CHIRPing a Baofeng

I’ve programmed a fair few handhelds in my time – Mostly Baofeng models but also some Yaesu FT-60s. For this, I’ve been using the free CHIRP software and a selection of programming cables.  This makes adding multiple repeater memories (and naming them) much easier and leaves the VFO Mode free for normal simplex working.  There’s no “automatic repeater shift” on these Chinese radios so it’s best to have repeaters (whether they are 0.6MHz, 1.6MHz or 7.6MHz split) on a memory and with a name/callsign.

CHIRP supports multiple tabs of frequency/memory lists which can be a simple CSV file or a radio “image”.  You can copy/paste and manage memories by adding/moving rows just like you would in an Excel spreadsheet – it’s a very flexible and powerful program.

CSV Files to Download
A complete UK Repeater CSV (over 800 GB3, GB7 and MB6/MB7 systems) which you load into CHIRP, courtesy of Ham Goodies: Download CHIRP CSV File here.

Essex Skills (aka M0PZT Basic) CSV which was offered to attendees of the past Danbury “Skills Nights”.  This contains the local FM repeaters on 2m/70cm plus FM calling, SO-50 and APRS.

Reading A Radio
Plug your programming cable into a spare USB socket on your computer, connect it to the radio and run CHIRP. Select Radio menu and then Download From Radio which presents you with a dialog box to set COM Port and Radio Model.  Typically, the USB/Serial cable appears as the highest COM Port in the dropdown list.  Some models of Baofeng present as a different type, eg: The UV-5RTP is also a BF-F8HP but may work as a UV-5R. Many OEM models also work as other types, so experiment.

Once you’ve downloaded your radio’s settings, select File>Save to create an image file of the radio to your computer. This will allow you to restore the radio if you make any mistakes during a programming session.

When you load your radio through CHIRP, you also get to see+manage the settings – and this is what I’ll be looking at in this blog entry.  There are some defaults that need to be changed and the settings you see below form my “standard” Baofeng programming file.

  • Carrier Squelch Level: I have this at 2 to avoid any random bursts of noise
  • Battery Saver: The 1800mAh battery lasts for a while, so this can be left off
  • Backlight Timer: 5 seconds is a good value to hold the backlight on for
  • Beep: I have this enabled as I often use an earpiece, so it provides audible feedback that a button has been pressed
  • Timeout Timer: 120 sec – Set this to whatever the value of your local repeater is to prevent “time-out”
  • Display Mode (A/B): Name – this ensures that you see the memory name (as opposed to frequency or channel number)
  • Standby, RX, TX LED Colors: Purple, Blue, Orange respectively
  • Roger Beep: Disabled

The Advanced Settings are as follows:

  • VOX Sensitivity: OFF – In an outdoor environment, VOX can be a bit “dangerous”!
  • Dual Watch/Priority: Keeps an eye on the sub-VFO
  • Alarm Mode: Site – This keeps the alarm off the transmitter and only produces an audible siren+flash
  • Voice: OFF – Very annoying, worse than a self-service machine at a supermarket (unexpected item in Hamming area!)
  • Squelch Tail Eliminate: OFF – This is quite a novel feature but can be annoying in a mobile environment. When enabled, the radio will not immediately release the PTT but will instead mute the transmitted CTCSS tone and then release the PTT. This gives the effect of the signal simply muting rather than producing a static “crash” of noise in your receiver when somebody de-keys.

The Other Settings that are of importance are:

  • Power-On Message: Nice feature to show your name+callsign when you turn the radio on
  • VHF/UHF Limits: Useful to keep your radio away from frequencies you shouldn’t be using!

Work Mode Settings determine how the radio powers-up and what mode it’s in as well as the VFO offsets and deviation.

  • VFO A/B Shift: OFF – I use the memories for repeaters and the VFOs for normal simplex work
  • VFO A/B Bandwidth: Narrow – This is a requirement for repeaters so don’t use “Wide”.
  • VFO A/B Tuning Step: I set this to 12.5KHz and 25KHz respectively. I use 2m on VFO A and 70cm on VFO B. You can, of course, directly enter a frequency without having to change the step value.

That’s some of the more important settings for the Baofeng range of transceivers – these can be saved as an “image” within CHIRP so keeping a backup (or cloning) your settings is really easy.