Tagged: zadig

Getting the RTL-SDR to work in Windows 10

The RTL-SDR is fully compatible with Windows 10. However with the recent release of Windows 10 some users have been having trouble using their RTL-SDR after upgrading. We thought that we’d announce that the simple solution to most problems is to reinstall the SDR drivers with Zadig. The latest version of Zadig can be downloaded from zadig.akeo.ie or if you use SDR# then it will already be in your SDR# folder. The process is:

  1. Plug in the RTL-SDR.
  2. Run Zadig as administrator by right clicking it and choosing run as administrator.
  3. Go to Options -> List all devices and make sure it is checked.
  4. In the drop down box choose Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0). This may also sometimes show up as something prefixed with “RTL28328U”. That choice is also valid.
  5. Make sure that WinUSB is selected as the target driver and click on Replace Driver.

If you need more help see the Quickstart Guide.

The Windows 10 upgrade process appears to replace the WinUSB drivers with the Windows DVB-T ones, so reinstalling the SDR drivers is necessary. It shouldn’t be necessary, but one user also reported the need to log in to Windows with an administrator account and to uninstall the current drivers before running Zadig, so try that if you continue to have problems.

As in our previous post we can confirm that several popular SDR apps such as SDR#, HDSDR, SDR-Radio, CubicSDR and Unitrunker all work fine in Windows 10.

Quick Start Guide

This page is a guide aimed at helping anyone set up a cheap radio scanner based on the RTL-SDR software defined radio as fast as possible on a Windows system. If you have any trouble during the installation, please see the troubleshooting guide further down the page. We also have brief instructions for getting started on Linux and OSX at the end of this page.

Equipment Guide

Currently, the most common RTL-SDR dongle is the R820T/R820T2 which usually sells for under $20 USD. See the Buy RTL-SDR dongles page for more information on purchasing.

Generally at least a dual core processor will be required to run most SDR software smoothly. Some command line software and ADS-B decoders may work on less powerful hardware.

To get the most enjoyment out of RTL-SDR you will need a decent antenna. Our packages that come with two telescopic antennas are a great start. Be sure to get them up high and place them on a metallic surface for best results. Units not sold by us may come with a smaller fixed length whip antenna that is okay for testing, but overall is not that great. As an upgrade for beginners who have the fixed length whip, a cheap bunny ears antenna mounted vertically should work well. Use the simple kind like this so that it can easily be mounted vertically. The most recommended outdoor antenna for general scanning is a scantenna or discone due to their wide band receiving properties. You can also cheaply build a wideband planar disk antenna (pdf warning) out of some metal pizza pans.

SDR# (SDRSharp) Set Up Guide (Tested on Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 32/64 Bit)

  1. Purchase an RTL-SDR dongle. The cheapest and best for most applications is the R820T/R820T2 dongle. Information on purchasing one can be found here.
  1. SDRSharp is the easiest and most commonly used software defined radio software receiver for the RTL-SDR. Go to http://www.sdrsharp.com/#sdrsharp and find the download button. Click the download button to download sdr_install.zip.
  1. Note that you must have the Microsoft .NET 3.5 redistributable installed to use SDRSharp. Most modern Windows PCs should already have this installed by default, but older PCs running XP may need this to be installed in order to run SDR#.
  1. Extract (unzip) sdr_install.zip to a folder.
  1. Double click on install.bat from within the extracted folder. This will start a command prompt that will download SDRSharp and all the files required to make SDRSharp work with RTL-SDR. Everything will be placed into a new folder within the sdr-install folder called “sdrsharp”. The command prompt will automatically close when it is done.

installbat

  1. Plug in your dongle and do not install any of the software that it came with (if any), but ensure you let plug and play finish attempting to install it. If you’ve already installed the software drivers that came on the CD bundled with some dongles, uninstall them first.
  1. Open the newly created sdrsharp folder. Find the file zadig.exe. Right click this file and select “Run as administrator” if using Windows Vista/7/8. If you are using Windows XP, download and run the XP version from this page.
  1. In Zadig, go to “Options->List All Devices” and make sure this option is checked.
  1. Select “Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0)” from the drop down list. Ensure that WinUSB is selected in the box next to where it says Driver. (Note on some PCs you may see something like RTL2832UHIDIR or RTL2832U instead of the bulk in interface. This is also a valid selection). (Do not select “USB Receiver (Interface 0)” however).

