How to Use a Digital Storage Oscilloscope


Advancements in digital technology have significantly changed test and debugging tools compared to their older counterparts. Digital storage oscilloscopes take advantage of these improvements by adding features not commonly found in analog oscilloscopes, such as LCD displays and data storage memory. Due to these changes, digital storage oscilloscopes are controlled slightly differently and require some knowledge before using one.

Things You'll Need

  • Digital storage oscilloscope
  • Probes
  • Device under test

Continuous Sweep Mode

  • Select the channel your probe is hooked up to on the oscilloscope and connect the probe tip to the signal you wish to measure on the device under test. Make sure the ground clip of the probe is also connected to your reference voltage.

  • Set the "Volts/Division" and "Time/Division" controls to the median value. This may make the signal appear small depending on your oscilloscope's capabilities. Make sure any magnification or zoom features are disabled as well.

  • Disable the trigger function by setting the capture mode to "Auto." Triggers will be enabled later to capture a transient event.

  • Enter capture mode by depressing the "Run" button. The measured signal should be viewable on the oscilloscope. If not, adjust the vertical and horizontal position settings until the signal is centered on the screen.

  • Zoom in vertically by decreasing the "Volts/Division" value. As you zoom in, the amplitude of the signal will become larger. Adjust the "Volts/Division" setting until the signal is fully expanded vertically on the display.

  • Change the "Time/Division" setting to adjust the horizontal resolution of the waveform. The correct setting will depend on the signal's frequency. The view of the waveform should now be optimal. If you wish to pause the display, depress the "Stop" or "Run" button.

Triggered Sweep Mode

  • Enable the sweep function by setting the capture mode to "Normal" or "Trigger."

  • Select the type of event you want to trigger on. Digital storage oscilloscopes offer standard triggers such as rising edge and falling edge, as well as advanced triggers including pulse width, transition time and logic patterns. Pick the trigger appropriate for the signal you want to capture.

  • Adjust the settings specific to your trigger type. This could be the edge to be triggered on, the pulse width or the rise time, for example.

  • Enter capture mode if you had previously paused the display. Watch as a single sweep of your waveform is captured. Unlike analog oscilloscopes, digital storage oscilloscopes have the ability to capture and store pre-trigger data, allowing you to view a portion of the signal occurring before the trigger event.

  • Increase the "Time/Division" setting a few values and capture another sweep of your signal. Notice how much more waveform data is available to view. Another feature of digital storage oscilloscopes is having a large amount of storage memory. This allows you to capture up to seconds of a waveform, store it and zoom in for further analysis. Decrease the "Time/Division" setting to zoom in.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear a grounding strap around your ankle or wrist to protect equipment from static discharge.

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