Baofeng handheld two way radios are well known among amateur radio operators everywhere. Models such as the UV-3R, UV-B6, BF-F9 and the legendary UV-5R are a common staple in the modern ham shack, and with good reason. These radios are compact, easy to use, versatile and, best of all, extremely inexpensive. They are some of the most affordable amateur radios on the market. These attributes have made Baofeng a household name in the ham community.
However, programming a Baofeng radio from a computer isn't all that intuitive and can become messy even for the most experienced ham who is not used to Chinese-made radios. The USB cable driver offered by Baofeng is buggy and the programming software made by the manufacturer is, for all intents and purposes, junk.
Fortunately, there are other options available, and once properly installed, they are actually quite good. You just need to know where to find these options and how to install them properly. Once that is accomplished, programming is usually a breeze.
To find and install the Baofeng USB Programming Cable driver and programming software correctly, follow the instructions below. NOTE: follow these instructions completely and in order. Failure to do so may only bring more frustration when things don't work.
1. To start, the computer should be on and the radio should be off.
2. Locate the correct USB programming driver for your operating system. You can download the Prolific driver for Windows, Mac and Linux at http://www.miklor.com/COM/UV_Drivers.php. If you purchased the Baofeng UV Series USB Programming Cable from Buy Two Way Radios, the driver for Windows will be on the CD included with the cable in the USB Cable Driver folder. Insert the CD and go to USB Cable Driver > USB Cable Driver Prolific 126.96.36.199.exe. This is the correct driver.
3. Install the USB programming cable driver. Do NOT connect the USB cable at this time.
4. Locate the CHIRP Programming Software for your operating system. The latest stable build for Windows XP, 7, 8, MAC and Linux can be downloaded from http://chirp.danplanet.com/projects/chirp/wiki/Download. It is also included on the Buy Two Way Radios CD in the CHIRP Programming Software folder. Choose the appropriate folder for your operating system. Install the program but do not run it yet.
5. Plug the USB programming cable into the USB port on your computer. Plug the other end of the cable into your radio and turn it on.
* Additional steps for Windows *
- There may or may not be a notification after connection. To verify the connection, check the Windows Device Manager. Access to the Device Manager will depend on your version of Windows. Once in Device Manager, click on Ports (COM and LPT). It should be listed as Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port (COMX). X denotes the COM port number. Note the number and write it down if necessary, as you will need to know it when configuring the programming software.
- If there is a yellow triangle with an exclamation mark next to the USB device, Windows did not install the driver correctly. To correct the issue, right-click on the device and choose Update Driver Software on the pop-up menu. Choose Browse My Computer to install the driver manually. Choose Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer. Choose Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port Version: 188.8.131.52 and click NEXT. The correct driver should install and the yellow notification should disappear from the Device Manager. Note the COM Port number.
6. Run the CHIRP Programming Software. Click Go to Radio on the menu bar and choose Download From Radio. Choose the COM Port number for the USB cable, the Vendor (Baofeng) and the model of the radio (such as UV-5R) from the drop down lists in the pop-up box. Your radio should be connected to the computer and CHIRP should now be able to communicate with it.
* Additional Instructions for Windows laptops *
On some laptops, the device manager may indicate the cable is installed correctly, but CHIRP may not detect the COM Port. This may occur if Windows Power Management is enabled on the device. To activate the cable, go to the Device Manager and right click on Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port (COMX). X denotes the COM port number. Click Properties on the pop-up menu. Click the Power Management tab. Remove the check from the box next to Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power and click Apply or Save.
To verify the connection, Run the CHIRP Programming Software. Click Go to Radio on the menu bar and choose Download From Radio. Choose the COM Port number for the USB cable, the Vendor (Baofeng) and the model of the radio (such as the UV-5R) from the drop down lists in the pop-up box. The program should download the frequencies from the radio. When it completes the data transfer, the frequency table will appear on the screen. The radio is now ready to program through your computer.
As an authorized Baofeng Dealer, we want installation to be as easy and painless as possible so you can enjoy your radios for many years to come. If these instructions are followed correctly, you should not have any difficulty connecting the Baofeng radio to your computer. After the initial setup, future connection to the computer should be a matter of simply plugging the USB programming cable into your radio and computer and running CHIRP.
Note: If you followed the installation instructions and are still having trouble, there is now another solution available. The XLT Painless Programming Cable installs quickly and easily on computers with Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Installation is automatic on many systems with little or no user interaction required. The XLT Painless Programming Cable works with Baofeng, Kenwood, Wouxun and other two way radios equipped with standard two pin Kenwood connectors.
Update: Hear our review of the Baofeng UV-5R Programming Cable in Episode #82 of The Two Way Radio Show Podcast!