maandag 9 maart 2020

SDR# Radio on Windows 10

Recently i installed SDR# Radio software on my Windows 10 computer.

What is SDR?

Software-defined radio (SDR) is a radio communication system where components that have been traditionally implemented in hardware (e.g. mixers, filters, amplifiers, modulators/demodulators, detectors, etc.) are instead implemented by means of software on a personal computer or embedded system.
While the concept of SDR is not new, the rapidly evolving capabilities of digital electronics render  practical many processes which were once only theoretically possible.

What is needed for SDR?

To use SDR you need 3 things

1) SDR Dongle
I have an RT820T dongle  ( DVB-T+DAB+FM  USB2.0 dongle ) Most documentation i found is not about the RT820T but about the R820T dongle, however my dongle worked fine.

2) Antenna
With the SDR dongels most times comes a small antenna. This will work fine for the first experiments and testing the SDR dongle.
However the SDR can process frequencies in a broad frequency range. For good reception the antenna needs to be matched to the frequency.
The antenna that came with my dongele works resonable in the FM range but can not replace a real good antenna suitable for a specific frequency, frequency range.     
 The optimal antenna will depend on the frequency and project you are interested in.

3) A computer (with audio sound output and USB input) running the SDR Software.
With the dongle came a cd with software to receive some audio and TV signals.
A quick investigation on internet shows that it is not advised to install this software as it will interferes with SDR# software.
I installed the SDR# ( SDRSharp ) software and it worked fine. However i epect with a better antenna, or a better location for my antenna a lit can be improved.

Advantages of SDR over traditional radio?

A lot of the receiver is replaced by software. This makes that it can be used over a very wide frequency range and also use  different modulation modes (FM , AM , SSB and TV) by software settings.
As limited hardware is needed it is relative cheap. A simple SDR USB dongle can be bought for around 20 euro. There are more expensive and advanced devices available however a cheap dongle will be sufficient to do a lot of experiments. For advanced experiments perhaps better use a part of your budget for your antenna.
SDR can be used to check radio frequencies e.g. 433MHz radio remote controls for switching lamps, garage doors, car, WiFi and more.
It seems SDR data can also be shared over the (local) network. There us also software that can be installed on Android or on a Raspberry Pi.

Installing SDR#

Installing SDR# ( SDRSharp) is not extreme difficult. However it is (currently) not just plug and play.
Installing the (limited) software that comes with the dongle even makes it more difficult to full use the dongle with a program like SDR#
Therefore i decided to post this summary how to install SDR# on Windows 10 on my blog.

Steps involved are
- Download and extract the software.
- Run some installation scripts (also to install the USB driver).
- Then test and start using SDR#.

The complete installation instructions can be found on
https://www.rtl-sdr.com/rtl-sdr-quick-start-guide/

Go to www.airspy.com and find the downloads button on the top menu.
Next to the "SDR Software Package" heading click on the download button to download sdrsharp-x86.zip.
Extract (unzip) sdrsharp-x86.zip to a folder on your PC. (Important! Many people who have issues forget this step! Do not run the files from within the zip file or the following steps will fail). (Also, do not extract into a folder within the Program Files directory, or installation may fail as these folders are often automatically made read only by Windows).

Run install-rtlsdr.bat

Plug in the dongle. (Do not install any of the software that it came with !! )

In the folder where you extracted the sdrsharp files find the file called zadig.exe.
Right click this file and select "Run as administrator".
The program Zadig to add your USB device starts.

In Zadig, go to "Options->List All Devices" and make sure this option is checked. If you are using Windows 10, in some cases you may need to also uncheck "Ignore Hubs or Composite Parents".
Select "Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0)" from the drop down list.

To install the WinUSB driver, ensure that WinUSB is selected
Click Replace Driver

Open SDRSharp.exe and set the "Source" drop down box to 'RTL-SDR (USB)'. This "Source" tab is on the top left.

Press the Play button (the right facing triangle). Your RTL-SDR software radio should now be set up and ready to use! If everything has worked you should be able to start tuning to frequencies.

Two important FAQ i copied also to this blog post as i never know how log the original resources will stay available:

Remote control
Some sellers opt to include the remote control that is used for changing TV channels. It is only useful for when the dongle is used for its original purpose - as a DVB-T HDTV receiver. The remote control has no purpose when the dongle is used as an SDR.
(I did not check/test if the remote sends radio or IR signals.)

DVB-T TV
The original purpose of the dongle was for DVB-T TV, and it can still do this. But please note that the DVB-T drivers and the SDR drivers are different, and they cannot both be installed at the same time. You can download the DVB-T drivers here. It is recommend using Prog-DVB as the TV software. 
(For me this was a little disappointment. I did not tested DVB-T on this Windows 10 system yet.)

User guide

As many things can be (wrong) configured using SDR radio read
https://www.rtl-sdr.com/sdrsharp-users-guide/  to make full use of the device.
Also on YouTube instructional videos can be found.

Conclusion

For me using SDR# in the FM band worked with the included antenna after running install-rtlsdr.bat and Zadig. To find radio stations or scan a frequency range some fine-tuning of the RF gain was needed.
As already mentioned in some articles found on he internet VHF antennas like the provide antenna do not pick up HF signals very well.
It would be interesting to experiment also with some other antenna's.

The post on https://oneguyoneblog.com/2016/09/15/sdrsharp-sdr-installing-windows-10/ helped me a lot!

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