Zadig Screen

  1. Click Install Driver. You might get a warning that the publisher cannot be verified, but just accept it by clicking on Install this driver software anyway. This will install the drivers necessary to run the dongle as a software defined radio. Note that you may need to run zadig.exe again if you move the dongle to another USB port, or want to use two or more dongles together.

zadig_warning

  1. Open SDRSharp.exe. Set the drop down box in the “Source” tab on the top left to ‘RTL-SDR (USB)’. Press the Play button (the right facing triangle). Your rtl-sdr software radio should now be set up and ready to use! If everything has worked you should be able to start tuning to frequencies.

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  1. Important! Don’t forget to also adjust the RF gain settings by pressing the Configure button (looks like a cog) up the top next to the Play button. By default the RF gain is set at zero. A gain of zero will probably receive nothing but very strong broadcast FM – increase the gain until you start seeing other signals.

Troubleshooting

  • I get the error “No compatible devices found” when trying to start the dongle in SDR#
    Long low quality USB extension cables can sometimes cause this error. Some USB 3.0 ports are also incompatible with the dongle and cause this error. One user has had luck with this error by installing zadig from safe mode. Finally, there is a small chance that the dongle is actually faulty. If the dongle produces the same error on multiple computers the dongle is probably faulty and should be refunded or replaced.
  • I get the error “1 compatible devices have been found but are all busy”
    To fix this it may be necessary to reinstall the drivers via zadig and to try every USB port on the PC. You may want to also try disconnecting all other USB devices connected to the PC. Also some USB 3.0 ports are buggy, switch to a USB 2.0 port. Some users have also had success with installing everything from Windows safe mode. Make sure you are not selecting the “USB Receiver (Interface 0)” in zadig, and instead are selecting the Bulk in interface, or one that may say RTL2838UHIDIR or something else prefixed with RTL. If you don’t see this make sure that “Options->List All Devices” is checked and that “Ignore Hubs or Composite Parents” is unchecked.Another thing to try may be to disable Windows automatic driver installation. Instructions for disabling this can be found here. This error also sometimes occurs after the computer has been suspended – to fix it simply disconnect and reconnect the dongle.
  • Zadig takes a long time to install the driver, then fails
    You have probably not run zadig in administrator mode. Make sure to right click zadig, and select “Run as Administrator”.
  • I don’t see Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0)
    Ensure “Options->List All Devices” is checked and that “Ignore Hubs or Composite Parents” is unchecked. Some people report seeing something else other than the bulk in interface. It may also show up as the brand of your dongle or something prefixed with “RTL”. This option should work too. In rare cases you may receive a faulty dongle that will not show up in Zadig no matter what USB port or computer you try it on. You should ask for a replacement in this case.
  • I don’t see RTL-SDR/USB in SDRSharp
    You may have downloaded a version without rtl-sdr support. Check that you have downloaded the official version from the sdrsharp.com website.
  • USB 3.0 ports don’t work
    Unfortunately many USB 3.0 controllers are buggy and don’t work with some devices. Generally, USB 3.0 works fine with the RTL-SDR, but there are some controllers that will just not recognise the dongle. In this case use a USB 2.0 port instead.
  • When running install.bat I get errors on the command line like “The system cannot find the file specified” and the sdrsharp folder is not downloaded
    This is probably because you did not unzip the files and you are trying to run install.bat from within the zip file. Make sure you extract or move the unzip.exe, install.bat and httpget.exe files out of the zip file into another folder, before running install.bat.
  • When I run install.bat a CMD/DOS window flashes on the screen briefly then disappears. Nothing is installed.
    There seems to be a bug or misconfiguration with some versions of Windows where batch files cannot be run. One way around this is to install SDR# and the RTL-SDR drivers manually. We have instructions for this here: rtl-sdr.com/manual-installation-of-sdr/.
  • Zadig gives “System policy has been modified to reject unsigned drivers” error in Windows 8
