How to Program a Ham Radio with CHIRP Software has been live since September 2011, we specialise in both expert prepper guides, and a daily curated feed of the best prepper content online.

Amateur radio, commonly known as Ham radio, is a popular hobby and communication service that brings together people from all around the world. Programming your Ham radio is an essential skill to make the most out of your experience. CHIRP (CHInese Radio Project) is a free, open-source software tool that simplifies the process of programming your Ham radio. In this article, we will guide you through the process of programming your Ham radio using CHIRP software.

To achieve emergency preparedness with a Ham radio, you need more than just the gadget. Designate a contact and manner of contacting beforehand. Keying in frequencies like 150.965 during emergencies to connect to local services can be a hassle. It’s more practical and faster to save such frequencies for faster access.

Many radios, including popular models like the BaoFeng UV5R and BF-F8, come with built-in digital address books. However, programming these settings manually using the radio’s keys can be as user-friendly as operating a 1990’s VCR. 

This is where CHIRP, a free Ham radio programming software, comes in. Once you connect your Ham radio to a computer and run CHIRP, you can manage your saved frequencies. It’s open-source and is compatible with major desktop operating systems including Windows, macOS, and Linux. Using Windows for CHIRP helps sidestep minor issues.

CHIRP supports a wide range of common radios, and you can find a full list on their website. 

For using CHIRP, you need an FTDI cable that fits your specific radio model. With a bit of patience, you’ll be able to maximize the use of CHIRP. It’s a useful tool especially being a free open-source software, but it can seem outdated and complicated for those who just want to use Ham radio for emergency purposes, not necessarily to operate it professionally.

This guide provides step-by-step instructions for setting up and utilizing CHIRP for various preparation tasks, such as saving personal contacts and importing local repeater, weather, and first responder stations. While the guide focuses on common BaoFeng radios, the process is generally similar for other radio models and across different computer operating systems.


Before starting, ensure you have the following:

  1. A Ham radio (compatible with CHIRP)
  2. CHIRP software installed on your computer (available at
  3. A programming cable compatible with your radio
  4. A list of the frequencies you want to program

Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Connect your radio to your computer

Connect your Ham radio to your computer using the programming cable. Make sure your radio is turned off before connecting the cable.

Step 2: Launch CHIRP

When your radio is connected, open CHIRP software on your computer.

Step 3: Download the radio settings

To be on the safe side, download the existing settings from your radio before you start modifying anything. In CHIRP, click on ‘Radio’, then ‘Download from Radio’. Select the right port, radio model and other communication settings as prompted. Your radio’s manual will help if you’re unsure.

After selecting the correct settings, click “OK” to start the download process. CHIRP will display a progress bar, and once completed, you’ll see a spreadsheet-like interface with the current settings of your radio.

Step 4: Edit the settings

You are now free to adjust the radio settings to your preference. Feel free to add, change, or delete frequencies, modify names and customize other settings such as power output and CTCSS/DCS codes.

To add a new frequency, click on an empty row in the “Frequency” column and enter the desired frequency. You can also input other details, such as channel name, transmit and receive frequencies, and various other settings.

It’s important to review your entries thoroughly to avoid errors as they’d impact your radio’s functionality.

Step 5: Upload the settings to your radio

Once you have edited the settings, it’s time to upload them to your radio. In the CHIRP menu, click on “Radio” and select “Upload to Radio.” You’ll be prompted to confirm the port and radio model once again. Click “OK” to begin the upload process.

Step 6: Disconnect and test your radio

After the upload is complete, you can safely disconnect your radio from the computer. Turn on your Ham radio and test the new settings. If you encounter any issues, you can always download the settings from your radio, modify them, and re-upload.

Popular Entry-level: BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8 Watt Dual Band Handheld Ham Radio

$70 on Amazon

The third-generation version of the well-known UV-5R handheld Ham radio has gained significant popularity due to its affordability, durability, and versatility. Priced under $100, it offers a solid performance that meets the needs of most users.

The Goal: Channels and Settings, What to Save, and Backups

Having saved contacts in your radio can greatly enhance your communication capabilities. Here are some common types of contacts you’ll want to have saved:

  1. Direct Contacts: These include family members, friends, coworkers, or members of your prepper group. By saving their frequencies in your radio, you can easily reach out to them in times of need.
  2. Local Repeaters: These special ham stations rebroadcast messages over wider areas, enabling broader communication. Saving local repeater frequencies allows you to connect with a larger network of users in your area.
  3. Weather Stations: NOAA weather alerts provide important updates on weather conditions. By saving weather station frequencies, you can stay informed about potential hazards and changes in your environment.
  4. Local First Responders: It’s crucial to have the frequencies of local first responders such as police, fire, and EMS. This allows you to directly communicate with emergency services if necessary.
  5. FRS and GMRS Frequencies: These frequencies are used by common walkie-talkies and other radios. Saving FRS and GMRS frequencies enables you to communicate with individuals using these types of radios.

