Last Updated: February 25, 2016
· jgl

Getting started with SDR# with RTL2832U

The incredibly affordable Digital TV dongles based on the RTL2832U chip has significantly lowered the barrier to access for basic Software Defined Radio equipment.

If you have already purchased one of these ~$13 devices (including shipping!), this guide will help you on how to get SDR# (SDRSharp) up and running with your RTL2832U!

if you haven't already bought one, see this reddit post for a guide on compatible hardware

About SDR#

SDR# (read and googled as "SDR sharp") is an application for general purpose SDR tasks, such as viewing the spectrum and waterfall, listening to (and recording) audio etc.

You can use SDR# to listen and record FM Radio, record garage door opener signals, airplane (ADS-B), AIS and a lot more! This device is a great introduction to the RF world, where you can actually see the invisible signals!


Setting up SDR#

Download the SDR# setup script from their website and unarchive the sdr-install folder.

This folder can be anywhere depending on your preference - setting up SDR# does not require any full-fledged installation.

Run install.bat. A black window should appear - allow it to run on its own, where it will fetch the required files for SDR# and RTL2832U to run together. No interaction is required here - when the script is done, the window will close.


At this point, a new folder sdrsharp should have been created. You can now plug in your RTL2832U dongle. Do not install any drivers that came with the device. Once you are done, open the sdrsharp folder and run zadig.exe

Loading RTL2832U Drivers

Zadig is a utility to load the correct drivers for the RTL2832U so that can function as more than just a TV Receiver.

In Zadig, open Options, and select List All Devices.

List all Devices

Now, in the Device list, pick Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0) and press Install Driver.

Take note that there might also be a Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 1). This is most likely NOT what you want.

During the process, there might be a big red warning. When prompted, select "Install this driver software anyway".

Zadig done

Upon completion, your Zadig window should look somewhat like the above image. If all appears to be fine, you can close Zadig.

This process typically persists and you should only need to do this once. I've read that moving the RTL2832U dongle to a different USB port might reset the drivers (hence you might have to repeat this), however I did not have that issue.

Running SDR#!

Within the same folder where you ran zadig.exe, run SDRSharp.exe. The SDRSharp application should appear. (Welcome!)

The list beside Play on the top left should currently be showing Other (Sound card). Click the list and select RTL-SDR - USB.

To test if the whole set-up works, lets tune into a FM radio station!

On the left sidebar, under the Radio section, select WFM. (It might previously be on AM).

Change the large numeric dial above the 2 black graphs to display your preferred local FM station's frequency. To do so, you can hover over a digit and use your mouse scroll-wheel to change the values, or you can click the top of any digit to increment the value (and the bottom of a digit to decrement it).

In my case, if I wanted to listen to Radio 99.5, the value would read 0.099.500.000. When you are ready, click Play!

SDRSharp working

If you hear music playing, congratulations! The setup should be mostly complete! In fact, in that graph, you can even see other stations broadcasting on 98.7MHz and 100.3MHz.

Do fiddle with the contrast settings to find a value that you prefer. For me, I prefer "quiet" sections to be blue, and "hot" sections to be orange.

tip: if you need a quick and temporary signal boost, grab the antenna with your hands - your body works reasonably well as an antenna

There are quite a lot of things you can do to fine-tune SDR# such as building an antenna to improve signal quality. I usually lurk around /r/rtlsdr , where there is a newbie-friendly community.

This should give you a good grasp on how to get SDR# working with RTL2832U. I hope you will have a great time playing with it!

Additional SDR# reading provided by /u/sdrformariners :

SDR# setup, oriented for mariners (AIS etc.)

Beginner's guide on using SDR#