Why does my Phase 1 scanner still work on a Phase 2 system?

So you have had your trusty old BCD396XT or other Phase 1 scanner for years and it works great. You hear that your system has upgraded to a Phase 2 system but your old Phase 1 scanner still works? What gives?

Here is the skinny on that: Most “Phase 2” systems are actually operating in Phase 1 mode, at least partially. When a system upgrades to Phase 2 not only does the infrastructure have to be upgraded (base station repeaters, controllers etc.) but also all of the mobile and portable radios. Until ALL radios have been upgraded and reprogrammed the system will usually be operating in Phase 1 mode.

Many systems listed in the RadioReference database as “Phase 2” have been heard with Phase 2 operations but still operate as Phase 1, so in reality it is better termed as “Phase 2 Capable”.

Some wide area systems may operate in Phase 2 modes in one area and Phase 1 elsewhere. The huge StarCom21 system in Illinois is a good example of this. In the Chicago area some users use Phase 2 but others are on Phase 1 since the new radios are expensive. Until all those older radios are replaced or reprogrammed the system will operate in a mixed Phase 1 or 2 mode.

This makes your older Phase 1 only scanner usable for at least parts of the system and saves you from having to replace it right away. When they do switch entirely over to Phase 2 then you will need to replace your scanner.

Another question we often get here at the ScannerMaster International Headquarters is how one updates his older Phase 1 scanner to Phase 2. The answer to that is that you don’t. There is no update path for older scanners to Phase 2; you will have to replace it.

Most newer model digital scanners from Whistler and Uniden handle Phase 2, see them at http://www.scannermaster.com/Digital_P25_Phase_II_Scanners_s/708.htm

HP1 vs .HP2

The Uniden BearCat HomePatrol was a revolutionary design that transformed the scanner hobby when it was introduced. Never before was there a scanner that allowed one to just put in a ZIP Code to replace individual channel programming. The success of the HomePatrol led directly to the BCD436HP and the BCD536HP as well as location based scanners from Whistler (GRE and RS).

A couple years ago the HomePatrol line was extended with the introduction of the HomePatrol 2, the original HomePatrol is now called the HomePatrol 1.

So what is the difference between the HomePatrol 1 and 2? Well there are a few differences. The biggie of course is that the HP-2 handles APCO P25 Phase 1 and Phase 2 while the HP-1 only does Phase 1. If your area doesn’t use Phase 2 you could save some money and get the HP-1. The HP-1 has a silver front panel while the HP-2 is black.

In addition the HP-2 (like most other current handheld scanners) chargesits batteries from the USB port instead of using a separate jack like the HP-1. This allows the HP-2 to use common USB chargers of which you probably already have a bunch of. Since it uses common USB chargers it doesn’t come with one. If you are that one guy who doesn’t have a USB charger available we do sell them.

Other than the charger and Phase 2 the HP-1 and HP-2 are almost identical. The same software is used to update and program either radio. You can even take a memory card from one radio and use it in another. If you are using mounting gear the same gear can be used for either radio.

HomePatrol 2:


HomePatrol 1:

DMR, ProVoice and Ultimate Self Updating

Most people who want the various paid updates for Uniden scanners (DMR, ProVoice or Ultimate Updates) have our staff add the updates to the radios when they buy it. It is simpler and worth the little bit of added expense for a lot of these folks.

There are times when it is not convenient for one to have us do these updates at the time of purchase. Maybe you bought the radio elsewhere (shame on you!) or didn’t know you needed the update until later. Perhaps the target you want to listen to changed to a new system.

You can send the radio to us using the regular Mail In Programming Order Form and have us do the update for you. We can do the updates with or without the programming services.

If you cannot send the radio to us for the updates you can get them directly from Uniden.com. If you live outside the USA or Canada however then Uniden cannot process your credit card for payment. We can!

The first thing you MUST do is to update the firmware to the latest version. On each radio except the 996 and 325P2 it is done thru Sentinel. For users of the 325 and 996P2 you download it from Uniden’s website and run the updater.