When saving contacts, it’s helpful to assign friendly names to the frequencies instead of relying solely on numbers. For example, you can save “Fire Dept” instead of remembering the specific frequency associated with it.

Every saved entry is stored as a channel, like TV channels. This enables easy navigation through your saved frequencies to check for activity. By scanning, your radio will automatically cycle through the channels until it picks up communication. This ensures you don’t miss important messages during emergencies.

CHIRP not only saves your address book but also backs up your radio’s configuration. You can save these backups on your computer, a cloud storage or USB drives. This facilitates the restoration or transfer of settings—a useful feature in case you lose your radio or want to upgrade. Sharing the configuration with your prepper group creates uniformity and eases programming.

Getting the Right Radio-to-Computer Cable

Unlike radios such as Icom IC-7300 having USB ports, some affordable radios like the BaoFeng series lack this feature. In these instances, you’ll need an FTDI cable to connect the radio’s microphone and speaker jacks to your computer’s USB port.

It is important to be cautious when purchasing cables, as there have been numerous reports of errors and issues with cheaper knockoff cables. It is advisable to invest in authentic cables from the manufacturer, as the extra cost is worthwhile for a reliable connection.

Essential Product: BaoFengTech Pc03 FTDI Genuine USB Programming Cable

Make sure that the plugs are tightly fitted into their respective ports to avoid common mistakes. Confirm that the plugs click into their slots.

Where the cable plugs in on a BaoFeng radio

In some cases, your computer may not have the necessary drivers to communicate with the cable. If this occurs, you will need to download and install the appropriate driver that facilitates communication between the radio and your computer.

Fortunately, driver-related issues have become less prevalent, especially on modern computers. Windows 10 typically installs the driver automatically, while macOS and popular Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora often come pre-installed with the required driver. However, it’s important to note that the FTDI driver provided by most operating system vendors will not work with counterfeit chips. If you encounter problems with CHIRP, it is possible that a counterfeit cable is the underlying cause.

How to Install CHIRP

Installing and initially setting up the software and the radio can be complex. To guide you through it, we’ll break down the process into a detailed step-by-step guide.


Firstly, download the CHIRP Windows installer from the official CHIRP website. Once you finish downloading, find the installer file and double-click it. Follow the Windows installer prompts, and step through required actions to install.

From our tests, CHIRP seemed to work best and more user-friendly with Windows operating systems. However, CHIRP is available for macOS and Linux if you prefer those systems. Choose the right installer for your system.


After downloading CHIRP installer for macOS, unpack the downloaded file. You can access the CHIRP application now. Open a Finder window and find the /Applications/ folder. Drag and drop the CHIRP app into the /Applications/ folder for easy installation.

While opening CHIRP for the first time on macOS, Apple will prompt you with a security message. To bypass this, Control-click (or right-click) on the CHIRP app icon and select “Open” from the options. Rest assured, even though Apple hasn’t officially approved it, CHIRP is safe to use.

CHIRP has been tested on macOS 10.14 Mojave and macOS 10.15 Catalina, and despite CHIRP developers issuing compatibility warnings, no issues were recorded during testing.


For Ubuntu and Fedora, CHIRP offers specific installation packages. In case you’re using another Linux distribution, download the CHIRP tarball file. For Arch Linux-based distributions, you can install CHIRP via the Arch Linux User Repository.

After installing CHIRP, you can launch it either from the command line using the chirpw command or through your preferred program launcher.

During installation, you may encounter a permissions error. To resolve this, the developers suggest adding your user to the dialout group. You can do this by executing the following command with sudo privileges:

sudo usermod -aG dialout USERNAME

Replace USERNAME with your actual username.

In our testing using a ThinkPad running Arch Linux, we encountered an issue where CHIRP had difficulty detecting the FTDI cable, which is typically mapped to /dev/ttyUSB0. Rebooting the ThinkPad with the cable already inserted resolved the issue, and we haven’t experienced any further connection problems since then.

General Tips

You don’t need the radio connected or powered on for all tasks performed on the computer. However, for data transfer between devices, the radio needs to be connected and on.

Changes made on the computer don’t immediately reflect on the radio. Perform the changes manually on the radio for them to apply.

