Programming a Radio with CHIRP

A popular software package for programming radios is called "CHIRP". This will run on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The software is open source, meaning that the source code is available should you wish to see how it works or even modify it.

The software can be found here.


Here is a quote from the CHIRP web site: "CHIRP is a volunteer effort, and most of the developers are better at writing code and adding new features than writing documentation". Fortunately in addition to the documentation found on the CHIRP web site web pages with documentation written by others can be found. I will provide links to some of the CHIRP documentation here.

Programming Cables

A cable that links the computer to the radio is required to program the radio. This is normally a USB connection on the computer site. Most handheld radios connect to the microphone and speaker jack using a connection that looks like the one found on an accessory speaker/mic. Some cables my connect to a radio data port such as is found on a Kenwood mobile radio V71 series. Check Amazon and E-bay for radio programming cables. These are also available from the manufacturer though often at a higher price. Look for reviews and find one that has been used successfully by others.

Depending on the hardware interface used in the cable and your operating system it may be necessary to download a device driver to use the cable. Cables that use the FTDI chip will be most likely to work without downloading a device driver.

Tips & Notes

Radios operate in different programming modes. Check your radio manual to see how programming is accomplished. Here is a brief description:

Keep a paper reference sheet showing the programming entered in your radio. To do this after programming your radio use the CHIRP software to export a .csv file. Then use spreadsheet software to import this .csv file. Choose "hide columns" to eliminate unnecessary columns so that the useful information is narrow enough to fit on a sheet of paper. Add borders (grid lines) if not enabled by default and print.

Data displayed by CHIRP will vary depending on the radio model. Many handheld radios contain specific features such as a power on message which you can set with CHIRP. There may also be internal programming constants. Caution: Do not change parameters without understanding their function. In most cases you can perform a radio reset to return to factory settings should you make a programming change that causes problems.  In some cases attempting to program a radio for out of band use can render the radio inoperable such that you will not be able to perform a reset. This can happen if you alter an oscillator such that the frequency no longer allows proper radio operation. This is unlikely but has been documented.

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