After you update the firmware call us and provide the below information and we will then email you with the one-time code to unlock the feature set on your radio.

Model (HomePatrol 1, Home Patrol 2, BCD436HP, BCD536HP, BCD325P2, BCD996P2)

Electronic Serial Number (Not the one on the label!)

HP1, HP2: Press Menu>Advanced, scroll down then press Version Information

All others: Press Menu>Settings>See Scanner Info> Firmware Version

Sum Code (HP1 and HP2 it is the 3 digits right of the dash after the ESN)

Of course will need your email address to send you the code as well as the proper billing address and credit card information.

Once you get the code from us go to the Update menu on the radio and enter it via the keypad. Once the code is entered it remains on the radio forever, you cannot erase it or transfer it to another radio. On the 325, 996, 436 and 536 scanners you can have either or both of the DMR and ProVoice updates. The HP1 and HP2 only support the Ultimate Update.

If you have questions on these updates you can call our scanner experts at 1-800-SCANNER.

Update the firmware on your scanner!

Why would you want to update the firmware on your scanner, and how do you do it?
First, let’s explain WHAT firmware is. Firmware is the operating system of your radio, it works behind the scenes and tells the radio how to deal with things like keyboard inputs, frequencies, etc. Just like your computer or phone has an operating system (Like Windows 10, iOS etc.) scanners do too. Remember, scanners these days are miniature computers; they work much in the same way.

Firmware updates are released for a couple reasons. They either fix a problem or add/change features. Sometimes they do both. As an example, the BCD436HP’s most recent firmware update added the ability to add ProVoice and DMR digital protocols, before that firmware updates addressed an issue with clock settings.

When updating firmware one must follow ALL instructions CAREFULLY! You have the possibility of “bricking” your radio if you don’t do it right. This means that your $500 scanner may now be more useful as a brick than a radio… Follow the provided instructions to the letter and make sure that the program and firmware file you use is intended for your radio. The firmware for the PRO106 will not work on the WS1040!

Before trying to update the firmware on your radio make sure you have properly downloaded the firmware file itself as well as the installation program (if needed) BEFORE you start. If you do not have a replacement firmware file to install do not start the process since this erases the existing firmware to make the radio ready for the new version. No new version means no radio once you get going.

Some radios firmware updates are easier than others. The HomePatrol type radios use a program called Sentinel to check for new firmware versions and install them (easy, safe). Other Uniden scanners use a “Bearcat Version Updater” program to install a new update. GRE/RadioShack/Whistler scanners also use an application to install new firmware versions (nerve-wracking maybe).

What they all have in common is that they require a computer running Windows to update. (You can do it with a Mac running Windows with Parallels, Fusion, Bootcamp etc.) You also need the appropriate cable to connect from your computer to the radio. This is usually done via USB but some older radios use a Serial port.

Before updating your firmware make sure you have the following on hand:
• The radio you want to update
• The proper cable for your radio, along with the drivers already installed (if needed)
• The Firmware Updating program appropriate for your radio
• The actual firmware file itself (Imperative!)
• A strong sedative or plenty of alcohol to calm your nerves (optional)

Follow the instructions included with the firmware update TO THE LETTER. Make sure your radio and the computer can communicate properly. If you have programming software for your radio then read it first and save the programming file just in case you need to restore it to the radio. This also ensures that the radio and computer can communicate.

We also suggest that you check the RadioReference forum for your radio to see what other people’s experiences have been. Reading about someone else’s mistake is a lot easier than trying to fix your own.

Owners of PRO651 and PRO652 scanners that had tried to update their radios’ firmware versions had issues since no firmware updates were available until recently. Now one can download them and install them so previously bricked radios can be reincarnated.