Loose cable connections and fake cables often cause CHIRP problems. For a reliable connection, make sure your cable is securely connected. To avoid potential issues, we recommend using genuine cables.

Since the cable communicates with the radio through audio tones, it’s important to have the radio tuned to a quiet frequency without any background noise, even when the volume is set to maximum. Removing the antenna from the radio before connecting it to the computer can also be helpful.

Many users prefer to have an organized channel list, such as the example provided:

  1. Channels 1-10 for personal contacts
  2. Channels 11-20 for repeaters
  3. Channels 21-30 for weather stations
  4. Channels 31-50 for local services
  5. Channels 51 and above for FRS/GMRS

It’s beneficial to leave some unused spaces within each section. For example, if you start with only five personal contacts, you can leave channels 6-10 empty and start the repeaters at Channel 11. This way, you can easily add more contacts over time without having to reconfigure the entire system. However, the software may be challenging to use when it comes to maintaining the channel order as you add or import more channels.

As you work through the steps, it’s critical to remember the channels you’ve already filled in your overall plan. While adding more channels, CHIRP might show them starting from Channel 1. You’ll need to manually assign the desired channel numbers to the new channels to avoid overwriting existing ones.

Get Started: Connecting the Radio and Making a Backup

If you have a blank radio or a radio that is fresh out of the box, this step may not be as applicable. However, it serves as a good starting point for the overall lesson: establishing communication between CHIRP and your radio and creating a backup image of the radio’s current settings.

When your radio is correctly connected, open CHIRP and navigate to the menu. From there, navigate to Radio > Download from Radio.

A dialog box will appear, prompting you to choose the port, radio vendor, and model. Select the appropriate vendor and model, which in the case of a BaoFeng UV5RV2+, would be BaoFeng for the vendor and UV-5R for the model. However, determining the correct port can be a bit more challenging.

Determining the correct port from the list of options may require some trial and error, as they are often poorly labeled. However, rest assured that you can’t cause any harm, and if the communication fails, CHIRP will not be able to establish a connection with your radio.

Firstly, look for a port name that includes “USB.” Select that port and download. Pick a different port if the download fails.

When this step is complete, there’s no need to repeat it on the same computer.

Don’t worry about the warnings as you navigate through the prompts. These warnings typically highlight the driver’s experimental status and provide no guarantees about functionality, a common occurrence in community-driven software.

If everything goes according to plan, a dialog box stating the cloning process has begun will appear. Your radio frequencies are being copied to CHIRP.

After a few seconds, a table displaying the frequencies on your radio will pop up.

If you encounter any issues or problems during this step, simply start the process over again. In our experience, any difficulties that arise often occur during the initial connection between the computer and the radio. Once you have successfully established the connection, the subsequent steps are generally trouble-free.

CHIRP’s interface is organized into tabs. When you download the frequency list from your radio, it will be displayed under the “Memory” tab. Depending on your radio and settings, you may have multiple tabs.

Within the tabs, frequencies are presented in a table. While experienced Hams may be familiar with most of the settings, there are a few key columns that beginners need to understand:

Loc: This column represents the channel number assigned to each frequency. For example, Loc 0 corresponds to Channel 0 on your radio, Loc 10 corresponds to Channel 10, and so on. Keep in mind that your radio has a limited number of available channels that can be programmed. The BaoFeng UV5RV2+, for instance, can have a maximum of 128 channels programmed into it.

Frequency: This column shows the frequency associated with each channel.

Name: This column allows you to assign a label to each channel. Since you have a limited number of characters available, make sure to choose meaningful names. You can use repeater callsigns, nicknames, or standard channel names for frequencies.

Duplex: Duplex setting lets you adjust transmission settings, determining whether you can transmit through a channel. When Duplex is off, transmitting through that channel is disabled. For weather stations and emergency response frequencies like police and fire, it’s generally recommended to keep Duplex off.

Skip: This setting determines whether a frequency will be ignored during scanning. Enabling Skip (setting it to S) means the radio will automatically bypass that frequency during scanning. It’s recommended to enable Skip for weather stations, since they’re constantly broadcasting.

As best practice, create a backup before making any changes to your radio. To do this, visit File > Save, assign a unique name to your backup, such as the current date, select a saving location and click Save.

Images vs Exports

The image you saved contains all the digital traits of your radio, not just the address book. It includes all settings and configurations exclusive to your radio model. 

This image is useful for cloning the setup across other radios of the same model. If you ever lose your radio but replace it with the same model, you can use the image file to restore all the settings, making the new radio identical to the old one. However, please note that these images are specific to the radio model and may not be compatible with different models due to radio-specific settings.

