What is the RPi GPIO Pin output current?

I assume it's more than 10mA since it can drive LEDs without any problem but what is the spec?


4 Answers 4


After reset it's 8mA. You can program it up to 16mA though

  • i got used to PIC where the rated current are fixed/rated, didn't expect it to be programmable. Do you have any idea how to program it to 16mA? or what's the default value? Jul 18, 2012 at 2:29
  • 1
    @JeeShenLee, the default is 8mA Jul 18, 2012 at 2:34
  • 4
    Any chance of some example code? Jul 18, 2012 at 6:30
  • The link is no longer working. Sep 16, 2015 at 23:11

To program the PADS registers to alter the output current, the following shows the pertinent code:

#define BCM2708_PERI_BASE        0x20000000
#define GPIO_BASE                (BCM2708_PERI_BASE + 0x200000) /* GPIO   */
#define PADS_BASE                (BCM2708_PERI_BASE + 0x100000) /* PADS   */

#define PADS0   *(pads+11)
#define PADS1   *(pads+12)
#define PADS2   *(pads+13)

// I/O access - Reqires maping.
volatile unsigned *pads;

Then from your code, after mmap'ing the pads (see here) pointer you should be able to set the pads registers like so,

PADS0 = (0xFFFFFFF8 & PADS0) | 7; // Sets GPIO 0-27 to 16mA
PADS1 = (0xFFFFFFF8 & PADS1) | 4; // Sets GPIO 28-45 to 10mA
PADS2 = (0xFFFFFFF8 & PADS2);     // Sets GPIO 46-53 to 2mA
  • Have you tested this? I reckon this is a seg fault? Jul 19, 2012 at 8:43
  • I realised I can't test it, until this afternoon, but will update with complete working example.
    – Dog Ears
    Jul 19, 2012 at 8:49
  • why would this seg fault?
    – Dog Ears
    Jul 19, 2012 at 8:50
  • Because 0x20100000 isn't in your virtual memory. Jul 19, 2012 at 8:52
  • I can understand what you mean about mapping etc; it would be nice to see that updated at some point so that the code works as downloaded. Jul 19, 2012 at 8:58

If you can bear some of my old C code, here is an example of performing the mapping in C

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <sys/ioctl.h>
#include <fcntl.h>
#include <sys/mman.h>
#include <limits.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <time.h>
#include <signal.h>
#include <termios.h>
#include <ctype.h>

#define FALSE                    (0)
#define TRUE                     (!FALSE)
#define NULL_FD                  ((int)0)
#define MAP_NAME_LEN             (20)
#define NO_MASK                  (UINT_MAX)

#define BCM2708_PERI_BASE        0x20000000
#define GPIO_BASE                (BCM2708_PERI_BASE + 0x200000) /* GPIO   */
#define PADS_BASE                (BCM2708_PERI_BASE + 0x100000) /* PADS   */

#define PADS0                    (11 * 4)
#define PADS1                    (12 * 4)
#define PADS2                    (13 * 4)

#define PADS_CURRENT_MASK        (0x00000007)

typedef struct raw_memory {
    void *accessor;             // Base location for memory access
    unsigned int offset;        // Offset into base for the starting point
    unsigned int length;
    char name[MAP_NAME_LEN + 1];
} raw_memory;

int memFile = NULL_FD;
raw_memory rawMemPads= {MAP_FAILED, 0, 0, "PADS"};

void RegWrite(raw_memory *base, unsigned int address, unsigned int mask, unsigned int value);
unsigned int RegRead(raw_memory *base, unsigned int address);
BOOL MapMemory(raw_memory *base, int device, unsigned int startAddress, size_t size);
void UnmapMemory(raw_memory *base);

void RegWrite(raw_memory *base, unsigned int address, unsigned int mask, unsigned int value) {
    if (base->accessor == MAP_FAILED) {
        printf("RegWrite failed due to an unmapped base (%s)!\n", base->name);
    } else if (address >= base->length) {
        printf("RegWrite failed due to address out of bounds (%s, 0x%08X)!\n", base->name, address);
    } else {
        if (mask != NO_MASK) {
            unsigned int read = RegRead(base, address);
            value &= mask;
            value |= (~mask) & read;
        *((unsigned int *)(base->accessor + base->offset + address)) = value;

BOOL MapMemory(raw_memory *base, int device, unsigned int startAddress, size_t size) {
    // Unmap first if already allocated
    if (base->accessor != MAP_FAILED) {
    // Align start address to the page size (we can only map page aligned blocks)
    base->offset = (unsigned int)(startAddress / getpagesize()) * getpagesize();
    // Compute the necessary size to cover the alignment
    base->length = (unsigned int)size;
    size += (size_t)(startAddress - base->offset);
    // Map the memory from the device to a local address
    base->accessor = mmap(NULL, size, PROT_READ|PROT_WRITE, MAP_SHARED, device, base->offset);
    if (base->accessor == MAP_FAILED) {
        return FALSE;
    } else {
        // Calculate the offset needed by read / write functions to get startAddress as 0
        base->offset = startAddress - base->offset;
        return TRUE;

void UnmapMemory(raw_memory *base) {
    if (base->accessor != MAP_FAILED) {
        munmap(base->accessor, base->offset + base->length);
        base->accessor = MAP_FAILED;
    } else {

int main(void) {
    // Enable raw memory access
    if (memFile == NULL_FD) memFile = open("/dev/mem", O_RDWR | O_SYNC); 
    if (memFile == NULL_FD) {
        printf("Failed to open /dev/mem (are we root?) !\n");
        return 1;

    // Map GPIO memory
    if (!MapMemory(&rawMemPads, memFile, PADS_BASE, 1024)) {
        printf("Failed to map GPIO device memory !\n");
        return 2;

    // Actual work here
    RegWrite(&rawMem, PADS0, PADS_CURRENT_MASK, 7); // Sets GPIO 0-27 to 16mA
    RegWrite(&rawMem, PADS1, PADS_CURRENT_MASK, 4); // Sets GPIO 28-45 to 10mA
    RegWrite(&rawMem, PADS2, PADS_CURRENT_MASK, 0); // Sets GPIO 46-53 to 2mA

    // Any other code here

    // Unmap the GPIO memory
    if (rawMemPads.accessor != MAP_FAILED) {

    // Disable raw memory access
    if (memFile != NULL_FD) {
        memFile = NULL_FD;

    return 0;

Excuse the length, it is a long bit of setup so that the main bit of code for doing masked writes is short, also it allows for out-of-alignment pages, which is not really an issue here (I had this problem previously with a different embedded register map). Note that you will need to run the binary as root or the mapping will fail as permission denied to /dev/mem

  • Does not compile, rawMem is not declared in main(). Also "BOOL" is not a valid datatype but is fixed with including <stdbool.h> and changing it to lowercase "bool".
    – timonsku
    Jun 15, 2016 at 12:42

I know this thread is ancient (but not closed!) however it was really helpful to me so I am contributing what might be a useful update.

Using pigpio you can set the GPIO pin current via "PAD strength" for a group (PAD) of pins. Using the interactive pigs tool. To set PAD0 (GPIOs 0-27) to 16mA (see pigs "pads" cmd:

pigs pads 0 16

You can also use the native C, pigpiod pipe interface, C pigpiod or Python gpiod (pgpiod is a daemon that serves up a socket interface to pigpio). Before you use pigs or any of the other pigpio d socket-based bindings, make sure you do

sudo pigpiod

I tested it and it on RPi 4B (32 bit Raspbian) and I was able to drive a 13 mA load.

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