Boundary-Scan Chain Design for Testability

Successful testing and ISP of your design depends on a fully functional boundary-scan chain. Maximum test coverage is achieved by testing all JTAG devices simultaneously.


Place all JTAG devices into a single scan-chain and add test points for debug access—all JTAG devices are tested simultaneously in the serial chain.

Boundary-Scan Chain

Multiple scan-chains are acceptable but should be merged externally; in some cases this is the preferred method:

  • Use a multi-TAP JTAG controller to externally combine multiple JTAG scan-chains into a single chain. Each JTAG TAP is actively buffered and can interface to different voltage levels.
  • Alternatively combine multiple chains with a fixture or cable. Lower reliability and susceptible to noise.
Boundary-Scan Chain

Scan Chain Debug Access & Test Points

Resistors can be designed into the scan chain as a way to selectively bypass devices in the scan chain for debugging.

Boundary-Scan Chain
Boundary-Scan Chain

Check devices for full JTAG compliance

Not all devices fully comply to the IEEE-1149.1 standard. When analyzing or troubleshooting devices, consider the following cases and guidelines.

  • Alternatively combine multiple chains with a fixture or cable. Lower reliability and susceptible to noise.
  • Place devices that do not include a boundary-scan register or do not support the EXTEST instruction in BYPASS.
  • Group components with similar voltage levels and utilize a multi-JTAG TAP controller for programmable voltage interfacing or add level shifting components to the design.
  • Treat TCK as a critical high speed clock signal during layout.
  • Always consider signal loading on the common signals TCK and TMS and proper routing for good signal quality. When driving a large number of JTAG devices (more than 5), add TCK and TMS buffering.
  • Dedicate a schematic page for a block diagram of the JTAG scan-chain.
Boundary-Scan Chain

JTAG Interface Connector (TAP)

Corelis recommends the Corelis JTAG TAP pin-out for robust one-to-one connection between the JTAG controller and the target.

Boundary-Scan Chain

Additional guidelines include:

  • A solid ground is very important; every other pin on Corelis TAPs is ground on cable providing noise immunity.
  • Follow the IC vendor’s JTAG signal termination guidelines first, then Corelis’ guidelines.
  • When using Multiple JTAG TAP connectors:
  • Group components by IC vendor.
  • Group components by voltage.
  • Group components by maximum device speed.
  • Group by devices that require the TRST_N signal.
  • Use jumpers or additional logic to isolate devices for debugging.
Boundary-Scan Chain

Jumper example to isolate a single device

Boundary-Scan Chain

Logic example to isolate a single device

The IEEE-1149.1 standard does not define type of connector used for JTAG, so there is a wide variety of options when selecting a connection method.IEEE-1149.1

  • Although the pinouts may be different, most vendors use standard 0.1″ x 0.1″ pitch headers.
  • Shrouded header recommended to prevent incorrect insertion.
  • Additional connector types include:
  • 2mm connectors.
  • 0.050″ x 0.050″ pin spacing.
  • Test points for fixture probe access to JTAG signals.
  • Edge connectors.
  • A backplane.
  • Keep JTAG TAP cables as short as possible. Cables should ideally be under 12″ in length, but shorter is better!
  • When using custom cable adapters, ensure adequate grounding is provided between the JTAG controller and the target.
  • Third party JTAG tools may require a separate JTAG TAP connection for an individual component.