To save only your address book, distinct from the radio-specific settings, follow the guidelines in the concluding section. This address book backup only includes the contact information table, allowing easy uploading to any compatible radio. This is especially convenient when multiple radio models exist within your family or prepper group, as you can easily share the address book across different radios.

Importing Basic Frequencies

Using CHIRP, you can take advantage of the built-in directory of common frequencies, which makes importing your address book easier and less error-prone. Instead of manually entering each frequency, you can import presets from the stock configuration.

Import common frequencies by visiting Radio > Import From Stock Config in the CHIRP menu. Here, you can select presets such as US Calling Frequencies, NOAA weather stations, and US FRS and GMRS frequencies.

For example, selecting US Calling Frequencies will import the Ham calling frequencies outlined in the American Radio Relay League’s band plan. These frequencies are commonly used by preppers and serve as general-purpose chat rooms for reaching out to random people in an emergency.

In the import dialog, certain frequencies are checked under the Import column while others aren’t. This happens because the BaoFeng UV5RV2+ radio used for demonstration only supports the 2m and 70cm bands (VHF and UHF). CHIRP will exclusively import frequencies compatible with your radio.

The To column indicates the channel number that CHIRP will assign to each imported entry in your address book. For example, channel two could be assigned to the 2m Call frequency, while channel four could be assigned to the 70cm Call frequency.

Change the Automated Channel Settings

You can manually adjust the problematic channel numbers assigned by CHIRP in the software.

At the bottom of the import dialog, under Adjust New Location, there are a couple of options. Clicking Auto will get CHIRP to automatically assign the 2m Call frequency to channel zero and the 70cm Call frequency to channel one, enhancing channel organization.

If you prefer, you can also double-click the channel number under the To column to set it manually. This allows you to assign specific channel numbers to each frequency according to your preference.

The buttons under Adjust New Location help in efficiently updating all channel assignments simultaneously.

When importing frequencies into an empty address book, it is recommended to use Auto for the initial batch. However, for subsequent imports, you can employ the numbered buttons (+1, +10, +100) under Adjust New Location to ensure the new frequencies are added starting from the end of the current address book or at a designated position if you prefer to leave some channels empty.

To prevent overwriting existing channels, it is important to manually check and adjust each channel as needed.

Here’s an illustration to clarify the process:

  1. Suppose you have already saved Channels 1-8 and wish to keep them unchanged.
  2. Now, you proceed to import a batch of 14 frequencies, such as the weather examples mentioned below.
  3. Without manual intervention, CHIRP might assign these 14 new frequencies to Channels 1-14.
  4. However, since Channels 1-8 are already occupied, it is necessary to instruct CHIRP to import the new batch starting from Channel 9 in the “To” field.

Adding Weather Stations

Follow this procedure to incorporate weather frequencies, Radio > Import From Stock Config > NOAA Weather Alert.

When dealing with weather channels, you should configure two settings:

  1. Unless you possess meteorological expertise, it is advisable to disable transmitting on weather frequencies. Therefore, ensure that Duplex is set to Off for all weather frequencies.
  2. Prevent your radio from scanning weather stations by marking them with an S in the Skip column. Leaving them unchanged and initiating a scan would cause your radio to pause at each weather station it detects. Since weather stations continuously broadcast, 

If your scan is stuck in one mode,

If you mistakenly activate Skip for the wrong station, click the ‘S’ followed by the gray blank block above it to undo.

Adding Local Repeaters

CHIRP is very helpful in programming Ham radio repeaters. Repeaters are specialized Ham radio stations usually located on a hill or mountain. They expand the coverage of signals by receiving and “repeating” them. Since many repeaters need specific configurations such as frequency offsets (because they receive and transmit on different frequencies) and PL tones, CHIRP allows you to enter these manually. It also supports direct frequency imports from popular online databases, simplifying the programming process.

To establish connections with repeaters in your vicinity, navigate to Radio > Import From Data Source > RepeaterBook > RepeaterBook Proximity Query.

This action will prompt a dialog box where you can input your ZIP Code, search distance in miles, and available bands. For maximum repeater discovery, keep the Band selection set to All. It’s worth noting that CHIRP will not import frequencies that are incompatible with your radio model.

While it may be tempting to perform a wide search encompassing a large area, it is important to strike a balance and avoid cluttering your address book excessively. Consider factors such as the distance between your workplace and home, the typical separation between core family members during daily activities, or the range you anticipate traveling to a designated bug out location.

