IOLab Knowledge Base

    Thousands of students have used IOLab over the past couple of years. Problems are rare but do come up from time to time. We list some of them here since most are simple for people to deal with on their own. We also provide a collection of generally useful Tips & Hints.

    We will keep adding to this collection as information, user feedback, and time permits.


    Start by making sure that you have the latest version of the IOLab software application.

    Note: If you are using a Chromebook or running Linux then the software available at the above link will not run on your computer. If you find yourself in this situation you can try using IOLabWeb - an open-source browser-based IOLab application that will run on most computers. IOLabWeb does not support the lesson player or the cloud repository but its definitely better than nothing. You can find more information here.

    Running the Application
  • Windows only: The IOLab application does not open when I try to run it, or the application crashes when I move from one step to another in the lesson player.

      In some cases - particularly on computers with Chinese or Korean characters in path names and/or computers where the default Documents folder is on the users One Drive - the application will crash because it can't find the Documents folder. The typical symptom is that nothing really happens when you double-click on the application shortcut.

      In these cases an Envioronment Variable can be defined that causes the application to put the IOLab-Workfiles folder (used by the application to store data) in a different location.

      If you think this may be your issue you can try the following:

      1) Create a folder on your C drive called C:\temp.

      2) Open the Environment Variable control panel by typing “Environment Variable” in the windows search bar:

      3) Set the environment variable IOLabRootDir to point to this directory using the Environment Variable control as shown below. This will cause the IOLab working directory to be put in C:\temp rather than your Documents folder:

      4) Try running the application again.

  • Recording Data
  • I'm having trouble with the connection between the IOLab software application and the IOLab device.
    • Perhaps the IOLab dongle is not detected by your computer.
      • If the status bar looks like this then your computer has not recognized the IOLab dongle:

      • Your Windows operating system may have assigned a Bluetooth device to the same COM pot as your IOLab dongle.

          This has only been seen in Windows so if you are using a different OS this is not your problem.
          You can check for this problem by opening your device manager and looking in the Ports section, which will tell you which devices have been detected and what COM port they have been assigned by Windows:

          In the example shown above, Windows has found only one serial device, called USB Serial Device. This is the IOLab dongle. (Note that if you have installed the IOLab driver - which is not needed for Windows 10 so don't worry if you havent - then this may be called IOLab Serial Device).

          The COM3 designator that follows the name tells you that Windows has internally given your IOLab dongle the name COM3 (the actual number might be different for you). So far this is all normal.

          The problem arises if there are any other serial devices that have been given the same COM number by the Windows operating system. Windows should never do this in theory, but in practice we have seen that it will occationally do so for a certain brand of bluetooth speakers. Having two devices with the same COM number can cause the system to ignore one of them - it just depends on which one was detected first - and this can cause the IOLab dongle to not work properly.

          So if you see that you have two devices with the same COM number, and that one of these is a Bluetooth device, please try the following:
        • (1) Go to Settings and disable Bluetooth on your computer (image below).
        • (2) Unplug your IOLab dongle and then plug it back in again.
        • (3) Run the IOLab application - hopefully it will detect the Dongle and will work fine.
        • (4) Turn Bluetooth back on if you need it.

      • Other possible reasons this might happen. And ways to fix them..

        • Perhaps your IOLab dongle is not plugged in to a USB port on your computer.
          Plug it in.

        • The USB port might be stuck or unresponsive.
          Restart your computer. Try a different USB port.

        • If you are running anti-virus software other than Windows Defender it may have disabled or removed the code that recognizes the IOLab dongle.
          Go to the settings for your anti-virus software and tell it that the IOLab application is safe.

        • There might be a poor electrical connection between the dongle and the USB port due to oxidation or mechanical misalignment.
          Jiggle it, clean it, or try putting a USB adapter or extender between the dongle and the USB port.

    • Perhaps your IOLab is not properly paired with its dongle.
      • If your dongle is un-paired.

        • If the status bar and lights looks like this then your dongle is not paired to your IOLab device:

          The video linked here will show you how to fix this.

      • If your dongle is paired to a different IOLab.

        • If the status bar and lights looks like this then your dongle is paired to a different IOLab device (i.e. not the one you are trying to use):

          To fix this, start by un-pairing the other device: Click on Remote 1 in the status bar
          and then click Unpair Remote 1 (the red button in the image below):

          Then pair your dongle and remote as shown in the video linked here

      • When your IOLab and its dongle are properly paired it looks like this:

        • If the status bar and lights looks like this:

  • My IOLab turns off as soon as I start recording data.
    • It could be caused by low batteries.

