a host side, a device side, and the physical bus represented by the USB cable. The main responsibility of the host is to provide a control interface for data transfers whereas the device side provides the end user with various functions. The host side itself consists of a USB adapter or USB host controller hardware layer and an upper-level System Software layer. The host controller is responsible for transferring streams of data between the host and the USB devices.

Bus Topology

USB is a tree-structured bus, which in the vocabulary of the USB developers organization is called a Star-Tier topology. The host computer contains the root node of the bus, which is called a hub. Any node within a USB bus that is an intermediary between peripheral devices and the host computer is a hub. A hub has exactly one connection to higher levels in the USB bus than itself (an upstream port, and can have up to 7 ports for connecting peripheral devices and other hubs. Up to 127 devices can be connected in this manner. Peripheral devices are always leaf nodes within a USB bus. However, as a matter of practical implementation, many USB peripheral devices have a hub integrated into them so that users do not often have to purchase separate USB hubs.

The following illustration shows a typical USB bus with several common peripherals connected. This illustration is modeled after the diagram of a typical USB bus configuration in the Universal Serial Bus Specification, Revision 1.0, but with the hubs and peripheral devices represented more explicitly:

Figure 1. Typical USB bus with several common peripherals connected

Note that the association of the mouse with the keyboard's internal hub and the speakers with the monitor's internal hub is entirely arbitrary. For example, a user could instead connect the mouse to the monitor's internal hub, the modem to the keyboard's internal hub, and the speakers to the standalone hub in tier 1 without impacting the system's functionality and without having to make any changes to the configuration of software on the host computer.

System Software

As illustrated in the diagram below, a USB system consists of a host side, a device side, and the physical bus represented by the USB cable. The main responsibility of the host is to provide control interface for data transfers whereas the client provides the end user with various functions. The host side itself consists of a USB adapter or USB Host Controller hardware layer and an upper-level System Software layer. The host controller is responsible for transferring streams of data between the host and the USB devices. The host controller provides services based on parameters provided by the host software when the configuration request is made.

The system software for USB consists of two layers. The top layer consists of USB device drivers. Such drivers establish a connection to the device they control and use the USB system software functions to configure and communicate with the device.

The bottom layer consists of the USB system software. This software performs several tasks:

  • Manage all communication between USB device drivers and the host computer's built-in USB root hub.
  • Load and unload USB device drivers at the appropriate times.
  • Translate data to and from the USB protocol's frame and packet formats.
  • Establish communication with the generic endpoint on all USB devices connected to the bus in order to perform generic configuration and status-related tasks.

The USB system software is itself composed of two major parts, the upper Universal Serial Bus Driver (USBD) module, and the lower Host Controller Driver (HCD) module. The USBD module implements the high-level USB functions that USB device drivers use in terms of the functionality provided by the HCD module. The HCD module interfaces between the particular USB host controller hardware (such as OHCI or UHCI adapters) and the USBD module.

IHVs and manufacturers of USB devices will be concerned with the top layer, since they will need to provide device drivers for their USB devices for any operating systems on which their USB devices will be used. OEMs will be primarily concerned with the bottom layer, since they will need to ensure that their Windows CE platform's hardware properly interfaces with the USBD module.

The following illustration shows these two layers of software in the context of the host's USB hardware and a peripheral device:

Figure 2. Top and bottom layers of software in relation to the host's USB hardware and peripherals

The flow of operation is typically:

  1. A USB device driver initiates transfers by using USBDI APIs to issue requests to the USBD module.
  2. The USBD module divides requests into individual transactions based on its knowledge of the bus and characteristics of the USB devices connected to the bus.
  3. The HCD module schedules these transactions over the bus.
  4. The host controller hardware actually performs or completes the transactions.

Note that all transactions on the bus originate from the host side; the peripherals perform only as slaves in this master-slave environment.

USB Devices

USB devices consist of one or more interfaces, which are the physical components of the peripheral that implement the device's abilities. Associated with each interface is a set of endpoints; endpoints are the ultimate producers or consumers of data that travels across the bus. In addition, all USB devices have a special endpoint, known as endpoint 0, which supports the generic USB status and configuration protocol. Every device known to the HCD module has a unique USB address assigned to it when it is attached.

USB device drivers establish logical communication channels, called pipes to the various endpoints on a USB device. The characteristics of a pipe, that is direction of communication, required bandwidth, and so on, are determined by the endpoint characteristics, which are indicated in the endpoint descriptor structure. A pipe is a software association between an endpoint and a USB device driver. At implementation level, pipes can be thought of as software channels using function calls within the USB system software in order to communicate with their associated endpoints.

The bus interface hardware on a USB device is responsible for transmission and reception of USB structured data. A logical USB device consists of the USB abstraction entities such as the device endpoints and their corresponding pipes.