You may observe additional settings in the columns for Ham repeaters, including tone and offset. These settings are crucial for enabling successful transmission to the repeaters.

Adding Emergency and First Responder Frequencies

There are two categories of frequencies to consider:

  1. Standard frequencies used for calling for help. These can be compared to dialing 911, where regardless of your location in the US, you can call 911 for assistance. Similarly, boaters are aware that Channel 16 serves as the universal call-for-help channel on marine radios.
  2. Specific frequencies utilized by local responders such as police and fire departments.

Wikipedia lists international distress frequencies, useful for programming into your radio. Here are a few:

  1. In the Americas, the 2-meter calling frequency is 146.520, while in Europe it is 145.5, and in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand, it is 145 MHz.
  2. The 70-centimeter calling frequency is 446 in the Americas and Asia, and 433.5 in Europe.
  3. Marine VHF Channel 16, operating at 156.8 MHz, can be imported into CHIRP through the Radio > Import from Stock Config option.
  4. FRS channels 1, 3, and 20. Further instructions on programming FRS and GMRS channels using CHIRP can be found below.

Some attempts have been made within the prepping community to establish universally recognized channels. A separate guide will cover the detailed aspects of this topic.

Programming local first responder frequencies can be a complex task. Manual scanning to identify active frequencies in your area is one approach. Additionally, you can browse websites like RadioReference and manually input the information. Alternatively, you can reach out to local radio groups or even contact the police or other relevant agencies directly for assistance.

There are databases available that contain this information and can be imported directly into CHIRP, such as the one provided by However, access to these frequencies requires a registered account and the purchase of a premium subscription.

Some users of CHIRP on Linux and macOS may encounter an error related to a “missing Suds package.” Steps to resolve this issue can be found at the end of this section.

Tip: You can test the RadioReference import/connection before making any purchases. To do so, select Radio > Import From Data Source > When prompted for your username, password, and ZIP Code, enter random or incorrect information and click OK. If you receive an error indicating that your username or password is invalid, you can proceed with signing up on and continue with the import process.

Assuming the import connection is established, select Radio > Import From Data Source >, and input your correct username, password, and ZIP Code.

Similar to other import types, frequencies are shown for import. Check the boxes on the left side under “Import” to select the frequencies for import.

Transmitting on official responder frequencies without a genuine emergency can lead to significant consequences. For example, if a child accidentally activates a radio while playing “cops and robbers.” To prevent unintended outbound transmissions, ensure that the Duplex column is set to Off.



Fixing the Suds Package: a Brief Detour into Python Hell

Skip this section if you haven’t encountered a Suds error.

Python is the programming language CHIRP is based on. It has several versions. CHIRP relies on Python 2—an older version no longer actively used. Trouble arises while solving the Suds issue as installing Suds current version meant for Python 3 won’t resolve it.

For macOS users:

Open the Terminal located in the /Applications/Utilities folder.

Input the subsequent command into the Terminal:

sudo easy_install -z suds

This fix is applicable for both macOS 10.14 Mojave and 10.15 Catalina.

For Linux users:

The commands to fix the issue vary with the Linux distribution. The command given may not solve the issue for all. For Arch Linux, try the commands below:

Enter the command to install the Python 2 version of pip:

sudo pacman -S python2-pip

Then, use pip2, the Python 2 version of pip, to install Suds:

pip2 install suds

Various Linux distributions have different package managers and commands. Check your distribution’s package manager for the Python 2 version of pip and change the command accordingly.

It’s understandable if you find this troubleshooting process to be more trouble than it’s worth. In that case, an alternative option is to manually copy the information from the RadioReference website and paste it into CHIRP. While this option does not require any additional installations, it can be tedious and prone to errors. Each frequency, name, PL tone, and other details would need to be copied individually.

Another option is to export a CSV file with frequencies from the RadioReference website and import it into CHIRP. However, note that doesn’t provide a CSV file in a format that CHIRP recognizes, making the import process equally challenging.

Adding FRS and GRMS

This section involves importing frequencies for Family Radio Service (FRS) and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). These non-Ham bands are designed for walkie-talkies and require purpose-built radios. Using a Ham radio to transmit on FRS and GMRS frequencies technically goes against the regulations. However, in a real emergency, FCC rules permit transmitting on any frequency. Having these frequencies on stand-by for scanning and in case of emergency distress calls from these channels can be helpful.

To import FRS and GMRS frequencies:

  1. Choose Radio > Import From Stock Config > US FRS and GMRS Channels.
  2. You will be presented with a list of frequencies that should be compatible with your radio.
  3. Adjust the channel numbers accordingly to fit your desired organization.

