One of the many questions that I get on a regular basis is, â€œHow Do I Program My Hamradio?â€ The thing is, this comes from all different ham friends, from those that have been a ham for a while and from those that have just got their license.
My answer to them is always, â€œWell it depends on what radio you haveâ€. The thing is, that isn’t really entirely true. The answer really should be, â€œIt depends on what mode you are trying to programâ€ or something along those lines.
Here is whyâ€¦
If you are programming a radio for just standard analog use, then it is pretty much the same for every radio, maybe a different button name here and there, but pretty much the same. If you are programming for a digital mode radio, like DStar, DMR, etc, then it might be a little different.
If you are trying to program a Beufang, then it is WAAAAAYYY Different!
Programming An Analog Radio
We are also going to stick with just analog modes for now as well, we will talk about digital modes later in this post.
I have read a bunch of different radio manuals both in the past and in preparation for this blog post. They all pretty much have the same instructions on programming the radio. Most of all, it is really pretty simple once you get it. So how do you do it?
The first thing that you need to do is set your frequency. The first thing that you have to do is make sure that your radio is in the VFO and not the memory. Most radios will have a button that is marked VFO or V/M.
Most HTâ€™s allow you to simply type the frequency in directly on the keypad. Unless you have a pretty old radio, like pre-2000 model, you would enter the entire frequency. Some older radios were limited to only the ham bands so you only enter the last part, for example you would only enter the X places in 14X.XX0.
Repeater or Simplex?
The next thing you have to program is the offset if you are programming a repeater frequency. If you are programming a simplex, you won’t have to worry about this step. With modern radios, the radio itself helps you when programming a repeater. Modern radios have an automatic â€œstandardâ€ offset.
So if you are programming a 2 meter repeater and you enter a frequency that is below 147.000 and it is in the repeater area of the band plan, the radio will automatically set a negative(-) offset. If it above 147.000, it will automatically set the offset to positive(+).
The button for setting the offset varies from brand to brand. Some brands call it:
Even though they have different names, the meaning of each of the button labels are pretty self-explanatory. When you press the button, there will be an indicator on your screen that changes from + to – to nothing.
The next thing that you have to program is your tone. The tone is a sub-audible tone that is transmitted with your transmission that when the repeater receives it, it will retransmit your transmission. This is a feature that is used to help reduce the distance that is needed between repeater locations and to help with unwanted transmissions.
Here where I live, there is two repeaters that are on the same frequency. They are about 75-80 miles between them, and normally this isn’t an issue. However, there are times when propagation is good, that you will hear both of them. That is where the tone comes in.
When I first got my license, most radios only had an encode board, if they had one at all. With modern radios, they have encode and decode tones, which comes in handy with my example above. If they repeater transmits a tone also, you can set your radio to not â€œopenâ€ the speaker unless that tone is received by your radio.
If you would like to know more about what tones are, check out episode 43
Now that we have talked about what a tone is, how do you program it on your radio?
On you keypad, you will see a button that is typically marks with â€œTONEâ€, typically it will have T SEL above it. If you just press the TONE button, it will turn the tone on and off. Also, most of the time, on your screen you will see some kind of indication as to what mode the tone is set to. It will say something like a T or ENC or T.SQL or even actually say TONE. If your radio has a CTCSS decoder, the first time you press the TONE button it will turn on the Encode feature. If you press it again it will turn on the Decode also. Then when you press it a third time, it will turn off the tone.
So now we know how to turn the tone on and off, but that is only half the battle. Turning the tone on is great, but if the tone isn’t set to the correct one, it isn’t going to help you any. Remember the writing above the key that typically says something like T SEL? In order to get the functions that are written above the buttons, you have to press the FUNCTION key first. Sometimes it is labeled with just an F, sometimes FUNC, but it should be pretty easy to find. So press the FUNCTION key then the TONE button. This should take you into the Tone settings where you can change the tone setting. Sometimes this is done by turning the tuning dial, sometimes there are up and down keys on the keypad. Once you have the correct tone selected you can press the OK button if you radio has one, or the PTT button to save it.
