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Using BU-353 GPS Receiver with Newer MacOS

Posted: Tue Dec 25, 2018 12:21 pm
by jimh
Many years ago I bought a GlobalSAT BU-353 GPS receiver with USB interface. At the time of purchase the BU-353 in c.2009 was a very up-tp-date GPS receiver; in 2018 the BU-353 is a bit off the pace, but it remains a very useful device.

The GlobalSAT BU-353 uses a Prolific PL2303 USB chip. In order to use this device with a MacOS computer the proper USB driver software must be loaded. As the MacOS system has progressed in its System 10 evolution, the USB driver software from Prolific has been updated to keep pace. If an out-of-date USB driver is loaded into the MacOS 10 operating system, there may be problems. A typical problem is for the USB system to hang, which will prevent the system from shutting down. The USB driver must be updated to keep pace with the MacOS system version.

One of my Macintosh computers is running MacOS 10.12.6, also called the SIERRA version. Without the proper USB driver, using the BU-353 GPS receiver caused the USB system to hang, and it was impossible to shut down the computer properly. An update to the driver was necessary.

To find an updated Prolific PL2303 USB driver for MacOS 10.12, I visited the Prolific website, and downloaded the appropriate driver software:

  1. Browse to
  2. Sign-in using the id and password combination guest and guest
  3. Follow hypertext link to
  4. Scroll to find "Mac OS X Universal Binary Driver v1.6.1 (PKG file format)”
  5. Download the .zip archive file at
  6. Extract the payload from the .zip archive and move to a convenient location in your home directory
  7. Open the .pdf file and follow the installation instructions

Checking for Installation
To verify you have installed the driver and it's the proper version, plug in the BU-353 to a USB port, then run the System Report (under "About this Mac" under Apple Menu). You should find the driver as shown below:

Fig. 1. From "System Report" output, the Prolific driver is shown.
MacOS_AboutScreenCapture.png (94.79 KiB) Viewed 5453 times

Re: Using BU-353 GPS Receiver with Newer MacOS

Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2018 10:01 am
by jimh
Yesterday I got a bit distracted, and l left the BU-353 connected to the USB port for many hours. I had been running an old application, GPS UTILITY. I re-started GPS UTILITY, but it could not see the data from the BU-353. I tried running a terminal TTY, but no data there, either. I then tried to shut down the Mac. It was hanging on shutdown. Fortunately I was able to force a power-off with the power button. On restart there was no file corruption--phew. I am not sure if the problem was the USB driver or the old application. I will experiment further and post more as I discover it.

Re: Using BU-353 GPS Receiver with Newer MacOS

Posted: Fri Dec 28, 2018 3:25 pm
by jimh
After more testing, I found that the installation of the Prolific USB driver (described above) produced a very unstable system. The driver could be opened and would communicate with the BU-353 device, but once the application using the driver was closed, the USB system was left in a hanging condition. And the computer could not be shut-down or restarted.

After reading a number of other reports of similar problems, I decided to spend $10 and buy a commercial product, sold by MAC-USB-SERIAL.COM. They provide a money-back guarantee their driver will work with the Prolific 2302 chip set. They even have a free test application that will detect what chip set is in a connected device. I registered, paid for, and downloaded their PL2303 driver for MacOS 10.12, installed the driver, and found it works. It is easy to install, and this driver completely cured the problem with the USB bus hanging up. If getting a Prolific PL2303 USB device to work is worth $10 to you, stop banging your head against the wall--just buy this driver. See

Believe me, it is not in my nature to give up and pay for a solution, but I could see no end in sight for success with the other options. And every time I had to force the computer to shut-down by holding the power button, the integrity of the file system was at risk.

Re: Using BU-353 GPS Receiver with Newer MacOS

Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2019 6:52 pm
by porthole
I don't use the item you refer to here, but perhaps you have a solution or suggestion for me.

I have a Garmin GPSmap 476, a great little GPS that Garmin no longer supports, although they continue to support the aviation version.
This GPS is a street navigator, chart plotter, video bottom recorder, XM and XM weather with real time doppler radar (when subscribed). Waterproof and multiple mounts. I really think Garmin stopped supporting it because it is such a great unit and many people I know with one won't give it up.
Mine goes from the truck to the motorcycle to the boat. I have even taken it on planes and used it during cross country flights.

The GPS uses a USB cable to interface with a computer and will work with either Windows OS or MacOS.

My MacBook Pro is a late 2013 with USB 3.0 ports. The Garmin will not communicate with the USB 3.0 standard. I have tried multiple adapters and port extensions to no avail. When I want to upload or download to the Garmin I have to use a dreadfully slow old Windows laptop.

I really like this GPS for its versatility, and I have just sent it out for battery and whatever software service it needs.

And thoughts?

Re: Using BU-353 GPS Receiver with Newer MacOS

Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2019 10:02 am
by jimh
DUANE--I don't own any devices with a USB 3.0 port, so I have not experienced a problem like you are having. If the GARMIN device is as popular as you suspect, I would think someone must have figured out how to interface it to a USB 3.0 port. I can't offer any advice, except what you have already tried, that is, using some sort of USB adaptor.

Try downloading the USB utility I mentioned above:

Run the utility on your MacOS machine. It will identify the USB chip in the Garmin. Once you see what chip is in the Garmin, you might benefit from one of the improved drivers I mentioned above. There does seem to be a problem with the most recent versions of MacOS and USB drivers. The MacOS changed to reduce the risk of malicious attacks from attaching a USB device. Your problem might not be strictly a USB-version problem but a driver problem.

Re: Using BU-353 GPS Receiver with Newer MacOS

Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2019 3:22 pm
by porthole
Thanks, I'll give it a try when I get the unit back.