Quick setup guide for Agilent E2050A GPIB Gateway

For the convenience of my customers, I compiled a quickie setup guide so they don’t have the RTFM.

  1. Reset the instrument to factory state by holding down CONFIG PRESET switch while applying power, because you want to know the IP address for sure so you can get into the instrument.
  2. E2050A does not have DHCP. Most likely your network doesn’t have a ancient BOOTP server, so it means you are better off letting E2050A have a static IP address.
  3. The default static IP address is 192.0.0.192, under subnet mask 255.255.255.0
  4. Most likely your internal network is not 192.0.0.XXX, so you might want to use a computer with a network card (NIC) to talk to the device directly* (point-to-point) first so you can gain entry to the E2050A and change its network configuration.
  5. The NIC on the computer talking to the E2050A must be set to an IP address in the same subnet. This means only the last (rightmost) group of the NIC’s static IP address can be different. An example for the computer’s NIC static IP setting: 192.0.0.190 with subnet 255.255.255.0.
  6. Now you can talk to the E2050A directly by addressing 192.0.0.190. If it’s a dedicated computer for an automation set and you don’t want it to talk to the rest of the network, you are done.

Most likely you will want to put the E2050A on your home/business network for convenience, unless you want to eliminate network security issues. Then you’ll need to follow a few more steps:

  1. Telnet to the E2050A at 192.0.0.192 to change its static IP address and subnet to fit your network. After saving and rebooting, you must address it with the new IP address you assigned (obviously!).
  2. Note that the default (SICL) interface name on the E2050A is “hpib”, which is different from E5810A’s default “gpib0”. Either change it on the E2050A (it’s called “hpib-name”) or enter the “hpib” for interface name on Agilent’s I/O suite.
  3. You can leave the rest of the settings alone in Agilent I/O suite if you want to simply talk (in its raw, instrument-specific GPIB commands) to the unit without using VISA or SICL layers (standardized syntax).

E2050A has the same software communication interface as E5810A, so you can just select E5810A as the remote interface for the E2050A and remember to enter the correct interface name as discussed above.

Note that E2050A does not work properly (won’t detect) on the redesigned Keysight-branded I/O Suite until version 2019. Please either use version 2019 and after OR the older Agilent branded I/O Suite.

I have E2050A as well as E5810A for sale. Please contact me from my business website (www.humgar.com) or my phone 949-682-8145.


* Unless you are using a very ancient computer, the NIC can auto-negotiate direct connection that you can simply use any regular old straight RJ-45 cable. If you have a really old computer, you’ll need a cross-over cable to do point-to-point ethernet.

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GPIB to Ethernet Gateway (Agilent E2050A or E5810A, NI, Tek, ICS) Don't bother with USB-GPIB adapters. Ethernet-GPIB gateways are cheaper and better.

GPIB gateway is a device that allows you to remotely control / talk-to test instruments (as well as ancient printers/plotters, etc) that uses the most popular protocol. It’s so popular and timeless that even new test instrument finds a way to support it. This protocol just wouldn’t die.

It’s usually a good idea to stick with GPIB if you have an automation setup that involves at least ONE piece of test instrument on GPIB. A ethernet port (LXI) on a modern test gear is fine, but you don’t really want to complicate your code managing network connectivity checks for each IP-based instrument and make sure they work together. With GPIB, you can chain 14 instruments with one gateway so you don’t have to worry about network problems if you can connect to any one of the device on the chain.

Here’s a nice GPIB tutorial document if you’d like to get into the nitty-gritty:
http://www.essproducts.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ab48_11.pdf


E2050A is my favorite GPIB gateway due to its compact size. It’s good enough for most purposes, since I don’t really have any instruments that need or support the extra speed from 488.2. The biggest annoyance is that E2050A does not have DHCP, but uses an an ancient BOOTP instead. This means for modern networks, you might as well give it a static IP.

E5810A is the newer revision of E2050A, with the same internal interfaces. That means all software, including Agilent I/O Suite, fully supports E2050A as a E5810A. E5810A comes with a few minor improvements

  • it adds a web interface (not very useful other than upgrading firmware)
  • supports 488.2, which means 9x faster GPIB communication if the instrument supports it
  • DHCP: automatically acquiring IP address

Unfortunately, E5810A is a bigger, partly because the power supply is built-in, and it comes with a LCD screen. Nonetheless, I opened up the unit and the inside has a lot of empty spaces.

Telnet is supported for both E5810A and E2050A. For E2050A, telnet is the only way you can get inside the unit and change the configuration such as IP address and interface name. Telnet is pretty easy to use, just get the free, open-source Putty if your Windows does not come with command line telnet anymore.


There’s a E5810B, but in my opinion, it’s pointless because all it adds is a USB interface and a front switch. If people want a USB interface, they would have bought the much smaller GPIB<->USB module (and also much cheaper new compared to a new E5810B). It’s just a way for Agilent to discontinue support for the earlier models to price differentiate from the units circulating in the used market.

The major downside of USB interfaces is that it requires driver support, which is OS dependent. Keysight can choose to drop support at anytime. You can always fire up a virtual machine to use old software talking to a hardware using TCP/IP, but not reliably with USB (sometimes you get glitches and timing issues). Since Ethernet is better than USB for interfacing GPIB instruments in practically every way, adding a USB interface to a Ethernet GPIB gateway is like bundling garbage.


I’ve tried other gateways such as NI and Tektronix. There are not many NI gateways floating around and I’ve only encountered even fewer Tek gateways. Unless you have poorly written software that hard-codes to NI or Tek stack, I wouldn’t even bother installing NI/Tek GPIB stack as it can confuse some poorly designed software if the 3 stacks are not configured properly to work together peacefully. Just stick with the GPIB stack from the brand that you can easily get used units for cheap.

Be very careful about NI GPIB-ENET: it does not support anything after Windows XP at all, and there’s no way NI will bother to go back and fix it. For this I wouldn’t even want to touch any GPIB gateways done by NI since they are not as thoughtful about backward compatibility compared to HP/Agilent/Keysight.

ICS was popular a while ago making cheap GPIB controllers/converters. However, they don’t work with Agilent’s I/O suite or NI/Tek stack directly, so you are stuck with using it like a serial port. Given that the price of a used HP/Agilent’s GPIB gateway is cheaper than a new ICS gizmo, there’s no point getting ICS stuff anymore.

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