ScannerMaster can update the firmware on many different models of scanners. Download the Hometown Programming Form for your radio and check the Firmware Update option if you would prefer our expert programmers to do this for you. We keep them heavily sedated all of the time already so their nerves are steady. Firmware Updates for “Zip Code Scanners” (HomePatrol, 436/536 and the TRX/WS1080/1088/1095/1098 series scanners) is included with the Setup and Optimize package already, it is an extra cost option for other scanners. If you aren’t sure call us and we will let you know.

DMR, ProVoice and Ultimate Updates for Uniden Scanners.

ScannerMaster offers a service to install the various paid updates for Uniden HomePatrol, x36 and P2 series scanners. These updates include the HomePatrol Ultimate Update (for HomePatrol 1 and 2 scanners) as well as the ProVoice and DMR/TRBO updates for the BCD436HP, BCD536HP, BCD996P2 and BCD325P2 scanners.

If you buy one of these scanners from ScannerMaster we offer a service to install these options for you before we ship the scanner. You can also send the scanner to us to perform the update, we then send the radio back to you.

Sometimes however it is not practical to send the radio to us. For US and Canadian customers it is pretty simple to buy the update directly from Uniden and install it yourself. For customers in other countries however it is a different story. Uniden can only accept credit cards from US and Canadian addresses. If you live in other countries then Uniden cannot accept your credit card for payment for these updates. They will refer you to a third party like ScannerMaster to obtain your updates.

ScannerMaster can accept credit cards from most countries. As long as the card works on our payment system we can provide you with the secret code to unlock the update for your radio. There are a couple things you will need to do to make this all work out:

First you need to update the FIRMWARE for your scanner. This is so important that if you don’t do it the paid updates just will not work! On the HomePatrol and x36 scanners it is done thru the Sentinel software, on the 325 and 996P2 radios it is done thru a separate (free) program available from Uniden’s website.

Once you have done the Firmware Updates then you need to obtain the “ESN” (Electronic Serial Number” from your scanner along with the “SUM” code. Here are the procedures for this:

HomePatrol-1 and HomePatrol-2:

  • Press Menu
  • Press Advanced Menu
  • Press the down arrow to get to the second page of items
  • Press the Version Information Button.

The ESN is listed and starts with 36 for the HP-1 and 37 for the HP-2. The SUM Code is the last 3 digits past the second dash. The ESN will look something like 36327-0040012345-123, the SUM code is the “123” part.

BCD436HP, BCD536HP, BCD325Ps and BCD996P2:

  • Press Menu
  • Select Settings.
  • (If you do NOT see “Upgrade” as an item in the list go back and update the firmware and start over!)
  • Select See Scanner Information
  • Select Firmware Version
  • The ESN will be listed as “SN37……”
  • The SUM Code will be a 3-digit letter/number combination.
  • We need both the ESN and the SUM Code. Don’t worry about the M-VER code.

We need the complete ESN and the SUM Code as well as the model of radio you have. With this info we can obtain the one-time code that unlocks the feature you want and send that code to you. You then go to the Upgrade menu on your scanner and enter it using the rotary knob to select the numbers. Once the code is properly added the radio will think it over for a minute or so and then announce that it was successful.

Once properly updated the code will stay working on the radio and will not need to be reinstalled. The code will only work for the radio it was obtained and if you dispose of the radio there is no way to transfer the code or feature to another radio.

GPS Based Scanning Tips

Several Uniden scanners support GPS based scanning. There are two main ways this works; Database based and Programming Based.

Scanners that support ZIP Code based programming (The HomePatrol and x36 types) can support GPS in both ways. Scanners that do not have the ZIP Code feature only support Programming based GPS.

ZIP Code based GPS scanning allows the radio to reload itself with the local frequencies based on locations provided by the attached GPS receiver. Instead of pulling over to change the ZIP code every once in awhile the GPS receiver sends the location to the scanner and it will update the location on a regular basis and reload the channels for that area.

Since these use the RadioReference database to provide the information, the GPS centers and ranges are set in the database and included when you update the scanner’s database in Sentinel.

