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Two way radio programmability

The two way radio is a powerful tool for short range communications, and for a number of reasons. There are no recurring connection charges, no subscription or usage fees, and it is easy to operate. Perhaps the best reason is the almost instantaneous connection. There is no dialing involved. Simply push a button and talk.

That is how a two way radio is supposed to work, and that is what users expect it to do. Many expect the radio to do it as soon as it is turned on, right out of the box, and some radios do. However, some of them don't, and a user who is not familiar with how a radio works may assume their brand new, freshly unboxed transceiver may not work at all. To those who are new to radio, it can be a real source of confusion and frustration.

While it is possible to receive a product prone to malfunction, such damage or defect isn't usually the issue. In fact, in all likelihood, there is probably nothing inherently wrong with the device itself at all. More often than not, the radio simply needs to be programmed.

The two way radios of today usually fall under one of two general categories: those that need to be programmed by the user, and those that don't. Some radio services, such as FRS, GMRS, CB and MURS, require the devices to operate on specific frequencies and/or within certain parameters, which means the radios operating within those services are generally pre-packaged and "hard programmed" at the factory to meet those requirements.

Other radio services are more flexible, and the radios operating within them are more flexible as well. These transceivers are designed for partial or full programmability by the owners themselves. That's a lot of accessibility, power and control over a device, particularly one used for communication, and many radio operators want and prefer to take full advantage of it whenever possible.

As these programmable two way radios become more sophisticated, so does their programming. Many can be programmed from the units themselves, usually either through a set of buttons or a full keypad embedded in the radio. However, some of them don't have that option, and even some that do require additional input by the user that can be cumbersome, complicated and often confusing for anyone who hasn't studied the manual from cover to cover (and if it is a manual for some imported radios, even if they have). In such scenarios, programming the radio via computer is generally considered a more practical or desirable option.

Some radios, such as lower end models used by many small businesses, retailers or localized business operations, may need to have only limited user programmability or may need to be completely locked down to prevent users from tampering with their functions and settings. These radios may be pre-programmed with frequencies, CTCSS/DCS codes and other features at the factory or by a dealer, allowing the end user a preset choice of programmable options.

Most higher end radios used for commercial, industrial, business purposes or public service operations are fully programmable and may be programmed by the dealer or the end user. Transceivers used in amateur radio are almost always fully programmable, and are usually shipped without any pre-programming from the manufacturer or dealer. These units must be programmed by the end user before they are able to transmit or receive calls.

The chart below lists the programmability of different types of two way radios we carry at Buy Two Way Radios. It is not intended to detail the programming capabilities or limitations of every make and model, only to provide the basic differences between them.

Two Way Radio Programmability Chart

Radio Service Manufacturer Model Programmable Programmer
Airband Icom IC-A6
Yes Dealer/End User
Amateur (HAM) Baofeng
All Yes End User
Citizen's Band (CB) Cobra
All No Manufacturer
Business Band BlackBox






Vertex Standard
All Yes Dealer/End User




All No Manufacturer
VHF Marine Cobra
All No Manufacturer

Additional resources:
Motorola RDX Two Way Radio Programming Software
How to program Motorola DLR1020 and DLR1060 Advanced Configuration options
How to Clone a Motorola RDX Two Way Radio
Don't Let Your Two Way Radio Dealer Hold You Hostage
How to Wirelessly Clone Kenwood Protalk Radios
How to program the Wouxun KG-UV920P mobile radio from a PC
How to program a frequency into the Wouxun KG-UV920P-A
Radio Compatibility: Which Models Will Work Together

One thought on “Two way radio programmability”

  • Don Louis Doga III
    Don Louis Doga III September 6, 2016 at 10:58 am

    I was wondering if y'all sell end user software for Motorola HT-750s and also the usb programming cable. I have some HT-750s, VHF 16 channel radios that I would like to reprogram. Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.


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