Saving To Memory
Now that you have everything set and you are ready to save it, it is a simple matter with most radios. In all of the radio manuals that I looked at they were all the same for the most part. You simply press and hold the function button for a second or two, on the screen of the radio a memory number will show up. Some radios stated that it will automatically select the first open memory slot, other didn’t say anything about it.
Whichever memory slot you want to put it in, simply turn the dial knob or press the up and down arrows to select the slot number that you want to put the frequency in. Once you have the number selected, push the memory button and it will put it in your radioâ€™s memory.
Thatâ€™s it! You just saved a frequency in your radio! Congratulations!
My Radio Doesnâ€™t Have Those Buttons!
There are some radios out there that don’t have the full keypad on them, or their software is just soooo confusing that you might have to take a different route when programming. Now, with saying that, you might still be able to program your radio manually, but you have to go through menus and all kinds of hoops. Check your radioâ€™s manual for how to program it.
Programming With Your Computer
Some radios you just can’t program manually, or at the very least is a major pain in the rear end to. Your other option is to program your radio with a computer. While it is A LOT easier to program your radio with your computer, it also poses a major problem when you are out in the field and don’t have access to it!
You have three main options when it comes to the software you choose. Some radios have their own software that they come with but that software is typically not very elaborate. However, if that is all you have, then good luck.
With that being said, the next option that you have is a program call Chirp. It is a fairly easy program to learn how to use and to get to work on your radio. It is open source and is FREE! It works with a large number of manufacturers radios.
Your third option is a program called RT Systems. RT Systems is not free like Chirp is though. The software looks like it runs about $25 for the software. You can also buy a cable for your radio from RT Systems for $30; or the package with the cable and software for $49.
Programming A Digital Mode Radio
Yaesu System Fusion(C4FM)
System Fusion(C4FM) radios are the easiest of the Digital Mode Radios to program. They are basically just like you would program your analog radios and then you press the WIRES button to go digital.
DStar radios are fairly easy to program. The major difference between DStar and analog radios is that you have put three or four pieces of information into your radio before you can talk on DStar repeaters. Things like your callsign in the UR fields, and you have to program the RPT1 and RPT2 fields with some information about the repeater you are going to be talking on.
The other major thing that you have to do with DStar is you have to register your callsign with the DStar system before you can use it on a DStar system. You could do it with your local repeater administrator
Check out this page for a step by step instructions on how to generally program you radio to use the DStar system
DMR is probably the most difficult digital system to program. The DMR system is a system that is adapted to the ham radio community from the commercial industry. With this being the case, DMR radios are not like the typical ham radio with the full keypad. It is all channel based, rather than frequency based.
So when you are programming a DMR radio, you have to use what is called a Codeplug. A codeplug is basically complete programming setup of your radio. With DMR you can not program your radio on the radio itself, you HAVE to use a computer to program it.
The big draw to DMR is the price of the radios. DMR radios start at about $100. They are also typically only mono band radios. However, with the low-cost and the functions associated with digital radio systems using the internet to tie into other repeaters or talk groups, they tend to be a good starting place for ham to get into digital voice; at least if you have DMR repeaters in your area.
I found a nice page by Jeffrey, K8JTK, were he gives a very detailed explanation of how to create a DMR Codeplug from scratch.
Programming radios nowadays are fairly easy to program; they are the same way that they have been since I got my license some 20+ years ago. Yes there are some minor differences with some radios, and digital voice radios have a few more steps. The one thing that I canâ€™t stress enough is, typically your manual has a step by step guide on how to program your radio. You just have to read it carefully and then go back and read it again and do it while you are reading through it a second time.
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Until next time…
73 de Curtis, K5CLM
Creator and Owner of Everything Ham Radio
Owner of 2xC Products at 2xcproducts.com