Programming based GPS scanning requires that the Systems, Sites and Groups (or Favorites Lists) be programmed with GPS coordinates and ranges. The GPS sends the location to the radio and when the radio determines that you are within the circle drawn based on the location and range it turns on that item. When you leave the circle it turns it off.

If you use your scanner over a wide area a GPS can allow you to automatically turn on and off systems, sites, groups and/or Favorites Lists automatically and without having to punch in a ZIP Code all the time. If you only use the scanner at home or around a small area a GPS wouldn’t help you but if you travel a lot (RV folk, truckers etc.) it can be invaluable.

Most people use the Uniden GPS receiver with their scanners. It works on all Bearcat GPS-aware scanners without needing to configure it. If you want to use another GPS it has to support the older Serial format and the baud rate settings must be set to match that of the scanner. Most GPS receivers these days (Garmin, TomTom etc.) do not support Serial mode so you will likely be better off with the Uniden GPS.

Scanners that support GPS include: BCT15/15X, BCD996T/XT/P2, BCD396T/XT, BCD325P2, BC346XT, HomePatrol 1 & 2, BCD436HP and BCD536HP.

Sentinel, Sentinel: What’s the difference?

Owners of Uniden ZIP Code scanners can use the free Sentinel software to do database and firmware updates as well as create and edit Favorites Lists. While they look and feel very much the same, the versions of Sentinel for the HomePatrols is different than that for the BCD436HP and BCD536HP.

The HomePatrol Sentinel works for both the original HomePatrol 1 and the newer HomePatrol 2. When installed on your Windows computer it will have a brown shield icon on the desktop.

The BCDx36HP Sentinel works for both the BCD436HP handheld and the BCD536HP desktop/mobile scanners and has a green shield icon on the desktop.

You can easily share Favorites Lists between HP-1’s and HP-2’s as well as between 436’s and 536’s. In order to share Favorites Lists between HomePatrol’s and “x36’s” you need to export from one and import it to the other.

If you have both types of radios you will need to install both versions of Sentinel. Even though they look and feel the same they cannot handle the other radio types. There is no additional learning curve but there are a few terminology differences. For example, in the HomePatrol Sentinel the menu used to read or write to the radio is called “HomePatrol” while the x36 version it is “Scanner”.

When the data isn’t right: How to get your database scanner working.

So you went out and bought one of these fancy new database scanner like the HomePatrol, BCD436/536 or a Whistler TRX and set it up. The problem though is that you are not hearing your local channel that you expected. There are a couple things to try. The first is to double check that you have the location and Service Types set properly. If these are correct, did you accidentally lockout (“Avoid”) the Channel, Department or System?

If you have ruled out these issues take a look at the RadioReference Database at RadioReference.com. This is where the frequency information comes from. If the channel is listed there but not included in your radio then you need to update the database on your radio. Make sure you have installed Sentinel (Uniden) or EZ-Scan (Whistler) and run the update procedure for these scanners. After updating the database make sure you copy (“Write”) it to your radio and try it again.

If you find that the channel is not listed in the RadioReference database then you will have to do some detective work. If you know what the frequency or talkgroup is then be sure to submit it to RadioReference so it can be added or corrected in the database. All you need is a RadioReference user name and password, either a free or paid membership will work. In the meantime it can be added to a Favorites List or Scanlist via the software.

If you do not know what the channel’s frequency or talkgroup is then you will need to do a little more work. If you know they use a trunking system then create a Favorites List and set it to Trunked Search (if on a Uniden). If you have a Whistler then create a ScanList with that system and add a Wildcard to it. This allows you to listen to all activity on the system and when you hear the traffic you want make sure you note the talkgroup number for future reference. You can submit that talkgroup number to RadioReference to update the database and also add it directly to the Favorites List or ScanList with the appropriate name.

On conventional (non-trunked) systems you can do a couple things. First off, check the FCC license for the agency you want to listen to. Most of the time you can do this from the RadioReference database page, just click on the call sign. Since the RadioReference Database only contains information that is verified a new channel might be listed on the license but not included in the main database since no one has reported it as verified yet.

