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Home > Analog technology > The Ultimate Guide to Pull-up and Pull-down Resistor

The Ultimate Guide to Pull-up and Pull-down Resistor

Update Time: 2023-10-26 14:07:51


In virtually every digital electronic circuit, you'll commonly encounter the presence of pull-up and pull-down resistors. Their primary function is to properly bias the inputs of digital gates, preventing them from drifting aimlessly in the absence of a specific input condition. In embedded systems, like an Arduino microcontroller, these resistors play a pivotal role in managing input and output signals for communication with external hardware components through the General Purpose Input Output (GPIO).

Incorporating pull-up and pull-down resistors into your circuit empowers you to establish either 'high' or 'low' states effectively. However, neglecting their use, especially when no external devices are connected to your GPIO pins, can lead to a condition where your program reads an "indeterminate" impedance state, commonly referred to as "floating." In this article, we'll explore the pull-up and pull-down resistors, uncover their concept, features, applications, and the difference between these two resistors.

What is Resistor?

Resistors, frequently employed in electronic circuits and devices, serve as vital components for limiting current. They fall under the category of passive components, offering resistance as current flows through them. An array of resistor types is available, with resistance quantified in Ohms, symbolized as Ω.

Pull-up Resistors

What are Pull-up Resistors?

Pull-up resistors are components found in logic circuits, serving the crucial role of maintaining a well-defined logical level at a pin in all circumstances. Digital logic circuits encompass three logic states: high, low, and floating, the latter referring to a high-impedance state when a pin lacks a clear high or low logic level and remains “floating.” For instance, an unconnected input pin on a microcontroller falls into this category, where it neither registers a high nor low logic state, potentially causing the microcontroller to interpret the input value unpredictably as either high or low.

Pull-up resistor circuit.png

Pull-up resistors come to the rescue in such scenarios by anchoring the value to a logical high state, as depicted in the following illustration. In the absence of a pull-up resistor, the MCU's input would be in a floating state when the switch is open, only transitioning to a logical low when the switch is closed.

These pull-up resistors aren't a distinct resistor type; rather, they are standard resistors with fixed values, connected between the voltage supply (typically +5 V, +3.3 V, or +2.5 V) and the respective pin. This connection effectively defines the input or output voltage when there's no active driving signal. A common pull-up resistor value is 4.7 kΩ, although specific applications may necessitate variations, as we'll delve into later in this article.


The figure displays a pull-up resistor circuit integrated within a digital circuit in the form of an inverter. In this configuration, when there is no injection of a low-level signal into the input terminal Ui of the inverter, the pull-up resistor R1 comes into play, ensuring that the input terminal remains consistently at a high logic level. This stability effectively guards against potential disruptions caused by external low-level interference that could otherwise trigger a malfunction in the inverter.

In the absence of a pull-up resistor, the input terminal of the inverter remains suspended, rendering it vulnerable to external low-level interference. This susceptibility can result in an undesired transition of the inverter's output to a high logic level.

Pull up Resistor Circuit.png

Reasons for Usage

Typically, when the IC is employed for single-key triggering, the absence of internal resistance necessitates the connection of an external resistor to maintain the key in an untriggered state or to restore it to its original condition after being triggered.

Digital circuits exhibit three primary states: high level, low level, and high resistance state. In certain scenarios, the high resistance state is undesirable, and its stabilization is achieved by implementing pull-up or pull-down techniques based on specific design requirements.

In this context, certain I/O ports can be configured, while others cannot. Some of these ports are internally integrated, while others are externally linked. The behavior of an I/O port can be likened to that of a transistor. When connected to a resistor and a power supply, the resistor effectively functions as a pull-up resistor, maintaining the port at a high level under normal conditions. Conversely, when connected to the ground via a resistor, the resistor assumes the role of a pull-down resistor, reducing the port to a low level.

The pull-up resistor serves the purpose of supplying current when the bus's driving capability is insufficient. Generally, it augments the current, while the pull-down resistor acts to dissipate the current.