If you still have empty channels available, you can consider adding more frequencies such as marine bands or Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) channels.

Changing General Radio Settings

You can customize various settings on your radio in CHIRP. Not all settings are editable as it depends on your radio model. Exercise caution while making changes. Don’t change settings if you’re unaware of the consequences.

To access the Settings tab, click on it. To return to your channel list view, click on Memories just above Settings.

Some users prefer adjusting the display of channel labels. Decide whether to display the user-friendly name (like “2M Call”) or the frequency. You can set different labeling schemes for each row, giving you more flexibility in showing information.

Some radios, like the BaoFeng radio shown here, can connect to two channels at once for quick back and forth switching. The two main lines on the screen represent active channels with the channel number on the right side. The blue “A/B” button toggles between the channels. The upwards arrow next to “2M” shows the currently active channel. If the bottom row was

In an emergency situation, imagine that you are scrolling through your address book using the top row on the screen. You come across labels such as “2M CALL” and “FIRE DEPT” until you find the desired channel. However, your friend wants to tune into the same frequency but doesn’t have access to your address book. It would be challenging for them to determine the frequency associated with “2M CALL” and input it into their radio.

To address this, you can program the second row to display the frequency instead of the human-friendly label. This way, you can pull up the same channel (Channel 0 in this example) in the second row, and it will show the numerical frequency that your friend can easily copy and input into their radio.

Saving Changes to the Radio

Once you have finalized your channel list and made all the necessary modifications, it’s time to upload it to your radio. If you had previously unplugged your radio, ensure that it is turned on, adjust the volume to an appropriate level, and tune it to a silent station. Then, connect your radio back to your computer.

Before proceeding with the upload, it is recommended to create a backup of your channel list by saving it to your computer. You can do this by following the same steps as before and choosing the option to save the channel list.

To upload the channel list to your radio, go to the CHIRP software and select the “Radio” tab. From there, choose the “Upload to Radio” option. Verify that the port, vendor, and model settings are correctly configured. Click “OK” to initiate the upload process and follow any additional prompts that may appear to clone your new channel list to your radio.

Sharing Your Address Book with Others or Changing Radio Models

When creating a backup of your radio’s “image,” the information is saved in an IMG file format specific to your particular radio model. This file includes both the address book and the customized or general settings that are unique to your model.

It’s important to note that you cannot directly import an IMG file to a different radio model. If you want to transfer the data to a new model or share your frequency list with others who have different radios, an intermediary step is required.

To open a radio image, navigate to the CHIRP software and choose the “File” option from the menu. Select “Open” and browse for the IMG file in the directory where it is saved.

To export your radio’s frequencies, go to the “File” menu and select “Export.” The exported file will be in CSV format, which is a standard format used for spreadsheets. This CSV file can then be imported into another radio model by opening the image of the new radio and choosing “File” > “Import.” Select the CSV file that was previously exported.

Exporting frequencies to CSV is particularly useful for synchronizing frequencies between different radio models. However, if you have multiple configurations for a single radio, it may be more convenient to save them as separate images. This way, you can create multiple images for your radio and switch between them as needed. For example, you might have one image with frequencies for scanning at home and another image with frequencies for when you’re on vacation.

Supported File Formats

• Comma Separated Values (.csv)

• Comma Separated Values generated by RT Systems


• EVE for Yaesu VX-5 (.eve)

• Kenwood HMK format (.hmk)

• Kenwood commercial ITM format (.itm)

• Icom Data Files (.icf)

• ARRL TravelPlus (.tpe)

• VX5 Commander Files (.vx5)

• VX7 Commander Files (.vx7) 

2 Modes of Operation

Note About Common Errors

It’s important to be aware of some common errors that you may encounter while using CHIRP. Here are a few examples:

Unable to Communicate: If you are unable to communicate with your radio, make sure that it is powered on and that the USB connector is securely connected to both the radio and the computer.

Incorrect ‘Model’ Selected: If you receive an error message indicating an incorrect model selection, go back to the model selection step in CHIRP and choose a different model number that matches your specific radio model.

Incorrect Firmware: If you encounter an incorrect firmware error, it means that you cannot directly clone two radios. Instead, you will need to import the settings from the source radio and manually copy them over to the destination radio.

Unsupported Firmware: If you receive an unsupported firmware error, it means that your radio is not currently supported by CHIRP. Double-check the list of supported radios to ensure compatibility. If your radio is not listed, you can request support from the CHIRP community or developers.

