Basic Troubleshooting – How to fix a silent scanner

So your fancy scanner no longer works. Is it the scanner itself or did your local agencies move to new channels? Today we will discuss ways to find out.

The first thing I tell callers when they say their scanner is dead is to try the local weather channels. Almost everyone is in range of one of the National Weather Service radio stations on 162.400 thru 162.550. If you try each of the 7 channels (listed below) and nothing is heard then there may well be something wrong with the radio. If you have another scanner or weather radio handy try that one. If the other radio works then there is likely something wrong with the first radio.

Here are the weather frequencies that you can check to see if your scanner is working properly:

  • 162.4000
  • 162.4250
  • 162.4500
  • 162.4750
  • 162.5000
  • 162.5250
  • 162.5500

If the weather channel works on your scanner then we should look to programming. If the radio worked before but no longer hears the local police, fire or other agencies you used to listen to then they may have changed frequencies. Several states have recently updated their wide-area radio systems, if you live in Ohio, Indiana or South Carolina there is a great possibility that this is what occurred. Alternately, some agencies have switched to existing regional radio systems such as these states or those in Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan Colorado, Louisiana and Mississippi among others.

The best thing to do is check the database and forums. If you recently lost your target there is likely someone else who has also. I had a caller the other day from northern Arizona say his police department disappeared, he listened to them over the weekend and then on Monday they were gone. We found that they had just switched to a new P25 digital system. While it was not yet listed in the RadioReference database it was being discussed in the RadioReference forums for Arizona.

If all this fails and you cannot find the target anywhere by searches with the scanner there are still a couple more tricks. Remember that public safety communications systems are expensive. They don’t go out and buy them on a whim. Purchases of that size usually must be approved by the local boards, City Council, County Supervisors etc. Look at these board’s websites for meeting minutes and agenda items. This is all public information and most places these days post them to the web. You can sometimes find all kinds of interesting information on the systems, sometimes even complete technical details, frequencies and talkgroup information get put up there!

Check with your local officers and administrators. While often they might not be technically savvy they might know that “we switched to the County system” or something. Also look for the type of radio they are carrying or have installed in the vehicle. That can sometimes point to the radio system type they are using.

Once you find out what system they are using and the frequencies etc. reprogram or replace your scanner to match.

Hosting a stream

One of the most popular ways to listen to the local scanner action these days is via a live-streaming service over the Internet. By far the largest source for this is Broadcastify.Com. While this is a great place to listen, it is dependent on someone hosting a scanner for the area you want to listen to. If no one does you can do it yourself. Here is what you need to set up your own feed:

Step 1:    Make sure there is no feed already covering the traffic you wish to stream. If there already is one look at the noted for that feed and see if there is something different that you will do.

Step 2:    If you are not already a RadioReference or Broadcastify member (with user name and password) set up an account. You can set up a free account, paid accounts offer great benefits but are not needed to host a feed. If you are already a member skip this and go to Step 3.

Step 3:    Go to the Broadcastify site and submit a Feed application. They need your information, the channels you plan to stream and some other details. Once you submit your application it takes a few days (usually) for a response, and if approved they provide a code that is entered in your feed software to enable it.

Step 4:    Set up the hardware. This is the computer that you are going to use and the radio itself. You will need an audio cable to connect the computer and radio. If you are using a Uniden scanner you can also connect a USB or serial cable so allow channel tags to be sent along with the radio traffic. See below for the best scanners to be used for feeds.

Step 5:    Set up the software. The software is free from Broadcastify, you can download it there. It is pretty simple to install and set up, print out the instructions that come with it and follow them. If you follow them correctly it will work great!

Step 6:    Adjust the levels. Once your feed is live listen to it and make sure the audio levels are set properly. If the channels you set up are not very active try programming in the local weather channel for a few minutes to use to set the levels properly. Once you have the levels set where they sound best be sure to note the settings in case you need to move something later. Don’t forget to get rid of the weather channel!

What is the best radio for a feed? Well, it is the radio you have that will listen to the traffic you want to stream. Remember, once you commit to hosting a stream that radio must be dedicated to that stream 24/7.

If the radio you use does not have a record jack then you need to set the volume and leave it where it is. Be sure to mark the level with a dab of White-Out in case it gets moved.

For feeds the Uniden BCD15X (analog) and BCD996P2 (digital) are favored by many streamers since they are reasonably priced and have a record jack on the back. The Record jack is ideal for feeds, as the sound level is not affected by the volume control. You set the sound level with the computer’s sound controls and you can use the scanner volume to allow you to listen to the scanner locally without affecting the feed volume. They also support sending channel tags so the listener can see the channel names.