An interface is a higher-level entity that consists of one or more pipes and corresponds to some useful unit of functionality for the host computer. For example, a haptic input device such as a force-feedback joystick, could have separate pipes for the position information that the joystick sends to the host computer and the force-feedback information that the host computer sends to the joystick. Taken together, that collection of pipes is known as an interface because it corresponds to the joystick as a whole. An interface can be controlled by exactly one USB device driver.

USB Support in Windows CE 2.1

This section describes the different components of USB support for Windows CE 2.10. Note that the primary focus of USB support in Windows CE has been to enable the technology such that OEMs can expand on this support. To this end, Windows CE supports only the host side of USB. In essence, Microsoft provides the USB system software and a sample mouse driver that uses it.

Microsoft-Supplied Components

Microsoft supplies the following USB software components:

  • The USBD module that is responsible for loading USB device drivers and managing resources in the USB subsystem.
  • The complete set of USBD Interface (USBDI) functions listed in the Universal Serial Bus Specification, Revision 1.0 that is exposed by the USBD module. The API set includes Transfer Functions, Pipe Functions, Device Configuration Functions, and Miscellaneous Functions. Full documentation on these functions is in the Windows CE Device Driver Kit. This API set allows OEMs and IHVs to write USB device drivers to support any USB-compliant devices.
  • A sample Open Host Controller Driver (OHCD) that works with OHCI-compliant USB Host controllers. Note that the sample OHCD is only provided for the CE/PC platform. OEMs will have to port the sample OHCD to their platform as part of their OAL implementation. To ease this effort, the OHCD is divided into two parts: a platform independent model device driver (MDD) and a small platform dependant driver (PDD). This follows the MDD/PDD device driver model used by other Windows CE native drivers. Thus, OEMs only need to port the platform dependant driver (PDD) part.
  • In addition, if an OEM platform contains a UHCI-compliant Host Controller, then the OEM could write their own Universal Host Controller Driver (UHCD) to support UHCI controllers as long as it exposes the appropriate HCD interface to the USBD module. The OHCD sample is an appropriate model to use as a reference while developing a UHCD.
  • A sample MOUSE client device driver that is loaded by the USBD module and works with most generic USB mice. This is only provided as a sample for OEMs and IHVs to use as a reference while developing USB device drivers for their own USB devices.

Source code for these components is available in the \wince\public\common\oak\drivers\usb directory in the Windows CE Embedded Toolkit. Header files are in the public\oak\inc and public\ddk\inc directory, and platform sample code is in the platform\cepc\drivers\usb directory.

System Software Support

Bus Enumeration. Windows CE supports enumeration of USB devices on the bus. The bus enumeration process consists of an interrogation sequence through which the HCD module acquires information from a connected device, assigns it a unique USB address, and sets a configuration value. This a multi-step process. Once the enumeration is completed, the device is configured and ready to conduct transmit and receive transactions. At this point, the USBD module will attempt to load one or more client drivers to control the device, based on the information contained in the device and interface descriptors. If no suitable driver has been registered for the device, the user is prompted to enter the name of a driver to control the device.

Power Management. When Windows CE issues a POWER_DOWN notification, the USB host controller hardware and all devices are suspended by the system. At the following POWER_UP notification, the USB host controller hardware is reinitialized, the USBD module unloads the client drivers for all the devices, enumerates the USB devices connected to the bus and loads the drivers for those devices. Windows CE also provides support for bus-powered and self-powered devices. For both types of devices, the USBD module reads the power requirements of the device from the descriptor information, and rejects the device if the maximum power threshold is exceeded. OEMs can set this current-draw limit through a registry entry.

Hub Support. Windows CE supports connecting hub devices up to one level deep. Thus, referring back to the earlier diagram of a typical USB configuration, hubs can only be connected in Tier 1, and peripheral devices can only be connected in Tiers 1 and 2.

Support for Transfer Types:

Windows CE 2.10 supports all four types of data transfers as required by the Universal Serial Bus Specification, Revision 1.0, to support a variety of devices. Device drivers for USB devices can use any of these transfer types that may be appropriate for the device:

  • Control Transfers. Control Transfers are bi-directional transfers that are mainly used by the USB system software to query, configure, and issue certain generic commands to USB devices. Control transfers can contain 8, 16, 32, or 64 bytes of data depending on the device and transfer speed. Control transfers typically take place between the host computer and the USB device's endpoint 0, but may use other endpoints in the case of vendor specific control transfers.
  • Isochronous Transfers. Isochronous Transfers are used for streaming data that is time-critical and error tolerant or in real-time applications that require a constant data transfer rate. For example, an Internet telephony application that is carrying a conversation in real-time. Isochronous data requires guaranteed amounts of bandwidth and guaranteed maximum transmission times. For isochronous transfers, timely data delivery is valued much more than accurate or complete data transfer.
  • Interrupt-Driven Transfers. Interrupt-Driven Transfers are mainly used to poll devices to see if they have any interrupt data to transmit. The rate of polling is determined by the device, as indicated in the endpoint descriptor structure, and may be from 1 to 255 milliseconds. This type of transfer is typically used for devices that provide small amounts of data at sporadic, unpredictable times. Keyboards, mice, and joysticks fall into this category.
  • Bulk Transfers. Bulk Transfers are used for devices that have large amounts of data to transmit or receive and need guaranteed delivery, but do not have any particular bandwidth or latency requirements. Printers and scanners fall into this category. Even very slow or greatly delayed transfers are acceptable for these types of devices, so long as the data is all eventually delivered.

