Goal: To program a Baofeng radio using CHIRP
Baofeng radios are one of the cheapest handheld transceivers on the market and is a good candidate for purchase for first time users. They make good prototyping and project radios as well as they are cheaper to replace if broken. As a result, my first two radios ever were BF-F8HPs. While I will always recommend upgrading to a more established brand such as Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu, etc… Its always work knowing how to program one and keep it around.
Programming with Chirp – Easy and Recommended
You will need to purchase a programming cable for the radio. The one I recommend can be found on Amazon. You will also need to download the CHIRP software. For the remainder of this article, I will be using CHIRP version 20210110 on Windows 10 20H2.
Once CHIRP has been installed and started, you will be greeted with the screen shown in Figure 1.
Before we plug in the radio, lets get it set up properly.
- Start with the radio unplugged from the computer and off
- Remove the antenna from the radio. This will help prevent accidental transmission when programming the radio.
- Turn the radio back off and keep it off until we start programming.
Plug in the radio to the computer using the cable. We need to figure out what the COM port is for the radio. This can be accomplished by going to Start and looking for “Device Manager”. Look for the item “Ports (COM & LPT)” and expand the selection. Typically there will only be one device in this window unless you understand what a COM port is and have been here before for other hobbies. For my computer, the Device Manager window can be seen in Figure 2 and it gives me COM9. Keep this window open so it can be referenced later.
Back in CHIRP, we are going to download the station list from the radio first. Even if you have just pulled the radio out of the box, we will be able to get a list from the radio. We do this for a few reasons:
- This gets a file that we can write directly back to the radio once the programming is complete
- CHIRP supports quite a few radios, and there are features present on other radios that do not exist on the simple Baofeng radios such as digital modes. This removes unnecessary columns and makes the experience easier.
Start by going to Radio -> Download from Radio. It will open up a settings dialog box shown in Figure 3.
On Port, set the port to be the same as observed in Device Manager (It is done correctly in Figure 3. Set the Vendor and Model to your particular radio. In my case, I will be working with a Baofeng BF-F8HP. Once all the settings are correct, click OK.
Take your instructions from CHIRP on how to start the data transfer. Each radio has the potential to be different, and CHIRP will have the most up to date information regarding this process. Click OK, and the radio will begin the cloning process. For mine, it took between 15 and 30 seconds to complete the process.
On a radio that was factory reset for this write up, CHIRP returns a memory list. The radio is now in a position where each channel can be programmed independently and with a keyboard. I will use the K5EOK 2M Repeater and NOAA WX2 channel, both of which are useful for my home QTH. The example for this is shown in Figure 4.
Things to note about about this particular radio is there are 128 memory channels numbered in the Loc column from 0 to 127. The Name column is what will appear on your radio when scrolling through memory channels. The last two things to note about my particular programming is the power and skip settings. I tend to always set the power to High unless it is a channel that I am not supposed to transmit on, such as the NOAA channels. NOAA also has the skip flag on as it will always have activity on it (unless bad things are happening, but I doubt I would need a radio to get that information).
On the left, there is a tab for Settings. This will allow you to program settings for your radio that will set when we re-flash the radio. I won’t go into each settings in large detail, but I will highlight a few settings that I recommend in Table 1.
|Basic Settings||Carrier Squelch Level||Between 3-5, but up to you and your environment|
|Basic Settings||Display Mode (A)||Frequency|
|Basic Settings||Display Mode (B)||Name|
|Basic Settings||Roger Beep||Disabled|
|Other Settings||Power-On Message 1:||Welcome|
|Other Settings||Power-On Message 2:||<Use your callsign here>|
Once your image has been set up, it can be saved to your computer to make backup and modified copies.
You can now upload your information by going to Radio -> Download from Radio
The Power of CHIRP
CHRIP has some features built in that make it rather useful for a free bit of radio software. The interface is similar to spreadsheet software such as Excel or Google Sheets, making copy/paste of information easy. It has the ability to import stations information directly from online sources such as RadioReference.com and Repeater Book, although RadioReference is a paid feature. It also has lists of important frequencies already loaded in easy to move around sections such as calling frequencies and NOAA WX stations. The Repeater Book functionality is easy to go through individually so it will not be covered in this write up. The lists of useful stations can be found under File -> Open Stock Config, and any one of many preset channels can be opened up and copied into the radios memory channels. Keep in mind that just because its there doesn’t mean your radio can take the information. My radio I’ve used for this write up cannot for instance listen to the 6M calling frequency.
I have included a PDF of what frequencies and settings are on the radio that is on my desk. Note that the first 11 (so 0-10) are local to my area. The first (Index 0) is my local NOAA broadcast. As it is Oklahoma, I want it to be easy to pull up my weather reports without difficulty.
The rest of the channels are useful for anyone in the United States. It includes 2M/70CM calling frequencies, FRS/GMRS frequencies (which you should never transmit on, but can listen to), and all NOAA weather broadcasts. The last is APRS as I can use a special cable and an app on my phone to work APRS with my Baofeng.
External Links List
These are hyperlinked throughout the document as well, but sometimes it is nice to see the link you are actually visiting rather than what is typed.