        You should replace the two AA IOLab batteries with new ones. Use the included screwdriver to open the battery compartment on the back of the device. Make sure you are using brand new replacement batteries. Our experience has been that low quality batteries don't last very long and don't end up saving money, so try to use name-brand batteries if you have some available. The battery voltage reading in the Remote 1 status indicator should be well over 3 volts if the batteries are new (shown below):

    • It could be caused by antivirus software (Avast and others).

        Some anti-virus software - specifically those designed to stop ransomware attacks - can prevent the IOLab application from writing to the Documents folder. This will cause the application to stop after a few seconds. A common product that does this is called Avast. The following three images show how you can temporarily disable the ransomware feature on Avast, which will allow the IOLab software to run.

        Students have reported that if the above approach didn't work they tried uninstalling and reinstalling Avast. After doing this they ran IOLab again and this time a pop-up appeared asking if they wanted Avast to block or allow IOLab, which solved their problem

        Similar approaches should work for other anti-ramsomware products as well, like the one built into Windoes 10 (which seems to be disabled by default).

  • Exporting Data
  • After I log into the repository I don't see the upload arrow on the cloud icon.
    • You probably closed the repository window by mistake. After you log in to the repository the repository window will be in front of the IOLab application window. At this point you need to go back to the IOLab application without closing the repository window in order to start the upload. You can do this by minimizing the repository window or by just click on the application window to bring it to the front. (You can also look in the Tips & Hints sections for more information.)

  • When I use to overlay acquisitions and then export, only the last run is exported.
    • The +Add run button can be used to acquire new data while previos runs are still displayed. The ID's of the data sets is displayed to the left of the charts. If an export is done, either to a CSV file or to the cloud repository, only the last run will be included in the export.

      Even though only the last run is exported, all of the runs are saved and can be seen by clicking on to open the Resource manager. Any of the runs can be reparately recalled and exported in this way.

  • Tips & Hints

    Saving, Naming, and Exporting Data
  • Saving and Recalling Recordings.
      Your data is saved every time you do a recording. You can see all of your recordings, listed from newest to oldest, by clicking on the Folder icon which brings up the Resource manager as shown below. Just click on a recording to recall it.
  • Naming a Recording.
      Naming your recordings is a good way to make sure you can find them again (since the Resource manager has a nice search feature). Just click on the little pencil at the top right corner of the recording in the Resource manager; this allows you to add a Name and a Comment. :

  • Saving Snapshots of your Data.
      IOLab Snapshots are much more than images of your screen (if you just want an image you should use your computers screen-capture feature). You can think of IOLab Snapshots as bookmarks that take you back to the view you had on your screen, including zooming, panning, analysis selections, etc. When you upload your data to the repository, snapshots are uploaded as well.

      To recall a snapshot, just click on it. All of your data is still there so you can continue your analysis from the point where you left off.

  • Exporting and Sharing Data.
    • Exporting Data from the Application to CSV files.
        To export data to a CSV file (which can be opened in Excel or Google Sheets for further analysis), click on the Tool bar icon at the bottom left of a chart and then on the Export to CSV button. The data is saved in the Documents/IOLab-WorkFiles/export folder on your computer.

        The format of the data in the CSV file is shown below. The file contains one row for every sample that the IOLab collected, so it might be quite long.

        The columns that will probably be of most interest to you are time (which contains the time of the sample in seconds relative to the start of the recording), and cal[...] which contains the calibrated data for each trace shown on the chart. If the sensor has three axes (x,y,z), like the accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope, then these are named cal[0], cal[1], and cal[2]. If the sensor has one axis, like the force probe, then this is named cal[0].

    • Exporting Data from the Application to the Repository and Sharing.
      • Creating a Repository Account.
          You can open the cloud repository from the IOLab application by clicking on the cloud icon:

          You can also get to it directly from any web browser at
          The first time you do this you will be prompted to create an account as shown below.

      • Exporting Data to the Repository.
          Open the cloud repository from the IOLab application by clicking on the cloud icon, and log in with the username and password that you used to set up your repository account.
          The above step will open a repository window which will appear in front of the IOLab application. Go back to the IOLab application without closing the repository window and you should see that the cloud icon now has a upward arrow in it. Click on this to upload whatever data is being displayed in the application.

          (If the cloud is grayed out so that you can't click on it, this could be because you have no data selected or because you have more than one window open to the repository. If this happens the simplest fix may be to close all of the repository windows and start again.)