Streaming hints and tricks:

No one likes to hear static, noise etc. Make sure you monitor your stream to be sure that it doesn’t lock up on noise or interference. Make sure the audio levels are good and that the feed sounds good.

How many channels can I stream? The best answer is less is more. If you have a lot of channels or a bunch of real busy ones then the scanner is going to be busy all the time and some channels are going to be missed. Some really busy feeds (like Chicago PD) have just a single channel that is active almost continuously.

What kinds of channels can I stream? These rules are listed in the Terms of Service for the streaming service. Broadcastify has rules against certain tactical or sensitive traffic. Make sure none of the channels you have include the prohibited traffic.

Can I stream 2 radios at the same time? Yes! Set up one radio to the left channel and the other to the right. Possible scenarios are police on one and fire on the other. Make sure you note this in the feed description!

What do I do if the agency doesn’t want me to stream them? Well, that is up to you. Streaming is legal and the agency cannot force you to stop streaming their traffic. They can however add encryption, then it will not be able to be heard at all by anyone.

Broadcastify has a complete set of rules and procedures on it’s page at If you use a different service be sure to read their rules before setting up your feed.

FRS/GMRS/MURS/CB: The Personal Radio Services

Anyone can use one of several types of two-way radios, most of which do not require a license. From something the kids can play with to serious business uses there are a bunch of different types of varying quality and usefulness. These are called CB, FRS, MURS and GMRS. Only GMRS requires a license, the others do not. Each of the four services have different intended functions.

  • FRS: Family Radio Service (low power, short range, intended for families and individuals)
  • GMRS: General Mobile Radio Service (high power, longer range, intended for families)
  • MURS: Multiple Use Radio Service (mid-power, medium range, intended for business)
  • CB: Citizen’s Band Radio Service (low power mobile)

You ever go into Wal-Mart or Best Buy and see those cheap little two-way radios encased in one of the most devious inventions of man-kind (Bubble Packs)? They boast wild range figures (“35 mile Range!”) and are made by many different companies like Motorola, Midland and Cobra. These are called “FRS Radios” (Family Radio Service). FRS radios are restricted to ½ watt, non-removable antennas and are intended for short-range person-to-person communications. While titled as the Family Radio Service they are commonly used by businesses and government organizations. In my neighborhood I hear construction crews, hunters, the local school and the golf course maintainers on FRS channels. Just about everything but families… There are few restrictions on what you can use it for so business and personal communications are allowed.

FRS is actually pretty interesting to listen to in many cases. While a lot of the traffic is inane nonsense, like kids wearing out the noisemaking alert beep button, occasionally there is some interesting stuff to listen to. I live in a fairly isolated area 20 miles from the nearest town. There is construction going on and the crews use several FRS channels to coordinate activities. There is a school in the area that uses FRS radios too. The golf course guys use FRS when performing maintenance or to corral loose duffers. Local landscapers use FRS as well.

Listening to FRS channels at the mall or around amusement parks etc. can also be fun. The stores and shops often use FRS radios for clerks and stockers, customers use them to keep in touch with their family.

A lot of the FRS channels are shared with GMRS, so listening to one set of frequencies you may hear both services.

GMRS is a little different than FRS. Since a license is required and power levels are higher they tend to be used in a more formal matter. FRS also allows repeaters so you may hear traffic from all over the area. GMRS is often used by REACT and other volunteers as well as family businesses and often for just idle chit-chat and radio clubs. Sometimes it sounds a lot like ham radio.

MURS can be very interesting. It is on VHF and allows higher power than FRS but in many other aspects it is very similar. Like FRS there are few restrictions on what you can use it for. Since the radios tend to be a little more expensive MURS channels tend to be more business oriented.

CB these days is mostly a wasteland of unintelligible noise. It is still popular with the highway crowd but between high-power illegal amplifiers, over-driven power echo-mics and other noisemakers it is no longer a viable communications tool. It can be interesting to listen to however!

If you put these frequencies in your scanner you may find some interesting communications. You might also be bored silly but you won’t know until you try it.

