Tagged: zadig

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.

Equipment Guide

Currently, the most common RTL-SDR dongle is the R820T which can be purchased here. See the Buy RTL-SDR dongles page for more information.

To get the most enjoyment out of RTL-SDR you will need a decent antenna. The stock antenna that is shipped with the dongle is okay for testing and will pick up a number of signals, but is generally considered as poor for any serious radio scanning. (Note that our new RTL-SDR Blog Branded dongles available on Amazon come with improved stock antennas that work much better, but they are still no substitute for an outdoor antenna). For beginners, a bunny ears antenna like those you get for TVs should already work much better than the stock antenna. You can also improve the stock antenna performance by placing it on a metallic surface. The most recommended antenna for general scanning is a scantenna or discone due to their wide band receiving properties.

SDR# (SDRSharp) Set Up Guide (Tested on Windows Vista/7 + XP)

  1. Purchase an RTL-SDR dongle. The cheapest and best for most applications is the R820T dongle, which can be purchased 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/#download and scroll to the bottom of the page to find the download button. Click the download button to download sdr_install.zip.
  1. Note that you must have the Microsoft .NET 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.
  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 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).

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.

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  1. Open SDRSharp.exe. Set the drop down box at the top next to the Play button to ‘RTLSDR / USB’. Press Play. 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. Be sure to also adjust the RF gain settings by pressing the Configure button (looks like a cog) up the top near the Play button. By default the RF gain is set at zero.

Device Selection

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.
  • 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. 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 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.
  • 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 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. 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.
  • I get the error “1 compatible devices have been found but are all busy”
    This sometimes occurs after the computer has been suspended. To fix it simply disconnect and reconnect the dongle. Sometimes it may also be necessary to reinstall the Zadig drivers. 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.
  • 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.

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 dongle, which can be purchased 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 instead of the bulk in interface. This is also a valid selection).

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.

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  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 .

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  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.

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

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

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

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  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 dongle, which can be purchased 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 instead of the bulk in interface. This is also a valid selection).

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://sdrnuke.wces.net/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.

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

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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

HDSDR – An advanced version of the WinRad SDR software. A free software defined radio package.

SDR-Radio v2 – A free Windows program for software defined radio.

SDR-J – Free Windows program capable of also decoding DAB signals in software.

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

Getting Started on Linux

A good guide to getting started on Linux and GNU Radio can be found at this blog post here.

Note that if you want to run Linux in a virtual machine it has been reported that performance with VirtualBox is rather poor due to it’s slow USB connection. VMWare Player on the other hand has good performance.


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.