    Windows 8 can cause signed driver issues with zadig. Some users report getting the error “System policy has been modified to reject unsigned drivers”. To solve this download and use the newer Zadig version 2.1 from here. (The newer SDR# install.bat downloads with Zadig 2.1 automatically)
  • Reception in SDR# seems very poor/receiver is insensitive
    Make sure you have increased the RF gain slider which can be accessed by clicking on the configure button. Also, in poor reception areas using the stock antenna indoors may not be sufficient. First test with the antenna placed up high outside. In some cases with the stock antenna the connection to the antenna can become disconnected in the antenna base causing unexpectedly poor reception. In rare cases if you still cannot receive anything and another radio can, then you may have received a broken dongle and should ask for a replacement.
  • SDR# gives error “Application failed to initialize properly (0xc0000135).  Click OK to terminate.”
    This might mean that you do not have the .NET 3.5 Framework installed.
  • SDR# gives error “Object reference not not to an instance of an object”
    This may mean that you do not have an audio driver properly installed on your PC, or that you do not have any output audio devices enabled. Enable them in the windows Sound Playback properties.
  • The dongle constantly disconnects from the USB port
    First test to make sure that it is not the fault of a dodgy USB extension cable by plugging the dongle directly into the PC. If it still disconnects often the dongle may be faulty and you should ask for a replacement.
  • The dongle won’t connect and the LED does not illuminate on models with an LED
    The dongle is faulty and should be refunded or replaced.
  • It seems that my PC is not powerful enough to run SDR# as it uses near 100% CPU
    For graphical GUI SDR software like SDR#, at least a dual core processor is recommended. If you have a borderline decent CPU and still experience high CPU usage, try reducing the sample rate to 1 Msps or less, reducing the FFT display resolution (or turning it off), turning off Correct IQ and reducing the filter order.
  • I used zadig but it broke my keyboard/mouse/other device somehow
    This is because you probably clicked the install button in Zadig after selecting the wrong device in the drop down menu. Make sure you select the correct RTL-SDR device, (Bulk-In Interface, Interface 0) first. Zadig overwrites previous drivers. To get the old drivers back you should be able to do so in Windows device manager, update driver software.
  • My R820T2 RTL-SDR shows up as an R820T when I run the diagnostic tool rtl_test
    The R820T2 and R820T are identical electronically except for some minor changes in the maximum IF filter widths. The different filters may be the reason the R820T2 has better performance. Thus a R820T2 will show up as an R820T on the PC, since there is no distinction between them in the digital part of the circuit. You can confirm that you have a R820T2 by checking the markings on the chip.

If you continue to have issues please feel free to post in the troubleshooting section of our Forums.

How to set the Gain

The gain can be adjusted in SDR# by clicking on the Configure button which looks like a cog. When tuning the RF gain you are trying to get the signal as strong as possible, whilst keeping the noise floor as low as possible. Start with a low gain setting, and slowly increase the gain slider. Watch in the frequency spectrum as the signal strength increases, but stop just before the point at which the noise floor starts to rise.

The noise floor is the part of the frequency spectrum where there are no signals.

SDRSharp Plugins

The official list of SDRSharp plugins can be found here and our unofficial list of plugins can be found here.

SDRSharp Guide

A good guide to learning how to use SDRSharp and what all the options do can be found here. Another great illustrated guide can be found here.

HDSDR Setup Guide

  1. Purchase an RTL-SDR dongle. The cheapest and best for most applications is the R820T/R820T2 dongle. Information on purchasing one can be found here.
  1. Plug in your dongle and do not install any of the software that it came with, but ensure you let plug and play finish trying to install it. If you’ve already installed the software drivers it came with previously, uninstall them first.
  1. Go to http://zadig.akeo.ie/ and download Zadig.
  1. In Zadig, go to Options->List All Devices and make sure this option is checked.
  1. Select “Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0)” from the drop down list. Ensure that WinUSB is selected in the box next to where it says Driver. (Note on some PCs you may see something like RTL2832UHIDIR or RTL2832U instead of the bulk in interface. This is also a valid selection). (Do not select “USB Receiver (Interface 0)” however).

