Fake ATtiny85 from China

Direct from China

It is notorious that modules/chips sold on Chinese marketplaces can be fake ones. Most of the times, it's not much of an issue for non-industrial applications. As long as the components behave properly, it is almost impossible to check their quality/authenticity.

As I wanted to explore the programming of ATtiny85, I ordered a couple of them on AliExpress. Then time flew and a long time after the "return/complain" window was closed, I gave them a try.

Nothing... Impossible to do anything with them. I double-checked the wiring, but I always ended-up with the famous:

"Device signature = 0xffffff".

Reputable French shop on Ebay

Certainly puzzled, I ordered another pair, this time from a shop I previously used succesfully on ebay. Having received them the next day (one big advantage of buying local!), I tested them and they worked straightaway.

Fuses and quartz

One of the main reasons of a bad signature when programming seems that there is a setting of internal fuses to use external quartz at a specific frequency. I tried my entire stock of quartz (6 "standards" values)... without success.

High voltage programming

The next step was to try "High" Voltage (meaning more that 5 volts, not mains BTW), using these solutions:

The signature reported was:

Signature = 0x9004

which indicate an ATtiny11! For a ATtiny85, it should be 0x930B...

The fuses were (always):

0x6C 0x80 0x6C

Unfortunately ATtiny11 is a very old series which is almost completely forgotten with low specs and can't be programmed easily (ATtiny13 is the replacement).

Photos of a real ATtiny85 :

The real McCoy - top The real McCoy - bottom

Photos of a fake (?) ATtiny85 :

Fake - top Fake - bottom


It was the first time I faced a deliberate forgery. I certainly bought a fair share of fakes and clones, sometimes knowningly ("Digispark rev3", etc...). The first thing is certainly to run a test ASAP. Apparently sellers are keen to reimburse immediately when notified there ware is not genuine.

Then, to consider real distributors, like in the old days:

For example, for 5 x ATTINY85-20PU:

  • AliExpress: estimated delivery 3 weeks => 7.22€ + VAT (in theory)
  • Ebay (France): 48H delivery by post => 12€ inc VAT
  • Reichelt Elektronic: Delivery 2-6 day => 13€ inc VAT
  • Farnell Europe: Next day UPS delivery => 14.40€ inc VAT and surcharge if order < 30€ HT, only 6.12€ inc VAT otherwise

I always considered the "big" retailers (Mouser, RS, Farnell, Digi-key, ...) as professional only but in reality they seem more and more keen to accomodate small orders too. I far as I can tell, I could order a single unit for 9.50€ inc VAT and delivery. Not necessary the most cost effective but with a risk of counterfeit stuff certainly very low (but even for controlled supply-chains, the risk is never null).