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)

  • Freq (MHz)              Remarks                  
  • 462.5500                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.5500)
  • 462.5750                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.5750)
  • 462.6000                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.6000)
  • 462.6250                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.6250)
  • 462.6500                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.6500)
  • 462.6750                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.6750)
  • 462.7000                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.7000)
  • 462.7250                 Repeater Output/Simplex    (Repeats 467.7250)
  • 462.5625                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.5875                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.6125                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.6375                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.6625                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.6875                 Simplex (5 watts)
  • 462.7125                 Simplex (5 watts)

Family Radio Service (FRS)

  • Freq (MHz)              Ch #         
  • 462.5625                 1
  • 462.5875                 2
  • 462.6125                 3
  • 462.6375                 4
  • 462.6625                 5
  • 462.6875                 6
  • 462.7125                 7
  • 467.5625                 8
  • 467.5875                 9
  • 467.6125                 10
  • 467.6375                 11
  • 467.6625                 12
  • 467.6875                 13
  • 467.7125                 14
  • 462.5500                 15 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.5750                 16 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.6000                 17 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.6250                 18 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.6500                 19 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.6750                 20 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.7000                 21 (Shared with GMRS)
  • 462.7250                 22 (Shared with GMRS)

Multiple Use Radio Service (MURS)

  • Freq (MHz)                                                 
  • 151.8200
  • 151.8800
  • 151.9400
  • 154.5700
  • 154.6000

Citizens Band (CB)           

  • Freq         Ch #          Freq         Ch #         
  • 26.965    1                27.215    21
  • 26.975    2                27.225    22
  • 26.985    3                27.255    23
  • 27.005    4                27.235    24
  • 27.015    5                27.245    25
  • 27.025    6                27.265    26
  • 27.035    7                27.275    27
  • 27.055    8                27.285    28
  • 27.065    9                27.295    29
  • 27.075    10             27.305    30
  • 27.085    11             27.315    31
  • 27.105    12             27.325    32
  • 27.115    13             27.335    33
  • 27.125    14             27.345    34
  • 27.135    15             27.355    35
  • 27.155    16             27.365    36
  • 27.165    17             27.375    37
  • 27.175    18             27.385    38
  • 27.185    19             27.395    39
  • 27.205    20             27.405    40

WiFi on BCD536HP. How does it work?  What you can and can’t do with it.

The Uniden Bearcat BCD536HP is the only scanner that has the capability of being directly controlled by WiFi. By using the included WiFi dongle one can connect a smart phone or tablet to the scanner and listen to and control the scanner with the device. There are some other uses for the WiFi dongle as well.

Uniden has provided free “Siren” software (available for free via the Apple iTunes store or Google Play Store) to allow you to use your smart device as a scanner controller. You can even use this as a remote head for the scanner if mounted in a vehicle or to listen to your scanner from the patio or another room of the house for a scanner installed in the home. Some third party software allows you to use the WiFi feature to connect the canner to the computer without the need to plug in a cable.

There are a few things that the WiFi dongle will not work for, this includes database and firmware updates and other programming.

The Wifi dongle is designed specifically to work with your home or office WiFi network. While we have read of people using it for remote access this requires such networking tools as VPN, if you know how that works you probably can figure it out. Sorry, we cannot help with notworking issues like this!

To use the WiFi feature you need to understand the two modes involved; Infrastructure and Access Point.

Infrastructure Mode allows your scanner to connect to your home or office WiFi. This then allows you to connect to the scanner via third-party software like ProScan or RadioFeed or to the Siren application.

To get to Infrastructure Mode use the following steps:

Press Menu then select WiFi Setup>Select WiFI Mode>Infrastructure Mode

The radio will look for local access points and list them. When it displays the list select your router’s SSID name.

Then enter your password for the WiFi access point. This is the same password you would use for setting up any other WiFi device on your network. To enter the password you scroll thru the letters and use the 4 and 6 buttons to move the curser.

Access Point Mode allows you to connect you scanner to a smart phone or tablet (iOS or Android) using the free Siren software. You would use this when you are not in range of your WiFi system, such as when the radio is mounted in a vehicle. This allows you to use a phone or tablet as sort of a remote control head for the scanner.

In Access Point Mode the 536 acts as an Access Point and provides an SSID which you can change or leave at the default. You then connect your phone or tablet to that WiFi SSID and enter in the IP address in the Settings of the device. The IP address can be found in the WiFi settings on the scanner.

Siren is the free app available at the Apple iTunes Store for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch’s. It is also available for Android devices at the Google Play Store.

Siren is a neat way to use your 536 scanner but there are limits to it. It will only work with the 536, and it has limited abilities for control. It can set the range, select Quick Keys, set the squelch and start and reply the recording features but that is pretty much all she wrote. There is also a 2-3 second delay in hearing the audio compared to the radio itself.

