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Access USB devices from Ruby

LIBUSB is a Ruby binding that gives Ruby programmers access to arbitrary USB devices.

  • libusb is a library that gives full access to devices connected via the USB bus. No special kernel driver is thus necessary for accessing USB devices.
  • This Ruby binding supports the API version 1.0 of libusb. Note that the old "legacy" version 0.1.x of libusb uses a completely different API that is covered by the ruby extension ruby-usb .

LIBUSB for Ruby is covered by the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3.


  • Access to descriptors of devices, configurations, interfaces, settings and endpoints
  • Synchronous and asynchronous communication for bulk, control, interrupt and isochronous transfers
  • Support for USB-3.0 descriptors and bulk streams
  • Compatibility layer for ruby-usb (API based on libusb-0.1). See USB for description.


require "libusb"

usb =
device = usb.devices(idVendor: 0x04b4, idProduct: 0x8613).first
device.open_interface(0) do |handle|
  handle.control_transfer(bmRequestType: 0x40, bRequest: 0xa0, wValue: 0xe600, wIndex: 0x0000, dataOut: 1.chr)

LIBUSB::Context#devices is used to get all or only particular devices. After opening and claiming the LIBUSB::Device the resulting LIBUSB::DevHandle can be used to communicate with the connected USB device by LIBUSB::DevHandle#control_transfer, LIBUSB::DevHandle#bulk_transfer, LIBUSB::DevHandle#interrupt_transfer or by using the LIBUSB::Transfer classes.

A LIBUSB::Device can also be used to retrieve information about it, by using the device descriptor attributes. A LIBUSB::Device could have several configurations. You can then decide of which configuration to enable. You can only enable one configuration at a time.

Each LIBUSB::Configuration has one or more interfaces. These can be seen as functional group performing a single feature of the device.

Each LIBUSB::Interface has at least one LIBUSB::Setting. The first setting is always default. An alternate setting can be used independent on each interface.

Each LIBUSB::Setting specifies it's own set of communication endpoints. Each LIBUSB::Endpoint specifies the type of transfer, direction, polling interval and maximum packet size.

See the documentation for a full API description.


  • Linux, MacOS or Windows system with Ruby MRI 1.9/2.x, JRuby or recent version of Rubinius
  • Optionally: libusb C-library version 1.0.8 or any newer version. The system libusb library can be installed like so:

    • Debian or Ubuntu:

      $ sudo apt-get install libusb-1.0-0-dev
    • MacOS: install with homebrew:

      $ brew install libusb

      or macports:

      $ port install libusb
    • Windows: libusb.gem already comes with a precompiled libusb.dll, but you need to install a device driver (see below)


$ gem install libusb

While gem install the system is checked for a usable libusb library installation. If none could be found, a bundled libusb version is built and used, instead.

Latest code can be used in this way:

$ git clone git://
$ bundle
$ rake install_gem


In order to implement a driver for a USB device, it's essential to have a look at the packets that are send to and received back from the USB device. Wireshark has builtin capabilities to sniff USB traffic. On Linux you possibly need to load the usbmon kernel module before start:

    sudo modprobe usbmon

On Windows it's possible to sniff USB, if the USB kernel driver was installed by the Wireshark setup.


Device hotplug support

Support for device hotplugging can be used, if LIBUSB.has_capability?(:CAP_HAS_HOTPLUG) returns true. This requires libusb-1.0.16 or newer on Linux or MacOS. Windows support is still on the way.

A hotplug event handler can be registered with LIBUSB::Context#on_hotplug_event. You then need to call LIBUSB::Context#handle_events in order to receive any events. This can be done as blocking calls (possibly in it's own thread) or by using LIBUSB::Context#pollfds to detect any events to handle.

Usage on Windows

In contrast to Linux, any access to an USB device by LIBUSB on Windows requires a proper driver installed in the system. Fortunately creating such a driver is quite easy with Zadig. Select the interesting USB device, choose WinUSB driver and press "Install Driver". That's it. You may take the generated output directory with it's INI-file and use it for driver installations on other 32 or 64 bit Windows systems.

Cross compiling for Windows

Libusb-gem can be cross built for Windows and Linux operating systems, using the rake-compiler-dock . Just run:

$ rake gem:native

If everything works, there are several platform specific gem files (like libusb-VERSION-x64-mingw32.gem) in the pkg directory.

EventMachine integration

Libusb for Ruby comes with an experimental integration to EventMachine. That API is currently proof of concept - see LIBUSB::Context#eventmachine_register. If you're experienced with EventMachine, please leave a comment.



  • stabilize EventMachine interface