Unsupported Features

There is no support in Windows CE 2.10 for making the Windows CE platform itself appear as an USB peripheral to other host computers. That is, we do not provide any Function Drivers on the host or device side to connect a Windows CE platform (such as an HPC) to a desktop computer running a USB host.

Windows CE 2.10 does not provide any Class Drivers for classes of devices. Examples of class devices include the Human Input Device (HID) class, Stream Class, and so on. However, class drivers are supported by the USB system software, so OEMs can write their own HID class drivers to support HID class devices, and load them appropriately using the registry mechanism.

Microsoft will not provide a wide range of drivers for USB devices in Windows CE 2.10. If an OEM wishes to support a particular USB device, then they will be responsible for writing a USB device driver to interface with the USBD module.

A UHCI driver will not be included with Windows CE 2.10, but OEMs can write their own UHCI driver that uses and conforms to the USBD to HCD interface.

Device Drivers for USB Devices

This section describes sequence of actions that takes place when USB drivers are loaded, the required entry points for all USB drivers, and briefly discusses the sample USB mouse driver included with Windows CE 2.10. Note that this section does not provided details on writing USB device drivers; that information is beyond the scope of this document and can be found in the Windows CE Device Driver Kit.

USB driver load process

Similar to PCMCIA drivers, USB drivers are loaded via the registry mechanism. The USBD module is responsible for loading USB client drivers when a USB device is attached. The USBD module uses the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Drivers\LoadClients portion of the registry on the platform to identify the appropriate USB driver for a given device.

The algorithm used by the USBD module to identify the appropriate USB device driver from the information in the registry is complex; full details are documented in the Windows CE Device Driver Kit. Note that the LoadClients registry key must be set up correctly such that your USB device driver will be loaded for your USB device; each installed USB device driver must have such a key in order to be recognized and loaded by the USBD module.

The load strategy used by the USBD module provides a flexible framework that allows USB device drivers to be registered in different ways, depending on the scope of devices that they wish to control. For example:

  • USB device drivers can be loaded based on a vendor specific ID.
  • USB device drivers can be loaded to control devices of a specific device class.
  • USB device drivers can be loaded to control each interface on a device.
  • Complex devices that require more than one device driver can also be loaded.

Required entry points for USB device drivers

All USB device drivers must expose a certain number of the following entry points in their DLL. These entry points will allow them to configure and setup the device connected on the bus or set up the registry.

USBDeviceAttach. This entry point called when the USB device for some USB device driver is connected to the USB bus. The driver's implementation of this function can decline to control the device, in which case Windows CE will attempt to find another driver to handle the device.

USBInstallDriver. This entry point is called the first time that the USB device driver is loaded, and gives the driver a chance to create any registry keys that it needs.

USBUnInstallDriver. This is called when the user removes the driver from his or her Windows CE platform. This entry point is responsible for removing all registry keys created by the driver's USBInstallDriver function and releasing any other resources held by the driver.

Full details about the syntax of these entry points can be found in the Windows CE Device Driver Kit.

Sample USB Mouse Driver

The Embedded Toolkit for Windows CE 2.10 contains source code for a sample driver for USB mouse devices. This driver uses interrupt-driven transfers. OEMs and IHVs are encouraged to use the mouse sample driver source code as the basis for other USB device drivers. Note that the registry is already set up correctly for the sample CE/PC platform to load the mouse driver, so that plugging in a mouse should load the driver.

Testing USB Device Drivers

There is no extensive USB test suite for Windows CE at this time. The sample USB mouse driver, the USB CD-Changer device driver for the Auto PC and the USB 8x930Ax peripheral kit and evaluation board from Intel Corporation can be used to assist in testing USB scenarios. These same methods were used at Microsoft to test the USB system software for Windows CE 2.10. Further details on testing a USB system and the device drivers on an OEM platform are available in the Windows CE Embedded Toolkit.

For More Information

The USB Implementers Forum home page contains the complete USB specification, Universal Serial Bus Specification, Revision 1.0. Anyone considering building a USB compatible device or designing a hardware platform that supports USB should read this specification.

The Intel Web site provides information on USB hardware and microcontroller chips, such as the 8x930Ax and 8x931xA series chips.

The Windows CE Device Driver Kit contains complete information on writing device drivers for Windows CE.