The WiFi feature on the 546 is unique and useful as long as you know its limits.

VLog – Scanner Master DIY – Reformatting SD Card for the Uniden HomePatrol

In this Scanner Master VLog we show you how to fix a corrupted SD Card for your HomePatrol-1/2.

Software download –

The BearTracker 885: Is it a scanner or not?

Uniden recently released its new BearTracker 885 CB-Scanner combination. Here are a few things to know about it:

1) It has a LIMITED FUNCTION scanner.

The 885 has a specially designed scanner built in that will receive local police, fire, EMS and Highway Department channels based on your location. The radio will tell you whether the channel is Police, Fire etc. but it does not indicate the agency or channel name. You can hear the traffic, the display will tell you that it is police or whatever, but it won’t tell you whether it is Mayberry or the Highway Patrol.

2) You can UPDATE but not program the scanner part.

The 885 has a free software program that simply updates the database the radio uses to hear local traffic. You cannot add/delete or modify channels. To update the radio is fairly simple, take out the full-size SD card, insert it into an SD-Card reader attached to your computer and run the updater program. (The radio does not come with an SD-Card reader, if your computer doesn’t have one you can get them for a few dollars.) The updater software pulls the latest data from the RadioReference database and loads it onto the SD-Card. The database is updated weekly but you only need to bother updating the database once or twice a year.

3) How does the 885 know where I am?

The 885 comes with a GPS receiver. The small receiver is connected to the GPS by an included cable, just put the little box in view of the sky (on the dashboard etc.) and plug it in. If this won’t work for you then you can manually enter in the location from the front panel controls of the radio. When using the GPS the radio’s location is updated regularly and the scanner part will reload itself with the local channels.

4) What about the CB?

The 885 is a basic 40 channel CB. It does not do SSB but it has the typical CB features needed to communicate or listen to other vehicles so equipped. It can also be used as a PA (PA Speaker not included) or as a weather receiver.

5) Is it legal?

We are not lawyers and do not offer legal advice. That said, CB’s are legal for use in the USA and Canada without a license. As far as the scanner goes check with your state and local authorities about whether a scanner is allowed in a vehicle. Laws may vary for commercial vehicles. Since this device has no radar detector it is not prohibited from commercial vehicles for that reason.

If you are interested in scanning specific agencies or want a scanner that allows you more choice then perhaps the 885 is not the radio for you. If you are looking for a CB and like the idea of hearing local emergency scanner traffic then this radio could be ideal.

Download Uniden BearTracker 885 Flyer

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 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.

Weird Funkiness with scanners: 536 Cuts out

We here at ScannerMaster get calls from customers often to explain some sort of weirdness happening with their scanner. Usually we can figure it out pretty quick but once in awhile we get stumped. When we get stumped it sticks in our craw for a while until we have an epiphany and figure it out. We had one just like that earlier this week.

A customer called and his brand new BCD536HP was acting all ornery. Every couple of seconds it would stop hearing and the signal strength meter would fluctuate. Most of the time this is caused by the Priority or CloseCall features. We determined it was neither of these but still couldn’t figure out what it was.

Here is why we were looking at these features:

Priority, when enabled, will check specified channels every couple of seconds for activity on it. If there is activity it will divert the radio from what is was doing to listen to the Priority channel.

CloseCall will check for strong signals in the area and if detected will divert the radio to the frequency the CloseCall feature detected. If the feature is set to CloseCall Priority then it will cause the radio to stop hearing a channel for a bit, just like the customer complained.

So when we made sure both Priority and CloseCall were off we were flummoxed. Well, I was flummoxed; he was frustrated. I am sure there were some other words starting with “F” being bandied about as well.

I started going thru the menus on the radio in the office (We have one of just about everything here at ScannerMaster) and eventually dug thru all the menus and submenus. Eventually we found the culprit: The Weather Alternate Priority. Somehow the customer got this turned on. As soon as we turned it off the radio worked great again! We had one happy customer and a relieved representative.

The Weather Alert Priority tells the radio to check the weather channels every few seconds and if it detects the standard 1050 Hz. tone used to signify a Weather Alert it will divert the radio to that alert.

New scanners have a ton of neat features but sometimes they can be too smart. Some of these features can cause aggravation when that feature is not needed.

Favorite Scanners: BC125AT

Another entry on our favorite scanners, past and present!