Zadig Screen

  1. Click Install Driver. You might get a warning that the publisher cannot be verified, but just accept it by clicking on Install this driver software anyway. This will install the drivers necessary to run the dongle as a software defined radio. Note that you may need to run zadig.exe again if you move the dongle to another USB port, or want to use two or more dongles together.

zadig_warning

  1. Download HDSDR from http://hdsdr.de/, using the download button at the bottom of the page.
  1. Use the installer you just downloaded to install HDSDR.
  1. Download the ExtIO_RTL2832U.dll dll file from https://app.box.com/s/7tpiy8r6qo2bbhdxtt4k (MIRROR).
  1. Copy the ExtIO_RTL2832U.dll file into the HDSDR install folder which is by default set to C:\Program Files (x86)\HDSDR.
  1. Open HDSDR. You might be asked to select a .dll file. Choose the ExtIO_RTL2832U.dll file you just copied over and then click Open. It is okay if you do not see this screen as long as you have copied the ExtIO_RTL2832U.dll file over properly in the last step.

image017

  1. Choose your output sound card by clicking on the Soundcard button  in the bottom left corner, or alternatively by pressing F5. The only important setting here is the “RX Output (to Speaker)” setting which you should set to your speakers, or desired audio piping software.

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  1. Click on the Bandwidth button  or alternatively press F6. Choose an output Sampling Rate of 48000 Hz for general use.

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  1. Press Start or alternatively press F2. This will start the SDR.
  1. To set the RTL-SDR sample rate, gain and frequency correction click on the ExtIO button .

image023

  1. To tune to a station, change the Local Oscillator frequency to a frequency near the frequency you are interested in. Then tune to the desired frequency either by clicking in the RF spectrum, or using the Tune numbers.

image024

  1. You can zoom in and out of the spectrum by using the Zoom slider which is to the left of the word zoom.

image025

  1. The mode can be altered by clicking on the mode buttons.

image026

  1. After clicking on the FM mode button, the FM bandwidth can be manually modified with the FM-BW slider.

image027

  1. To listen to a typical wideband broadcast FM station, you will need to change the audio sampling rate to 192000 Hz. Do this by clicking on the Bandwidth button or alternatively by pressing F6 and then selecting the output sampling rate as 192000 Hz.

SDR-RADIO V2 Setup Up Guide

To install SDR-RADIO for the RTL-SDR follow the steps below

  1. Purchase an RTL-SDR dongle. The cheapest and best for most applications is the R820T/R820T2 dongle. Information on purchasing one can be found here.
  1. Plug in your dongle and do not install any of the software that it came with, but ensure you let plug and play finish trying to install it. If you’ve already installed the software drivers it came with previously, uninstall them first.
  1. Go to http://zadig.akeo.ie/ and download Zadig.
  1. In Zadig, go to Options->List All Devices and make sure this option is checked.
  1. Select “Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0)” from the drop down list. Ensure that WinUSB is selected in the box next to where it says Driver. (Note on some PCs you may see something like RTL2832UHIDIR or RTL2832U instead of the bulk in interface. This is also a valid selection). (Do not select “USB Receiver (Interface 0)” however).