          Once you click on the upload icon the view will switch back to the repository window and you will see the upload appear at the top of your upload list as shown below:

      • Renaming and Sharing Repository Data.
          Once a recording is uploaded to the repository you can give it a name by selecting and then typing into the field labeled Click to edit the title:

          You can view and analyze the data by clicking to the right of the title field. The chart selection and data analysis tools available in the repository are very similar to those available in the application, and the snapshots work the same way.

          To share your data with any other repository user, just start typing their name in the field labeled SHARED WITH. The names of all matching users will appear as you type, and once you see the person you want just click on their name.

    • Sharing Repository Data Using a Link.
        Once a recording is uploaded to the repository you can find its URL by clicking on the little tag icon to the upper right of its title:

        This URL can be copied to your clipboard and used to give anyone read-access to the data.

        As an example, here is a link to the data shown above. Just click on this to view and analyze the data in your own browser.

    • Exporting Data from the Repository to CSV files.
        Once a recording is uploaded to the repository you can export it to a CSV file by clicking on the Download icon:

        There are three main differences between exporting to a CSV file from the repository and exporting to a CSV file from the desktop software application.
        1. When you export from the repository the CSV file will contain only the data shown on the chart (i.e. just the selected time range and traces). In the application all of the data is exported.
        2. If several different charts are selected in the repository their data will all appear in the same CSV file and their time axes are re-sampled to be the same. In the application each chart has to be exported separately.
        3. When you export from the repository the CSV file will contain only the calibrated data.

  • A Video Example of Recording, Zooming, Snapshots, and Sharing.
      This video uses no sound:

  • Analyzing Data
  • Zooming and Panning.
      The buttons shown below are used to zoom and pan the data displayed in a chart:

      Zooming is done by selecting the Zoom icon and then left-clicking and dragging to select a region of the chart. When the mouse button is released the selected region will fill the chart. Zooming can also be done separately in the vertical and horizontal directions by selecting the appropriate tool from the zoom drop-down menu. When the zoom icon is selected, single-clicking once on a chart will undo the last zoom and double-clicking on a chart will auto-scale.

      Panning is done by selecting the Pan icon and then left-clicking on a chart and dragging it around.

  • Selecting a Region and Finding Mean, Standard Deviation, Area, and Slope.
      Select the analysis icon and then left-click and drag the mouse on a chart to select a region. The same time region will be highlighted on all open charts as you do this. Double-clicking on the chart will remove the selected region.

      Selecting a region as shown above will bring up analysis results for each trace on each chart being displayed. The color of the results will match the color of the trace. Only one trace is selected in the above chart so only one set of analysis results is displayed. The meaning of the numbers is shown below:

  • Smoothing.
      If the data appears noisy it may be desirable to use the smoothing feature to make it look nicer (though be aware that the noise can be useful data too). To smooth the data on a chart select the tool-bar icon at the bottom left corner of the chart to bring up the tool-bar, and then select the amount of smoothing you want from the drop-down. The bigger the number, the smoother the result.

  • Doing a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT).
      If your data has interesting frequency components (for example, recording sound with the microphone or an LED light-bulb with the light sensor as in the data shown below), then doing a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) allows you to study this by showing the selected data in the frequency domain.

      To display an FFT click the Analysis icon then select the tool-bar icon at the bottom left corner of the chart to bring up the tool-bar, and then select the number of points you want to include in the FFT by using the drop-down menu. When you move the cursor on the chart there will be a gray region that moves with it to indicate the data being used to calculate the FFT. Single clicking will drop or pick back up the gray region. An new FFT display will appear below the original chart, and will change as you move the gray region.

      Moving the cursor down to the FFT will freeze the gray region and will allow you to explore the FFT instead. The horizontal axis of the FFT is frequency, and moving the cursor over the FFT will display the frequency and amplitude at the location of the cursor. Left-clicking and dragging may allow you to see more of the FFT. In the data shown below, the cursor is on the peak which the display shows is at around 120 Hz. This is the frequency that LED light-bulbs flash at in North America.

  • Other Information
  • Video Library (evolving).
    • IOLab Sensors.
      • The Force Probe
        • How it Works

        • Calibrating the Force Probe

        • Re-Zeroing the Force Probe
      • Analog Inputs and Outputs
        • Measuring Voltages Produced by IOLab

        • Measuring External Voltages

        • Using the DAC to Produce Voltages

        • Using D6 to Produce Voltages

    • Introduction to Random Experimental Uncertainty.
      • Part 1

      • Part 2
          If you want to download the simulation used in the video below, click here.

      • Part 3

  • Using the Accessory Pack for Electricity and Magnetism.

  • Last updated 7/12/2021 at 2:20 pm CT by