If the channel you seek is not listed there, check licenses for nearby communities, the local County or a regional dispatch center. The actual license might be held by another agency that does dispatch for your town.

Still cannot find it? Now it is time to get serious! Your scanner has a “Search” function. Learn how to set up a Limit Search. Check the most common scanner bands used in your area and set up a search for that band. Lockout the channels as you hear them if they are not your local agency, checking the RadioReference Database as you find them.

Regardless of how you find them be sure to share the knowledge. Submit your finds to the RadioReference Database system so that others in your area can listen in and so that future versions of the database include it. Remember that the database is updated weekly, usually Sunday or Monday. Submissions might take a little while to get processed however so wait to the following week after you receive the notification that your submission has been worked.

ZIP Code based scanning: How does it work?

One question we get all the time here at ScannerMaster Intergalactic World Headquarters is “when I put my ZIP Code in my (HomePatrol, 436 or 536) scanner how do I hear something in the next ZIP Code over?” The answer is that you already are… Let me explain.

On the Uniden ZIP Code type scanners (Home Patrol, BCD436HP and BCD536HP) when using the ZIP Code method of scanning (versus using Favorites Lists) you enter your local ZIP Code into the “Location” menu. You then can set the range (in miles). The ZIP Code acts as a center point on a map. The range is how big a circle that is drawn around the center point of the ZIP Code. More miles equals a bigger circle; a bigger circle equals more stuff programmed into your radio.

So if you live in Mayberry and your ZIP Code is 27031 you would enter it in the scanner. You then set a range; let’s say 15 miles. Draw a circle 15 miles in any direction from the center point of the ZIP Code and that is your primary coverage area. When the radio loads up it will load all the channels that are in that area, based on the service codes you enabled. Simple, right? Well, not so much.

The way the HomePatrol Database is constructed is that each entry itself also has a geographic location assigned to it with a range. So the various entries in the database all have their own circles. If any of these circles touches or crosses your circle then they will be entered into your scanner. For this reason you may hear things that are actually outside your circle.

Let’s say that Mt. Pilot is 20 miles from Mayberry, where you are. If you set your range to 10 miles you may not expect to hear Mt. Pilot. In the database however the Mt. Pilot stations are set to a range of 15 miles. So the Mt. Pilot circle goes out 15 miles and crosses the 10-mile circle you set in Mayberry. Therefore you will have the Mt. Pilot channels in your scanner. Clear as mud, right? Well wait, it gets even weirder!

So, you see Mt. Pilot’s frequencies on your radio but you never hear them. Why is that? Your range is set to include them and they show up but the radio doesn’t stop on them. There are a couple possible answers:

The first reason may be that they are too far away. Just because they are within the range settings of the radio doesn’t mean your scanner will actually be able to hear them. Perhaps sometimes you can hear them and other times not. Radio signals are predictably unpredictable.

Systems are designed to reliably cover specific areas. When you are within those areas your scanner should be able to hear them all the time. When you are outside the main coverage area it all depends on things like elevation (yours and the transmitters), terrain, obstructions, distance and sometimes even the weather. If there is a mountain between you and them you may not hear them. If you cannot hear them you might want to try a taller antenna, but that is a post for a different day. A good rule of thumb is that if the agency’s radios work where you are your scanner should as well.

Another reason might include the database being wrong. The HomePatrol Database is derived from the database at RadioReference.com. This is maintained by scanner enthusiasts all around the world. Some areas are better covered than others. If there are a lot of dedicated scanner users in the area the database is liable to be more accurate.

Still another reason might be that your scanner is not capable of hearing the type of signals used.

Whistler ZIP Code scanners work differently. You select a location and the radio offers a set of systems and channels to enter into a ScanList. The same thing applies for distance however; you may not hear something that is closer than others due to obstructions, low antennas or power.

If this is all too confusing for you then have ScannerMaster perform its “Setup and Optimize” service on your scanner. We will set up Favorites Lists for your county or counties so you will only have the items programmed into your scanner that you really want!