Zadig Screen

  1. Click Install Driver. You might get a warning that the publisher cannot be verified, but just accept it by clicking on Install this driver software anyway. This will install the drivers necessary to run the dongle as a software defined radio. Note that you may need to run zadig.exe again if you move the dongle to another USB port, or want to use two or more dongles together.

zadig_warning

  1. Download the SDR-RADIO installer from http://v2.sdr-radio.com/Download.aspx.
  1. Use the installer to install SDR-RADIO.
  1. Either compile yourself using the instructions from http://v2.sdr-radio.com/Support/RTLSDRs/BuildingDlls.aspx, or download from the bottom of http://www.aa5sh.com/?page_id=65 (MIRROR), the SDRSourceRTL2832U.dll, rtlsdr.dll and libusb-1.0.dll dll files. Copy the dlls into either the C:\Program Files\SDR-RADIO-PRO.com (64 bit), or C:\Program Files (x86)\SDR-RADIO-PRO.com (32 bit) folder depending on what version of Windows you have.
  1. Open SDR-RADIO. Upon opening it you will be greeted with the Select Radio screen and a prompt saying “List is empty – add radio definition now?” Click Yes. If this prompt does not display, click the + Definitions button.
  1. In the new window open the Search drop down menu and select RTL SDR (USB). After clicking it the RTL-SDR will be added to the Radio Definitions list. Click OK.

image030

image031

  1. Click on the RTL-SDR click to select it, choose your desired sample rate then click Start.

image032

  1. Click on the Span button and adjust the span to the sample rate bandwidth you chose in the last step. This will let you see the whole spectrum.

image033

  1. To change the receive mode use the left menu under the frequency tab. You can also change the signal bandwidth here. NFM signals are typically around 12 kHz wide and broadcast FM is typically around 192 kHz wide.

image034

  1. To adjust the frequency, use the VFO tuning box on the right side. If you don’t see it you may need to click on the VFO tuning tab. Also if the screen is too small you may need to expand it’s size to show it. You can also click on the waterfall to instantly tune to the clicked frequency.

image035

  1. Be sure to adjust the gain settings using the RF gain button in the top which is under the Home tab. By default it is set to automatic.

sdrconsolegain

  1. Also to adjust the waterfall colors so that signals are more clearly seen go to the Display tab up the top and then click on the Automatic Calibration button on the very top right.

sdrconsoleautocal

Other SDR Windows Software Compatible with RTL-SDR

See the Software Guide for a big list of other compatible RTL-SDR software.

Getting Started on Linux

Linux instructions for installing the RTL-SDR libraries can be found at http://sdr.osmocom.org/trac/wiki/rtl-sdr.

After installing the libraries you will likely need to unload the DVB-T drivers, which Linux uses by default. To unload them temporarily type “sudo rmmod dvb_usb_rtl28xxu” into terminal. This solution is only temporary as when you replug the dongle or restart the PC, the DVB-T drivers will be reloaded. For a permanent solution, create a text file “rtlsdr.conf” in /etc/modprobe.d and add the line “blacklist dvb_usb_rtl28xxu”.

After installing the libraries and black listing the DVB-T drivers we recommend starting off with GQRX, a SDR program similar in operation to SDR#. It can be downloaded via the package manager in your Linux distribution or from http://gqrx.dk/download. We can now also recommend the multi-platform CubicSDR which can be downloaded from http://www.cubicsdr.com/.

If you want to install GNU Radio we recommend using Marcus Leech’s script by typing the following into terminal. This installs the RTL-SDR drivers as well.

wget http://www.sbrac.org/files/build-gnuradio && chmod a+x ./build-gnuradio && ./build-gnuradio

Note that if you want to run Linux in a virtual machine it has been reported that RTL-SDR performance with VirtualBox is rather poor due to it’s slow USB connection. VMWare Player on the other hand has good performance – just remember to set the USB controller to use the USB 2.0 protocol as by default it is set to USB 1.1.

Getting Started on OSX

As there is a severe lack of SDR software for OSX, we recommend using either Linux or Windows. However, GQRX is a SDR program that works well on OSX. Instructions for its installation on a Mac can be found on this post http://www.citeworld.com/article/2362122/mobile-byod/software-defined-radio-part-2-mac-os-x-and-windows.html.

We can now also recommend the multi-platform CubicSDR which can be downloaded from http://www.cubicsdr.com/.


For a comprehensive book about the RTL-SDR you may be interested in our eBook available on Amazon.

The Hobbyist’s Guide to the RTL-SDR: Really Cheap Software Defined radio.