Good day all,

I have a 5 volt I2C device that I want to use with my pi. Am I able to pull the bus up via resistors to the 5-volts that my device runs off of, or does it need to be 3.3 volts? If it must be 3.3v, can I just create a simple voltage divider from my 5 volt rail?

I guess the big question is, does it matter what voltage I tie my I2C bus to when using the rpi?

Thank you!

  • 1
    Use a level shifter: raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/a/49775/5538
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 16:18
  • Sorry for the confusion. The I2C logic level is the same on the device I am using(3v3), it just needs 5 volts to power it. I just wanted to pull the bus line up to the 5 volts, but since PI is 3v3, can I not just use a voltage divider?
    – Lanet Rino
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 17:02
  • 1
    You are in luck then, no shifter needed. There are several (non-GPIO) dedicated 5V power pins on the Pi. Just make sure the device doesn't want too much current -- most Pis the total is limited to 2 A (the Pi 3 is 2.5A), and the pi itself and other peripherals will want a large chunk of that. If you need more you will need to use an external supply -- make sure to use a common ground!
    – goldilocks
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


The Pi's GPIO are all 3V3. Exposing them to 5V can damage the GPIO and/or the Pi.

The Pi's I2C bus operates at 3V3 - to that end hard wired 1k8 resistors are wired between GPIO 2/3 (SDA/SCL) and 3V3.

  • So are the I2C pins/SPI pins considered GPIO pins as well? Also, how do you determine the value of resistor to use? Don't you traditionally use 4.7k or 10k resistors for pull-ups/downs?
    – Lanet Rino
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 16:05
  • Any pin connected to a GPIO is a GPIO. All the GPIO may be configured in multiple modes, e.g. serial,SPI, I2C, PWM, clock, they are still GPIO. I don't know why 1k8 was chosen on the Pi.
    – joan
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 18:06

Some of the other comments are true, but not totally clear.

You can use the Pi I²C to connect to another I²C device, even if it is powered by 5V provided there are no pull-up resistors to 5V.

I routinely do this, and it works. Technically the High level output is marginal, but works in all cases I have tried.

If you want to be safe, use a bi-directional MOSFET level shifter. Many of the modules available have a combination of MOSFET level shifter and resistive voltage dividers. Resistive voltage dividers will NOT work with I²C, because of the pullups.

  • It may be worth noting that I2C multiplexors will normally transparently handle 5V devices connected to the Pi's 3V3 bus.
    – joan
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 10:02
  • Why cannot I not use two resistors to create a divider off of the 5v rail? I am confused.
    – Lanet Rino
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 19:22
  • @LanetRino This is not the place for a discussion of Circuit Theory; try EE or read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%A9venin%27s_theorem
    – Milliways
    Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 0:10

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