Understanding CHIRP’s Columns


The “Loc” field in CHIRP represents the location or channel number of the memory in your radio. The specific range of values allowed in this field depends on the settings and capabilities of your radio. It is important to note that different radio models may have different ranges or limitations for channel numbers. Make sure to refer to your radio’s manual or specifications to determine the valid range of channel numbers for your particular radio model.


The “Frequency” field in CHIRP represents the receive frequency of the channel in Megahertz (MHz). In cases where the Duplex setting is set to None, indicating no repeater offset, the frequency specified in this field is also the transmit frequency for the channel. It is important to note that the frequency should be entered in Megahertz and accurately reflect the desired receive and transmit frequency for the channel.

Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS)

CTCSS, which stands for Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System, is a technology used in two-way radio communications to reduce the annoyance of listening to other users on a shared channel. It creates multiple virtual channels within the same radio frequency by superimposing an additional audio tone over voice transmissions. This tone is not audible to the human ear but can be detected by the radio circuitry. When multiple groups of users share the same frequency, the CTCSS circuitry mutes transmissions from users using a different CTCSS tone or no CTCSS at all.

In professional two-way radio systems that utilize CTCSS, radios always transmit their own tone code simultaneously with the voice when the transmit button is pressed. This process, known as CTCSS encoding, adds precise and low-pitched audio tones ranging from 67 to 257 Hz to the transmitted signal. These tones, often referred to as sub-audible tones, help differentiate between different groups using the same frequency. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires CTCSS users on shared channels to disable their receiver’s CTCSS to check if co-channel users are talking before transmitting.

To illustrate the benefits of CTCSS, consider a scenario where a two-way radio frequency is shared by a pizza delivery service and a landscape maintenance service. Without CTCSS, radios from both groups would receive transmissions from each other, leading to unnecessary distractions and missed messages. By implementing CTCSS, radios from each group would only receive transmissions from their own group, reducing interference and improving communication efficiency.

However, using CTCSS in shared frequencies also has its challenges. In dense two-way radio environments with numerous groups sharing a single frequency, there is a higher likelihood of accidental interference. Users may assume the frequency is clear and transmit simultaneously with another group, resulting in overlapping transmissions and reduced clarity. Radios equipped with a “Busy Channel Lockout” feature can help prevent transmitting in such cases.

Tone Mode

The Loc column in CHIRP is used to set the mode for transmitting or receiving squelch tones or related selective calling technologies. The available options and their meanings are as follows:

(None): No tone or code is transmitted, and the receive squelch is open or triggered by the carrier.

Tone: A single CTCSS tone is transmitted, and the receive squelch is open or triggered by the carrier. The specific tone used is determined by the value set in the Tone column.

TSQL: A single CTCSS tone is transmitted, and the receive squelch is tone-coded to the same tone. The specific tone used is determined by the value set in the ToneSql column.

DTCS: A single DTCS/DCS code is transmitted, and the receive squelch is digitally tone-coded to the same code. The specific code used is determined by the value set in the DTCS Code column.

Cross: This indicates the use of a complex arrangement of squelch technologies. The definition of the Cross Mode column should be consulted for more details on how it is configured.


The ToneSql column in CHIRP is used to set the specific CTCSS tone that will be transmitted and used for receiver squelch if the Tone Mode is set to TSQL. This tone is utilized to ensure that the receiver squelch is activated only when it detects the specified CTCSS tone.


The DTCS Code column in CHIRP is used to set the specific DTCS code that will be transmitted and used for receiver squelch if the Tone Mode is set to DTCS. In Cross mode, the DTCS Code column may have additional meanings or functions, which can vary depending on the specific configuration and setup.


The DTCS Pol (DTCS Polarity) setting in CHIRP is used to determine the polarity of the DTCS code that is transmitted and received for both transmit and receive squelch. The first character represents the transmit polarity, while the second character represents the receive polarity. The options for polarity are N for normal and R for reversed (also known as “inverted”) polarity. By setting the DTCS Pol values, you can control the specific polarity configuration of the DTCS code used in your radio’s communication.

Cross Mode

The Cross Mode field in CHIRP controls the squelch behavior of a channel when the Tone Mode is set to Cross. It allows for the configuration of different selective-call methods for transmit and receive squelch. The field consists of two technologies separated by an arrow (->). The value to the left of the arrow determines the selective-call method used for transmit, while the value to the right determines the method used for receive squelch. The available options are:

Tone: CTCSS tones are used. The transmit tone is taken from the Tone column, and the receive tone is taken from the ToneSql column.