Advantages and Limitations


When connecting a TTL circuit to drive a CMOS circuit, it becomes necessary to address situations where the output high level of the TTL circuit is lower than the lowest high level of the CMOS circuit, typically around 3.5V. To rectify this, the addition of a pull-up resistor at the TTL circuit's output end is required to elevate the output high level.

Here are various scenarios where pull-up resistors are employed:

  • Gate Circuit Enhancement: Pull-up resistors are essential to raise the output high level in gate circuits.

  • Microcontroller Drive Capability: In the case of microcontrollers, pull-up resistors are frequently utilized to bolster the drive capability of output pins.

  • CMOS Chip Handling: On CMOS chips, the prevention of static electricity-related damage necessitates the connection of pull-up resistors to unused pins. This action serves to reduce input impedance and establish a loading shielding path.

pull-up resistor functions.png

  • Signal Enhancement: The introduction of pull resistors to chip pins enhances the output level, subsequently improving the noise tolerance of input signals and fortifying anti-interference capabilities.

  • Electromagnetic Interference Mitigation: Preventing the pins from floating is crucial for enhancing the mainline's resistance to external electromagnetic interference.

  • Suppression of Reflected Wave Interference: In scenarios involving long-line transmission, unmatched resistance can lead to reflected wave interference. The use of pull resistors helps match resistance and effectively suppress interference.


Pull-up resistors can sometimes lead to additional energy consumption when current passes through them, potentially resulting in a delay in the output level. Moreover, specific logic chips exhibit sensitivity to transient power supply states introduced by pull-up resistors. To address this concern, it becomes necessary to incorporate an isolated voltage source with adequate filtration.


It's important to take into account that an excessively large pull-up resistor can lead to a delay in the output level, often referred to as an RC delay.

Typically, the output pins of CMOS gate circuits should not be left floating; they ought to be connected to pull-up resistors, establishing a high-level state.

The principles for selecting pull-up resistors are as follows:

  1. Balancing power efficiency and the chip's current-sinking capacity, opt for a sufficiently large resistance. Larger resistance results in smaller current consumption.

    pull-up resistors cautions.png

  2. To ensure an ample drive current, choose a smaller pull-up resistance. Smaller resistance corresponds to higher current flow.

  3. For high-speed circuits, be cautious of employing excessively large pull-up resistors, which may lead to signal edge degradation.

Calculation Principle

1. Principle for Determining Maximum Value

The key to selecting an appropriate pull-up resistor lies in ensuring it is significantly smaller than the load impedance, thus validating a high-level output. For instance, when the load impedance measures 1K ohm (We also have more information on 1k Ohm resistors waiting for you to explore!), and the power supply voltage is 5 volts, requiring a high level not lower than 4.5 volts, the maximum pull-up resistance (R) should satisfy R ≧ 1K ohm. This implies that the maximum permissible value for R is 1K ohms. Any resistance value exceeding this threshold would result in a high-level output below 4.5 volts.

2. Principle for Calculating Minimum Value

To prevent exceeding the rated current of a transistor, the minimum pull-up resistor value should be determined. In the case of a non-field-effect transistor, such as a standard bipolar junction transistor (BJT), the minimum value can be calculated based on the transistor's saturation current.

For instance, if Rmin = 5V / 47mA = 106 ohms, a resistance value below this threshold will cause the transistor to enter an oversaturated state. Conversely, if the resistance surpasses this value, the tube's conduction resistance will increase, which is unfavorable for low-level output.

Pull-down Resistors 

What are Pull-down Resistors?

Pull-down resistors serve a purpose analogous to pull-up resistors but with the objective of grounding the pin to a logical low state. These resistors are linked between the ground and the appropriate pin on a device. To illustrate, consider the following diagram where a pushbutton switch connects the supply voltage to a microcontroller pin.

