PIO Unit Testing

PIO Unit Testing allows segregating each part of the firmware/program and test that the individual parts are working correctly. Using PIO Unit Testing Engine you can execute the same tests on the local host machine (native), on the multiple local embedded devices/boards (connected to local host machine), or in both cases. In the last case, PIO Plus builds firmware on the host machine, uploads into a target device, starts tests and collects test results into test reports. The final information will be shown on the host side with informative output and statistic.

Using PIO Remote you can start unit tests on the Remote Device from anywhere in the world or integrate with Continuous Integration systems.


This is a demo of Local & Embedded: Calculator which demonstrates running embedded tests on physical hardware (Arduino Uno) and native tests on host machine (desktop).

Learn more about platformio test command.


Test Types


PIO Unit Testing Engine builds a test program for a host machine using Native development platform. This test could be run only with the desktop or Continuous Integration VM instance.


PlatformIO does not install any toolchains automatically for Native and requires GCC toolchain to be installed on your host machine. Please open Terminal and check that the gcc command is installed.


PIO Unit Testing Engine builds a special firmware for a target device (board) and program it. Then, it connects to this device using configured Serial test_port and communicate via test_transport. Finally, it runs test on an embedded side, collects results, analyzes them and provides a summary on a host machine side (desktop).


Please note that the PIO Unit Testing Engine uses the first available Serial/UART implementation (depending on a framework) as a communication interface between the PIO Unit Testing Engine and target device. If you use Serial in your project libraries, please wrap/hide Serial-based blocks with #ifndef UNIT_TEST macro.

Also, you can create custom test_transport and implement base interface.

Test Runner

Test Runner allows you to process specific environments or ignore a test using “Glob patterns”. You can also ignore a test for specific environments using a test_ignore option from “platformio.ini” (Project Configuration File).


Allows you to run a test on a host machine or on a target device (board) which is directly connected to the host machine. In this case, you need to use the platformio test command.


Allows you to run test on a remote machine or remote target device (board) without having to depend on OS software, extra software, SSH, VPN or opening network ports. Remote Unit Testing works in pair with PIO Remote. In this case, you need to use the special command platformio remote test.

PlatformIO supports multiple Continuous Integration systems where you can run unit tests at the each integration stage. See real PlatformIO Remote Unit Testing Example.


  1. Create PlatformIO project using the platformio init command. For Desktop Unit Testing (on a host machine), you need to use Native.

    ; PlatformIO Project Configuration File
    ;   Build options: build flags, source filter, extra scripting
    ;   Upload options: custom port, speed and extra flags
    ;   Library options: dependencies, extra library storages
    ; Please visit documentation for the other options and examples
    ; https://docs.platformio.org/page/projectconf.html
    ; Embedded platforms
    platform = atmelavr
    framework = arduino
    board = uno
    platform = espressif8266
    framework = arduino
    board = nodemcuv2
    ; Desktop platforms (Win, Mac, Linux, Raspberry Pi, etc)
    ; See https://platformio.org/platforms/native
    platform = native
  2. Create a test folder in a root of your project. See test_dir.

  3. Write a test using API. Each test is a small independent program/firmware with its own main() or setup()/loop() functions. Test should start with UNITY_BEGIN() and finish with UNITY_END() calls.


    If your board does not support software resetting via Serial.DTR/RTS, you should add >2 seconds delay before UNITY_BEGIN(). That time is needed to establish a Serial connection between a host machine and a target device.

    delay(2000); // for Arduino framework
    wait(2);     // for ARM mbed framework
  4. Place a test in the test directory. If you have more than one test, split them into sub-folders. For example, test/test_1/*.[c,cpp,h], test_N/*.[c,cpp,h], etc. If there is no such directory in the test folder, then PIO Unit Testing Engine will treat the source code of test folder as SINGLE test.

  5. Run test using the platformio test command.

Shared Code

PIO Unit Testing Engine does not build source code from src_dir folder by default. If you have a shared/common code between your “main” and “test” programs, you have 2 options:

  1. RECOMMENDED. We recommend to split a program source code into multiple components and place them into lib_dir (project’s private libraries and components). Library Dependency Finder (LDF) will find these libraries automatically and include to build process. You will need to include any library/component header file in your test or program source code via #include <MyComponent.h>.

    See Local & Embedded: Calculator example. We have “calculator” component in lib_dir folder and include it in tests and main program using #include <calculator.h>.

  2. Manually instruct PlatformIO to build source code from src_dir folder using test_build_project_src option in “platformio.ini” (Project Configuration File):

    platform = ...
    test_build_project_src = true

    This is very useful if you unit test independent library where you can’t split source code.


    Please note that you will need to use #ifdef UNIT_TEST and #endif guard to hide non-test related source code. For example, own main() or setup() / loop() functions.


Summary of the Unity Test API:

  • Running Tests
    • RUN_TEST(func)
  • Ignoring Tests
    • TEST_IGNORE_MESSAGE (message)
  • Aborting Tests
    • TEST_ABORT()
  • Basic Validity Tests
    • TEST_ASSERT_TRUE(condition)
    • TEST_ASSERT_FALSE(condition)
    • TEST_ASSERT(condition)
    • TEST_ASSERT_UNLESS(condition)
    • TEST_FAIL()
    • TEST_FAIL_MESSAGE(message)
  • Numerical Assertions: Integers
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_INT(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_INT8(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_INT16(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_INT32(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_INT64(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_UINT(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_UINT8(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_UINT16(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_UINT32(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_UINT64(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_HEX(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_HEX8(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_HEX16(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_HEX32(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_HEX64(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_HEX8_ARRAY(expected, actual, elements)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_INT_WITHIN(delta, expected, actual)
  • Numerical Assertions: Bitwise
    • TEST_ASSERT_BITS(mask, expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_BITS_HIGH(mask, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_BITS_LOW(mask, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_BIT_HIGH(mask, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_BIT_LOW(mask, actual)
  • Numerical Assertions: Floats
    • TEST_ASSERT_FLOAT_WITHIN(delta, expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_FLOAT(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_DOUBLE(expected, actual)
  • String Assertions
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_STRING(expected, actual)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_STRING_LEN(expected, actual, len)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_STRING_MESSAGE(expected, actual, message)
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_STRING_LEN_MESSAGE(expected, actual, len, message)
  • Pointer Assertions
    • TEST_ASSERT_NULL(pointer)
    • TEST_ASSERT_NOT_NULL(pointer)
  • Memory Assertions
    • TEST_ASSERT_EQUAL_MEMORY(expected, actual, len)