DTCS: DTCS/DCS codes are used. The transmit code is taken from the DTCS Code column, and the receive code is taken from the DTCS Rx Code column.

<blank>: This indicates that no method is used for either transmit or receive.

The Cross Mode field allows for the configuration of various commercial modes of squelch operation, enabling the use of different tones or codes for transmit and receive. Examples of different Cross Mode configurations include Tone->Tone, Tone->DTCS, DTCS->Tone, ->Tone, ->DTCS, DTCS->, and DTCS->DTCS. These configurations specify the specific method to be used for transmit and receive squelch, based on the Tone, ToneSql, DTCS Code, and DTCS Rx Code values.


The Duplex setting in CHIRP determines the duplex mode of a channel. Here are the different options and their meanings:

(None): This indicates that the transmit and receive frequencies are the same. It is used for simplex channels where there is no frequency offset.

+* or – (plus or minus): If set to either + or *-, the transmit frequency will be either above or below the receive frequency, respectively, by the value specified in the Offset field.

Split: If the duplex is set to split, the Offset field should contain the absolute transmit frequency to be used. This is applicable when the radio supports split-frequency operation.

Off: When the duplex is set to off, transmission on this channel will be disabled. This is useful when you want to listen to channels outside the FCC allocated amateur band, such as public safety channels in the 155MHz range.

It’s important to note that for simplex channels, the Duplex setting should be set to (None), indicating that there is no frequency offset. On the other hand, repeater channels should have the Duplex setting set to either +, -, or split, depending on the specific configuration required for the repeater operation.


The Mode setting in CHIRP determines the transmit and receive mode of the channel. Here are the common values and their meanings:

FM: This refers to “Wide” FM mode used for two-way communications, with a deviation of approximately 5 kHz.

NFM: This refers to “Narrow” FM mode used for two-way communications, with a deviation of approximately 2.5 kHz.

WFM: This refers to “Wide” FM mode used for broadcast communications, with a deviation of around 100 kHz.

AM: This refers to “Narrow” AM mode used for two-way communications, specifically in the aircraft band in the US.

DV: This refers to Icom’s digital D-STAR mode, which is a digital voice and data communication mode.

These modes define the modulation scheme used for transmitting and receiving signals on the channel, and it is important to set the appropriate mode based on the communication requirements and the capabilities of your radio.

Intermountain Intertie

One notable repeater network is the “Intermountain Intertie,” which spans from southern Idaho and Wyoming to Montana, Colorado, northern Arizona, Nevada, and occasionally California. This network of repeaters provides a highly effective means of long-range communication without requiring an HF radio.

When utilizing networked repeaters like the Intermountain Intertie, it is essential to practice good etiquette and consider the needs of other users. Be mindful of allowing breaks in communication and avoid monopolizing the system. During times of heavy usage, it is recommended to limit your QSOs (conversations) to no more than 10 minutes. Keep in mind that there is a slight delay in signal turnaround across the various links, so be sure to pause for several seconds when allowing for breaks and key up for about a second before speaking your first word.

The Intermountain Intertie is an extensive system, and delving into its intricacies is beyond the scope of this discussion. However, it is worth noting its existence and encouraging individuals to tune in and listen. By simply observing and listening to the communications on the network, you can gain valuable insights and learn a great deal about radio operations and practices.

How Often Should I Update CHIRP

The frequency of updating CHIRP depends on your specific needs and circumstances. Here are a couple of scenarios to consider:

If you have only one radio and your current version of CHIRP is working well for you, it is not necessary to update. If CHIRP meets your satisfaction and there are no new features or bug fixes in the newer versions that you require, you can continue using your current version without issues.

If you have multiple radios or you intend to use your existing CHIRP files to update another person’s radio, it is recommended to consider using the Latest Daily Build (LDB) of CHIRP. Using the LDB ensures that you have the most up-to-date version of CHIRP, which can be important for compatibility and avoiding potential issues. It helps prevent cross-loading, which means that using an older image on a newer radio (even if it’s the same model) could temporarily render the new radio inoperable due to firmware differences between the two versions.

In summary, while updating CHIRP is not mandatory, it may be beneficial to use the Latest Daily Build if you have multiple radios or need to update other devices. Staying up-to-date with CHIRP can help ensure compatibility and avoid potential firmware conflicts when working with different radio models or versions.


CHIRP software is a powerful and user-friendly tool that makes programming your Ham radio a breeze. By following this step-by-step guide, you can quickly and easily program your Ham radio with the desired frequencies and settings. Now you’re ready to explore the exciting world of amateur radio communication. Happy Hamming!