I'm building a doohickey that uses 4 pairs of momentary switches. For prototyping, I'm using standard little pushbutton switches that plug into a breadboard, two for each pair. When I've finished the code and am done playing with it, I want to use 4 SPDT momentary toggle switches instead of the four pairs of pushbuttons.

Now, with my limited knowledge of electrical/electronic stuff, it seems to me that the SPDT toggle switch is no different from two SPST pushbuttons. I've learned, however, that the real world doesn't always do what you think it should (I'm a software guy where programs do exactly what you tell them to do) so I thought I should ask before I do something I'll regret.

I'm not planning on using any resistors or anything; each button just goes from GND to a GPIO pin and the code sets them up thusly:

GPIO.setup(switch01, GPIO.IN, pull_up_down=GPIO.PUD_UP)

It works as-is with the pushbuttons; will I be getting myself in trouble if I switch to the SPDT toggles?

  • I'm a software guy, but programs never do exactly what I tell them to do!
    – almcnicoll
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 10:04
  • 1
    @almcnicoll Programs always do what you tell them to. They may not do what you want them to do, however.
    – NomadMaker
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 17:47
  • That's fair. I split that same hair whenever someone tells me that their software does the wrong thing!
    – almcnicoll
    Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 16:00
  • Programmer's Lament: I hate this gosh-darned thing; I think I'm gonna sell it! It never does just what I want but only what I tell it! (dates back at least 40 years.) Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 17:14

3 Answers 3


Only reasons I would NOT use them are:

  • You end up with a connector not connected to anything and this can be misleading long term as you may wonder why
  • Some can be physically larger
  • Some can cost more though not normally an issue for the hobby
  • Labels on the switch can have both positions marked
  • 1
    For my purpose, all three connectors would be used -- the common one would go to GND, the other two would each go to a different GPIO pin. Size is not an issue in this case, nor is (within reason) cost. It will, hopefully, have custom switchplates (dependent upon my woodworking skills), so I'm not worried about that. Thanks! Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 3:35
  • 2
    Why would you need to trigger 2 pins from one switch?
    – CoderMike
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 8:00
  • @CoderMike - Push up to save the current time, push down to retrieve the saved time. Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 18:40

To answer your question, yes it is probably perfectly fine to use an SPDT in place of a SPST. Depending on the design, if it is soldered in place it may even add some additional mechanical stability to the switch.

But to also clarify it is NOT like 2 separate SPST switches. It just allows for making a connection in the normal (unpressed) state, in addition the pressed state that an SPST provides. This could be used to explicitly set a GPIO pin high or low (not necessary in your case since you are using a software pullup), or to activate one of two different GPIO pins depending on if the switch is pressed or not.

Just be sure and orient the SPDT switch the appropriate way so that it doesn't work the opposite way you expect. This is where you need to check the specs or just test the switch with a multimeter to determine which pins make the connection you want. It is not always what you think.

  • I will definitely test my switches but they're supposed to be Mom-Off-Mom switches. Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 17:15

Hardware does what you tell it to do just as the software does, unless you rely on undefined behavior. The difference is that software projects use decent compilers even for hobby grade stuff, so everyone gets a warning when reading a variable they didn't initialize. Leaving an input pin unconnected (the hardware equivalent) will also produce a warning in any decent electrical CAD, but most hobby projects don't use any.

An SPDT switch is similar to two SPST buttons in series, with one important difference. AN SPDT guarantees that the switch is never connected to both poles at once. Practically, you can wire one pole directly to 3V, the other pole to ground, and have the switch which toggles between the two. Doing so with two SPST buttons is asking for trouble, as you'll get a dead short when both buttons are pushed simultaneously:


simulate this circuit – Schematic created using CircuitLab

What you seem to plan to do (grounding one of the two pins attached to the poles) will work fine with an SPDT, unless you actually need to ground both pins at once.

  • 2
    It is not necessarily true that the common of an SPDT switch is never connected to both poles at once. I think toggle switches pretty much always have 'break-before-make' behaviour but slide switches may well 'make-before-break', and rotary switches can be found in both varieties. It may not be obvious why you would want make-before-break but there are situations where it would be the preferred behaviour.
    – nekomatic
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 11:56
  • @nekomatic Do you have an example of such a 'make-before-break' SPDT? Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 13:26
  • See digikey.com/products/en/switches/slide-switches/213 and choose Shorting (MBB) in the Contact Timing filter, for example.
    – nekomatic
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 15:35
  • @DmitryGrigoryev: A guitar with two pickups will usually have a 3-position make-before-break switch, wired to select #1 only, both pickups, or #2 only.
    – supercat
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 17:19
  • @nekomatic - I had not heard of "make-before-break" switches. That's the sort of issue I wouldn't have thought of, not being a hardware guy. I'll check for that. Thanks! Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 17:17

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