How Does an Oscilloscope Probe Work?

Oscilloscopes are instruments that allow you to display a waveform of an electronic signal and see how the voltage changes over time. TVs, air conditioning, and lights in your home all utilize circuits to deliver their electricity. A circuit is made up of paths where a current flows between two or more points. Voltage is the force that pushes a current between two points.

When a voltage begins to misbehave, you have to be able to track down where it’s starting to act up. Without an oscilloscope, you’d never be able to find the problem. Once you’ve acquired an oscilloscope, next you’re going to need an oscilloscope probe.


An oscilloscope must be connected to a probe and a test point/signal source in order to test voltage problems. If you’re trying to solve a voltage problem, you can use something as simple as a wire or something more sophisticated like oscilloscope probes.

There are many different types of oscilloscope probes, as well as subcategories of each probe. Every oscilloscope probe targets a specific voltage problem to analyze and report on. Two common oscilloscope probes are differential and current probes.

What Is the Difference Between a Current and Differential Oscilloscope Probe?

Differential Probe

A differential probe is like two probes rolled into one. Differential probes, as opposed to single-ended active probes, measure the difference in voltage between a test point and another test point. A differential probe is a general probe with a high input dynamic range and offset.

Differential probes can make better measurements of single-ended signals than single-ended probes. High-speed serial standards using differential signaling require extremely accurate characterization and will require a differential probe. A differential oscilloscope probe ensures you’ll be able to see every detail of the results. There are also high voltage differential probes that measure the voltage difference between two test points when neither test point is at ground.

Current Probe

Differential probes have to be wired to a circuit to perform measurements, but current probes do not. They are an easier option for quick maintenance and troubleshooting service because they require less connection set-up time. Current probes are also unique because they measure AC and DC currents without shutting down the circuit.

You never want to cut a circuit wire during a troubleshooting repair, and current probes can make sure you never have to. A current probe only needs to be attached to a wire to begin measuring currents. But if a current probe doesn’t need to be installed into the circuit, how does it work? Well, current probes use other methods such as detecting the magnetic field that occurs around the current being measured.


oscilloscopeBoth the differential and current oscilloscope probe work with your electronic test tools to give the most accurate readings. The probes differ from each other because the differential probe reads high voltage circuits, while the current oscilloscope probe can read lower voltage circuits without being wired into the system.

No matter what oscilloscope probe you choose to work with, you can also utilize processes to monitor and pre-select options for your oscilloscope probe. Visual basic scripting is a process that internally programs your scope and automates selected operations. When applied, visual basic scripts can control and automate your scope’s operations.

Scope setup files are text files that contain a complete visual basic script program that, when activated, will restore the scope to a previously backed-up state. Each time the basic script program is used, a panel is saved and the scope accurately writes you a program that, when applied, returns the instrument to the saved state.

By Published On: September 30, 2021Categories: Industrial Marketing3.2 min read612 wordsViews: 844