Uniden Location Based scanner hints

Uniden’s line of Location Based scanners allow one to enter their location (usually by ZIP Code) to load local channels without needing to know frequencies, systems, talkgroups and other technobabble. There are a couple things to remember and a couple byproducts that can make life your scanner easier. These scanners include the HomePatrol 1 & 2, as well as the BCD436HP and BCD536HP.

First the good stuff! Did you know that you do not need the scanner itself to do most updates, including firmware? That’s right! If the radio is mounted in the car (especially for the BCD536HP) just remove the memory card and connect it to your computer using a card reader. Since these are “Mini SD-Cards” you will need a card reader that will read them or one that works with standard SD Cards and a Mini SD-Card adapter. Just plug the SD card into the card reader and then the reader into the computer and run Sentinel just like you would if the radio was plugged in. (When doing the Extreme, DMR or ProVoice Updates you must do them on the radio itself as the code is installed from the keypad.)

SD Card readers are inexpensive and some computers have SD-Card readers built in. Remember that the Mini SD-Card requires the Full-Size adapter since most computer slots and card readers do not accommodate the Mini SD-Card directly. While Uniden doesn’t supply the adapter card with the radios they are easy to find and come with Mini SD-Cards you buy in the store. This leads us to the next part:

Get a spare card!

Why have just one SD-Card for your scanner when you can have several? SD-Cards are cheap these days. You can buy spare or replacement cards anywhere (including ScannerMaster) and keep them in case you have difficulties. One problem with SD-Card based scanners is that the cards can be corrupted if the power is removed while the radio is on. Since the radio has to write some closing data to the card, one must turn the radio off before removing power or the batteries. Sometimes a voltage spike could cause this as well.

With a spare programmed SD-Card you can be ready if you have a problem. I have found that having a spare seems to prevent the need for it; the only time I corrupted a card was when I was on the road with no computer. I have since always carried a programmed spare card and never had a corruption issue. Coincidence? I think not!

Update your radio.

Using a card-reader to update the SD-Card in your Uniden Location Based scanner is simple, you can update the firmware, database and Favorites Lists directly on the card itself, plug the card in and the radio will automatically be updated. When you do this the radio’s firmware will be updated the first time you power the radio up with the new or reprogrammed card. The database and any enabled favorites lists will then load.

On the 536 you can just pop the card in and out from the front panel. Be sure to turn the radio off first! On HomePatrol and 436 radios the card is behind the batteries, so to access it remove the batteries, On the 436 slide the small metal retaining clip over and remove the card. To replace the card slide it into the clip, fold it down and slide the clip over again. On the HomePatrol the care pops in a slot, gently press it in a tiny bit to release it. When replacing the card carefully pop it into the slot until it clicks in.

Buy a new card from ScannerMaster!

When we do our Setup and Optimize on a scanner most customers would send the radio in to us, we do the updates etc. and then ship the radio back to the customer. We soon figured out that it would be easier and cheaper for the customer to buy a replacement card, have the card programmed and delivered. This way an expensive radio isn’t being shipped across the country twice, risking damage or loss. You get a new SD-Card, of a type faster and more reliable than that supplied with the radio. If your old card still works then you already have a spare. You save up to 10 days of transit time, don’t have to pay expensive shipping fees. Mailing an SD-Card costs less than $2.00, shipping a radio costs $15-25 each way. We also include the Full-Size adapter!

You can also create SD-Cards yourself with Sentinel. Remember that you need to use the “Clear User Data” menu item on a new card to format it for use on your Uniden radio.

Whistler SD-Card based scanners can be updated to a lesser extent, the DSP and firmware updates must be done thru the radio itself. The mobile Whistler scanners (WS-1095, WS-1098 and TRX-2) come with a full-size SD Card, the portable Whistler scanners use Mini SD Cards. Mini SD-Cards can be used in the mobile radios with the full-size adapter.