Today we look at the BC125AT
The BC125AT is the premier analog conventional scanner in Uniden’s line. While it does not work on digital or trunking systems it is a fantastic scanner for analog and conventional systems. It is a favorite for planewatchers and railfans due to it’s small size and large display. It comes with the rubber-duck style antenna and beltclip. It improves on the less expensive BC75XLT in that it supports alpha-tags and PL/DCS.

I spend a lot of time trackside or at airports and the BC125AT is almost always with me. I clip it to my camera strap and it works great. The small size really helps!

This also works in the old-fashioned “Banks & Channels” programming mode. It has 10 banks of 50 channels each totaling up to 500 available channels. If the newer modes of scanner programming confuses you then this might appeal to you.

I use Banks 1 and 2 for rail channels, I put them in AAR Channel positions,  for example AAR Channel 79 is in channel 79 on the scanner. I have a bank each for a few of the local airports and a couple for some local operations. I leave the last bank open to enter in anything I might want to listen to on a trip or event.

The BC125AT uses regular or rechargeable AA batteries and can charge with the USB cable. Free programming software is available from Uniden or you can use the awesome ARC125 software from Butel for an even better experience.


When bad things happen to good scanners: SD Card Corruption

All of the various “Zip Code” type scanners such as the Uniden HomePatrol, BCD436HP or BCD536HP, Whistler WS 1080/1088/1095/1098 or the GRE and RadioShack versions use a Micro-SD Card to store the database and recordings. This SD Card is much like a disk drive without moving parts, it can be written to and read by a computer or a device; in this case your scanner.

Occasionally these cards can get corrupted which causes them to stop functioning. The scanner will display an error message and will not operate until you repair or replace the SD Card. Thankfully this is not usually a serious issue and rarely results in anything other than some annoyance. The worst that can happen is that you lose your Favorites Lists and any recordings you may have on the card.

First let’s talk about WHY this happens. Most of the time it is due to the power being removed from the radio abruptly. These scanners are basically small computers and, like all computers, they need to be shut down properly. By doing so the radio has a chance to finish writing information to the SD Card. If the power is removed before this is done then an incomplete or corrupted file may be left. When you turn on the radio the next time it doesn’t know what to do with the file and displays the error message. While this does not occur every time the radio is improperly shut down, it only has to happen once to ruin your day.

Now there is always the possibility that the card or even the radio itself is defective but that is very rare.

What can you do to prevent this from happening to you? The best thing you can do is to make sure you turn the radio off before removing power to it. If you have it mounted in a vehicle be sure to turn off the radio by use if the volume/power knob before starting the car or turning off the ignition. If the radio loses power while still turned on then the card can get corrupted. Same goes for portable radios. do not pull the batteries unless the radio is turned off.

OK, my card got corrupted, is my scanner dead? Usually no. These cards can usually be reformatted and the database rebuilt. Even if the card is shot it can be replaced and the new card set up for your radio. You can get replacement (or spare) Micro SD Cards almost anywhere.

What can you do if this occurs to you? First make sure the card is really corrupt, some times they are just loose. Remove the card and reseat it, making sure that it clicks into place. When you turn on the radio, if it works then you are back in business. If you still get the error then you will likely have to reformat the card.

Of course the easiest way to get past this is to let us fix it for you! Just download, print and fill out the form at Send it to us with the radio and we will do the rest!

To reformat the card it is best to use an application specifically for this. You can use a free program available from Download the one for your version of Windows and install it. You can use an SD Card reader if you want or leave the card in the radio and connected to the computer in Mass Storage Mode. If you reformat it using Windows directly it may not be done in the proper format. Sorry Mac guys; you need Windows for this!

Once reformatted you need to reinstall the database. On Uniden scanners this is done as follows:

1: In Sentinel under the Home Patrol menu select Clear User Data, click on the Display All Drives box.

2: Be sure to select the correct drive letter then click OK. (You do not want to erase your C Drive!)

3: Run Sentinel on the computer and select the Update Master HPDB option in the Update Menu.

4: In Sentinel under the HomePatrol menu select Write to HomePatrol .You may need to select that drive again, but it will not show the serial number of the radio this time.

5: Eject the card and put it back into your scanner (if not already there). When you turn on the scanner you should be all set. You many need to reset your location, Service Types etc.

Of course this requires that you have Sentinel running in a Windows computer. If you don’t have Sentinel installed (it comes on the SD Card…) you can download it from Uniden’s website.

Whistler, GRE and RS scanners use slightly different procedures, check the manual for your radio for these.