On occasion and due to incompatibilities, non-compliance, debugging, or various
other factors related to the boundary-scan chain, it may be necessary to
physically bypass a boundary-scan device and remove it from testing. The most
common approach is to add a bypass resistor, but there are important
consequences with this approach. We’ll discuss some considerations that should
be noted when bypassing an installed device to remove it from the scan chain.

Active TDO
When physically bypassing a boundary-scan device, note that the output of the
bypassed device may still be driving unless explicitly disabled. This may result
in two devices driving the input to the next device at the same time. In the
following diagram, if U2 is bypassed with U2_BYPASS_RESISTOR and U2 remains
installed, both U1.TDO and U2.TDO drive U3.TDI.

Common device bypass configuration
Figure 1: Common device bypass configuration

Hardware solutions to the active TDO problem
The simplest method of removing the contention between TDO pins is to physically
remove the connection between the conflicting TDO pins. Some options include:

  • Remove the series termination resistor. If there is a series termination
    resistor as shown below, it may be removed to eliminate the contention on TDO


Series termination resistor on TDO

Figure 2: Series termination resistor on TDO


  • Lift the U2.TDO pin
  • Remove U2
  • Cut the trace connected to U2.TDO, before it connects to the bypass
    resistor trace
  • Lift the U3.TDI pin, and wire from U1.TDO to the lifted pin

Software solutions to the active TDO problem
In cases where modification to the hardware is undesirable, there are some
additional solutions that may be used. These solutions rely on specific behavior
with respect to the JTAG control signals and, in our experience, not all devices
will perform the same way.

Keep TMS to the device high, and provide at least 5 TCK during testing
Per the IEEE-1149.1 2001 standard section 6.2, the TDO pin should be inactive
(tri-stated) when it is not driving data. This can be guaranteed by forcing U2
into JTAG reset mode by giving it five or more clocks with TMS high. Note that
some devices may not fully conform to the standard. Additionally, in the typical
design, the TMS signal connected to U2 is connected to other devices as well.

If the device uses TRST, hold it active
Note that in a typical design, the TRST connected to U2 is connected to other
devices, too. This option is only viable if the TRST line connected the device
to be bypassed does not affect other boundary-scan devices.

Additional Considerations

Even after the TDO connection has been removed, the bypassed device still
receives TCK and TMS signals. This causes the device to receive all JTAG state
machine commands (on the still connected TMS) and data (on the still connected
TDI). This may place the device in an unknown and possibly undesirable state.
This rarely has an effect on testing or board safety, but it is a possibility.
If TMS on this device is not shared with additional boundary-scan devices, the
solution is to hold TMS high.

Boundary-scan device operation in non-boundary-scan mode
This is not a factor for boundary-scan chain operation, but is a factor in
testing. Now that the device is not in the scan chain, it will operate
“normally”, which may involve driving pins to unknown states. Just like all
other non-boundary-scan devices, for maximum test coverage it is advantageous to
control the device so that the outputs are disabled. If the outputs drive, those
nets cannot be tested due to contention.


While it’s great when things go well, it’s important to be prepared for some
debugging. Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to design the board to facilitate
test and debug—not only do series termination resistors improve signal quality,
but can ease the process of wiring around a problem device. For more tips on
designing for testability, visit the Design Tips and Guidelines section of our

Published On: September 27, 2010Categories: Corelis Boundary-Scan Blog, JTAG Boundary-Scan

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