As the firmware is fully responsible for every action that a 3D printer performs, whether it’s a simple travel move or a complex bed leveling process, ensuring that the firmware you’re using is always up-to-date is vital for a successful printing process that doesn’t suffer from problems on the software side.
On the other hand, since the process of updating the firmware of a 3D printer is often perceived to be a more technically complex task than conducting the 3D printing process itself due to such procedures usually not being designed with user experience in mind, many 3D printing enthusiasts shy away from the task at hand.
In today’s article, we will find out whether it’s possible to update the firmware of an Ender 3 with an SD card for a more user-friendly firmware updating experience, as opposed to the standard but relatively technically complex method of using the Arduino IDE and a USB cable.
So, can you update the firmware of your Ender 3 with only an SD card?
It’s only possible to update the firmware of your Ender 3 with an SD card if your Ender 3 came with a newer, 32-bit motherboard, whereas the firmware of an Ender 3 with an older 8-bit motherboard can only be updated via a direct USB connection and after manually flashing a bootloader first.
Moving forward, we will dive deeper into what makes it possible to update the firmware of an Ender 3 with an SD card, go through the steps you can use to find out whether your Ender 3 is compatible with SD card updates, and finally, find out how to conduct the updating process.
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Can You Update Ender 3 (Pro/V2) Firmware with an SD Card?
Being able to update your Ender 3’s firmware with an SD card is, without a doubt, a fantastic improvement that makes the firmware updating process much less effort and time-consuming, even for an experienced user who has gone through the process of updating with the USB method before.
While it’s entirely possible to update the firmware of your Ender 3 with an SD card, the pre-requisite is that your Ender 3 has one of the newer (V4.2.2 or V4.2.7) mainboards with a 32-bit microcontroller, which we can consider to be more advanced compared to the older (V2) mainboards.
As the newer 32-bit motherboards also come with a pre-installed bootloader, unlike the older 8-bit motherboards, the requirement of flashing a bootloader before being able to update the firmware is no longer a thing either, meaning that you can conduct the entire updating process with an SD card, without the need for a direct connection between your Ender 3 and your computer.
Compared to the somewhat technically complex, two-step procedure of flashing a bootloader by directly interfacing with the ISP and updating the firmware through a USB connection afterward, we can consider the SD card method to be much more user-friendly and less time-consuming for beginners and experts alike.
How to Find Out if an Ender 3 (Pro/V2) Is Compatible with SD Card Firmware Update?
The first step to updating the firmware of your Ender 3 with an SD card is to find out whether the mainboard that your 3D printer came with supports this method to ensure that the updating process will work as intended.
The most reliable way to determine whether your Ender 3 is compatible with the SD card firmware update method is to look at the motherboard version directly, which is printed on the motherboard, right below or next to the Creality logo (or text).
If the motherboard of your Ender 3 is one of the newer ones that come with a 32-bit microcontroller, the version text on the motherboard should be right below the Creality logo and either read V4.2.2 or V4.2.7, which makes it eligible for firmware updates with an SD card.
For the process of revealing the motherboard to be able to see the version number, all you need to do is open the motherboard cover located under the build plate, which is held in place with hex screws that you can unscrew with the M2 hex key that ships with your Ender 3.
How to Update the Firmware of an Ender 3 (Pro/V2) with an SD Card?
Updating the firmware of your Ender 3 with an SD card is just as straightforward as printing a 3D model with the SD card, creating an auspicious user experience that requires almost no technical knowledge or familiarity, and making the firmware updating process smooth for beginners and experienced users alike.
Below is our step-by-step guide for updating the firmware of your Ender 3 with an SD card, considering that the mainboard of your 3D printer supports this process:
- Download an up-to-date version of the firmware you would like to use, and ensure that it’s compatible with your Ender 3 and its mainboard version. Downloading pre-compiled firmware (which you can find on Creality’s official website or other community sources) will directly give you the BIN file that you need for the updating process, whereas downloading the source code (such as from Marlin firmware’s official website) will require you to configure and compile the firmware yourself before you can use it for updating.
- Format the microSD card you will be using for the update process with the MBR partition table and the FAT32 filesystem. For the sake of consistency, we highly recommend using a microSD card with less than 8GB capacity, as there are many reports of the Ender 3 not detecting larger capacity cards for unknown reasons.
- Copy the firmware file into the microSD card. For the update process to work, the firmware file should have the BIN filetype (.bin extension), be the only file present in the microSD card, and should have a unique name that you haven’t used for updating the firmware before. For example, you can use today’s date, followed by the number of updates you have performed in letters (such as firmware061922a.bin for the first update of the day on 19 June 2022), to ensure that the filename is unique.
- Power your Ender 3 off.
- Insert the microSD card into your Ender 3’s SD card slot.
- Power your Ender 3 on.
After following these steps, your Ender 3 will be powered on, but the LCD screen will be blank for a while as the firmware update takes place.
Upon success, your Ender 3 should boot with the updated version of the firmware, which you can verify by either going to the About Printer section and comparing the version number you see on the screen to the one you downloaded or checking the contents of the SD card you have used for the flashing process, where the firmware file you have used should have the CUR filetype instead of BIN.
There is no denying that updating the firmware of your Ender 3 with an SD card is a significant user experience improvement over the older method that requires you to flash a bootloader first and perform the update through a USB connection afterward.
To quickly recap, while you can indeed update the firmware of your Ender 3 only by using an SD card, this is only possible if your Ender 3 shipped with one of the newer motherboards that has a 32-bit microcontroller, with older motherboards that have 8-bit microcontrollers still requiring a USB connection.
While there is no denying that updating the firmware of your Ender 3 with an SD card is a massive advantage due to its simplicity compared to the USB method, it’s worth noting that there are still some factors you will need to keep in mind for the update process to operate as intended.
Mike started his 3D printing journey with the Anet A8 when it first came out back in 2017, and has been obsessed with 3D printers ever since. Nowadays, he primarily uses his Ender 3 to print functional parts that make his life more convenient whenever possible.