Pull-down resistor.png

In this configuration, when the switch is closed, the microcontroller input registers a logical high value. Conversely, when the switch is open, the pull-down resistor functions to draw the input voltage down to the ground (signifying a logical zero state), preventing any undefined conditions at the input. It's crucial for the pull-down resistor to possess higher resistance than the impedance of the logic circuit. Otherwise, it could excessively reduce the voltage, causing the input at the pin to consistently read as a logical low value, irrespective of the switch's position.


Pull-down Resistor Circuit.png

Reasons for Usage

A pull-down resistor plays a crucial role in ensuring that inputs to logic systems consistently reach their expected logic levels, particularly when external devices are disconnected or exhibit high impedance. Its primary function is to maintain the wire at a predetermined low logic level, even in the absence of active connections with other devices. This pull-down resistor effectively keeps the logic signal close to zero volts (0V) when there are no other active devices connected, thus averting any undefined states at the input. To achieve this, it's imperative for the pull-down resistor to exhibit greater resistance than the impedance of the logic circuit. Failing this condition would render the input voltage at the pin persistently locked at a logically low value, regardless of the switch's position.

In practical terms, when the switch is open, the gate input voltage is drawn down to ground level. In contrast, when the switch is closed, the gate's input voltage transitions to Vin. Without the presence of this resistor, voltage levels would essentially hover between these two voltage extremes.

Pull-down Resistors Usage.png

Much like the pull-up resistor depicted in the initial figure, the pull-down resistors featured in this circuit work diligently to actively regulate the voltage between the VCC and a microcontroller pin, especially when the switch is in the open position. However, unlike the pull-up resistor, the pull-down resistor serves to lower the pin to a low value rather than elevating it to a high value. This pull-down resistor, connected to ground or 0V, sets the digital logic level pin to the default or 0 state until the switch is pressed, causing the logic level pin to transition to a high state. As a result, a minimal current flows from the 5-V source to the ground when the switch is closed and the pull-down resistor comes into play, effectively preventing the logic level pin from being inadvertently connected to the 5-V source and shorted.

Advantages and Limitations


Using pull-down transistors offers several advantages in various circuit applications. They prove to be versatile and compact, eliminating the need for parallel placement within the circuit. Moreover, pull-down transistors can effectively accommodate larger resistors than their counterparts, allowing them to handle voltage inputs ranging from 2.5V to 5V. These components are particularly beneficial for circuits that demand lower power consumption, as they precisely regulate current flow based on the sensitivity of the pull-down resistor.

Additionally, pull-down transistors contribute to rapid circuit switching, making them invaluable in situations like control panels. They play a significant role in controlling the activation and deactivation of circuits, ensuring efficient operation in diverse applications.


The primary limitation of the pull-down resistor lies in its propensity to consume a noticeable current even in the absence of an active input signal. This characteristic can result in an undesirable expenditure of energy.

Therefore, it's essential to exercise caution when selecting the resistor value to mitigate this undesired current draw.

Calculation Principle

The Pull-Up resistor serves to maintain the pin in a "HIGH" state when there's no input connection, while the Pull-Down resistor keeps the pin "LOW" under the same condition.

The pull-down resistor is established by connecting the resistor to the ground, as opposed to Vcc.

The Pull-Down resistance can be calculated using the formula:



VIL (MAX) represents the maximum LOW-level input voltage.

IIL stands for LOW-level input current.

All of these parameters can be found in the datasheet.

For example:

R = 0.8 / 1.6 x 10 ^-3 = 0.5K ohm

This calculation suggests that a maximum of 500 ohms should be used for the Pull-Down resistor, but it's advisable to select a resistor value less than 500 ohms. We also have more information on 500 ohm resistors waiting for you to explore!

Pull-up and Pull-down Resistor Values

Selecting the right value for the pull-up (or pull-down) resistor hinges on two critical factors. The first factor concerns power dissipation. Should the resistance be too low, it will allow a substantial current to flow through the pull-up resistor, resulting in excess heat generation when the switch is engaged. This scenario, known as a strong pull-up, is best avoided when power efficiency is a priority. The second factor revolves around the pin voltage when the switch is unengaged. If the pull-up resistor's resistance is excessively high and combines with a notable leakage current from the input pin, it can lead to an inadequate input voltage when the switch remains open. This situation is termed a weak pull-up. The specific resistance value of the pull-up depends on the impedance of the input pin, which is closely linked to the pin's leakage current.

A practical guideline is to opt for a resistor that's at least 10 times smaller than the input pin impedance. In bipolar logic families operating at 5 V, a typical pull-up resistor value falls within the range of 1–5 kΩ. For switch and resistive sensor applications, a typical pull-up resistor value is between 1–10 kΩ. When in doubt, a safe starting point for switch applications is around 4.7 kΩ. Certain digital circuits, such as CMOS families, exhibit minimal input leakage current, permitting the use of much higher resistance values, ranging from approximately 10 kΩ to 1 MΩ. However, it's important to note that larger resistance values can slow down the input pin's response to voltage changes. This delay is due to the coupling between the pull-up resistor and the combined pin and wire capacitance at the switching node, effectively forming an RC circuit. The larger the product of R (resistance) and C (capacitance), the more time is required for the capacitance to charge and discharge, resulting in a slower circuit response. In high-speed circuits, a large pull-up resistor can potentially limit the speed at which the pin can reliably transition between states.

Practical Example of Pull-up and Pull-down Resistors

Let's explore a scenario involving a logic circuit operating with a 3.3V supply source and an acceptable logic high voltage of 3V, with a maximum allowable current sink of 30uA. In this context, the selection of a suitable pull-up resistor can be determined using the following formula:

pull-up resistor using the formula.png

Now, for the same example as previously mentioned, where the circuit accommodates 1V as the maximum logic low voltage and can source up to 200uA of current, the corresponding pull-down resistor value would be calculated as follows:

pull-up resistor using the formula 2.png

Applications of Pull-up and Pull-down Resistors

Pull-up and pull-down resistors find frequent applications when connecting a switch or other input device to a microcontroller or digital gates. Many microcontrollers come equipped with programmable internal pull-up and/or pull-down resistors, reducing the necessity for external components. This simplifies the direct interfacing of switches with these microcontrollers. While pull-up resistors tend to be more commonly used than pull-down resistors, certain microcontroller families offer both pull-up and pull-down options.

These resistors are frequently employed to establish controlled current flow into a resistive sensor before converting the sensor's output voltage signal to digital data.

In the realm of the I2C protocol bus, pull-up resistors serve to configure a single pin for input or output functions. When this pin is not connected to the bus, it assumes a high-impedance state.

Moreover, pull-down resistors play a role in output scenarios by providing a defined output impedance.


In conclusion, pull-up and pull-down resistors are vital for maintaining signal integrity in electronic circuits. Understanding their functions and differences is key to designing reliable and stable systems.

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  • What is the difference between pull-up and pulldown resistors?
  • The concept is straightforward: A pull-up resistor elevates the voltage to the designated “high” logic level (be it 5V, 3.3V, or the specified level) when no signal actively steers the input. Conversely, a pull-down resistor brings the voltage down to the prescribed “low” logic level (0V or its vicinity) in the absence of an actively driven input signal.

  • What are pull-up and pull-down resistors used for?
  • In electronic logic circuits, a pull-up resistor or pull-down resistor is a component employed to establish a predetermined state for a signal. It is commonly deployed in conjunction with devices like switches and transistors, which physically disrupt the connection of successive components to either ground or VCC.

  • What is the purpose of a pull-down resistor?
  • The pull-down resistor maintains the logic signal in proximity to zero volts (0V) when there are no other active devices connected.

  • How do you calculate pull-up and pull-down resistors?
  • To determine pull-up and pull-down resistance, we must begin by utilizing Ohm’s Law formula: Resistance = Voltage/Current, represented as R = V/I.

  • Where do you use a pull-up resistor?
  • A pull-up resistor can be employed when connecting logic gates to input devices.

  • What happens without a pull-down resistor?
  • The input voltage will hover around approximately half of the supply voltage.

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