Windows SDR – software setup


I have explained what is my purpose to do in the drafts named:

1) Build your own ADS-B aeronautical radar with low-cost equipment

2) SDR Concept

3) Kinds of Software

These drafts explains our experiments, how ADS-B works, the SDR concept, etc.

But after reading these posts if you are interested in experimenting with the SDR concept and, of course, if you have a RTL-SDR USB dongle; you must read this draft to install and play with all the free software that is available in the web thanks to many different authors that have been working to offer these pieces of software for anyone that is interested in SDR.

Installing the USB driver for the RTL-SDR dongle:

To use the DVB-T receiver for ADS-B there is an important thing to take into account:

You need to use a particular USB driver. Do not use the supplied drivers that come with the RTL-SDR USB dongle and do not let Windows install the drivers. You must use Zadig to install the USB drivers.

We need to install the USB driver for the port being used and the RTL-SDR dongle will only work for this USB port. We need a small software utility called Zadig which can be downloaded from

The download files are compressed using 7-Zip, an open source file compression utility, similar to WinZip or RAR. You will need Winzip, Winrar or some other software to extract the files.

Create a folder for the extracted files.

Insert your USB stick into your USB port. Ignore and cancel any Windows messages asking to install the drivers.

Now run the Zadig.exe for your Windows version.

Under Options select “List all Devices”.

Now choose “Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0)” or else if your device name is different.

Make sure you choose the “WinUSB (v6.1.7600.16385)” driver.

After installing it if all has gone well, you will be able to use the RTL-SDR dongle with this specific USB port, not the other ports of your laptop, PC, etc.

More detailed information is available at

Note that if you have more than 1 RTL-SDR USB dongle and you want to use them at the same time for different purposes, for example, one to decode ADS-B data and another to listen to FM radio; you have to install Zadig in 2 different USB ports. If a ADS-B decoding software is using the dongle, no other software can be using the dongle and if you try to open another program, a message will be displayed saying that the device is beign used.

Decoding ADS-B using RTL-SDR:

ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) is a technology that allows tracking aircrafts using high speed radio transmissions and get data of their position, velocity, heading, altitude, etc.

OPTION 1 – RTL1090:

The first option to decode ADS-B data is the RTL1090 free software but this is not a unique option.

Although, I recommend this first option for the decoding software because it brings you more information about what are you receiving in every moment.

Create 2 folders – one for RTL1090 and another for the SDR files.

Download these two zips and extract the files:

Copy the files below from the rtl-sdr-release/x32 folder (even if you have a 64-bit machine) to the folder containing the extracted RTL1090 files:


You should now have the following files in your RTL1090 folder (possibly without the rtl1090.ini):

After doing all the steps in the way that are described here, the software is ready to be used.

With an antenna connected and your DVB-T Receiver in a USB port, launch rtl1090.exe from the folder we are working with.

Click Start for RTL1090 to find the DVB-T receiver and open the output ports:

Depending on your location and antenna position, the RTL1090 window should display decoded Mode-S messages. Please look for the RTL1090 Online Manual for more information.
If you toggle the List option you will see a list of received messages by ICAO code. This will include messages without positional data. Those with positional data will display an asterisk in the right-hand column.


The author of this software explains in his web page:

“We discovered a very simple way of demodulating this digital mode using the cheap DVB-T/FM (rtlsdr) dongles. This diagram explains how it works:”

Simple ADS-B DemodulatorThe block diagram explains how the program works to get data of the aicrafts that are overflying our area.

In this case, the program doesn’t show the ADS-B frames that we are received and doesn’t give us the information decoded of the aicrafts. This is because there is an important difference between RTL1090 and ADSB#.

The difference is that RTL1090 receives and decodes the ADS-B frames and ADSB# only receives and sends the data to other programs or to a web server.

For this reason I prefer the RTL1090 but one advantatge is that it shows the frames per second that you are receiving at every moment so you can make yourself an idea of how many coverage you have where you are.

This is an screenshot of the program:

ADSB#The executable can be downloaded here. And the guides in spanish and in english to see the steps to get the software started and installed can be downloaded here:


This is all extracted from the PDF guides donwloaded:

“The ADSB# zip includes 5 files. Extract all of these into the folder of your choice.


Your folder will now contain all of the files needed for operation of ADSB#.

ADSB# only receives and decodes the raw hexadecimal data from the ads-b signal, and acts as a multi-client TCP server to send that data to whichever decoding and display program you are using. The most popular programs to view and decode are Virtual Radar Server, ADSBScope and PlanePlotter. ADSB# works equally well with any of these programs at the same time, or to a single ADSBHub.

Since ADSB# is acting as a TCP server, you can access the data stream from any computer that is accessible on your network. This means that multiple users may have access to the data at the sane time, and that the dongle may be using in a remote computer with the best access to an outside antenna if one is available.”

Using the RTL-SDR for other things:

Another possibility to use the RTL-SDR dongle is to use it to listen to any transmission inside the frequency band that allows the dongle you are using.

In my case I am using a RTL2832 RTL-SDR USB dongle also named Rafael Micro R820T – USB dongle which has a frequency range of 24 to 1766 MHz.

I think this is the best RTL-SDR dongle because it hasn’t any frequency gaps.

This allows to listen from FM radio to live aeronautical ATC, passing through ACARS transmissions and receiving meteorologic satellite images like NOAA satellites. All the transmissions in the frequency range specified above can be received, taking into account the coverage of the place, by the RTL-SDR dongle.

This allows such a different possibilities with the dongle that makes this USB receivers such an interesting thing to work with.

To get prepared to receive all of these things, you will have to install SDR#. A free and open-source code software that allows you to realize the steps implemented in software by the SDR concept that a few years ago were implemented only in hardware, like aplying the demodulation, aplying different kind of filters, etc.


I have used the explanation of the next web page:

“Download and unzip it.

Double click on the install.bat file in the newly created sdr-install directory to have the script download everything you need including Zadig.

Once the script has completed it will have downloaded the latest SDR#, the latest RTL driver from Osmocom (and enabled use of RTL-USB) and Zadig and put them in a new sdrsharp directory.”

You don’t have to use Zadig if you have installed it with the instructions above.

Run SDRSharp.exe and you should see the following window:

SDR# screenshot

SDR# screenshot

Steps to get the software running:

  1. Set Radio to WFM (wideband FM).
  2. Set the centre frequency to (88,000,000), this is 88MHz, the start of the FM radio band in most countries.
  3. Set the ‘Front End’ type from ‘Other’ to ‘RTLSDR / USB’.
  4. If all is working the ‘Front End’ button should go from grey text to black text.
  5. Click on Play.

“You should now see an orange waterfall display in the bottom half and a dancing blue spectrum in the top half. By clicking and dragging on the blue spectrum you can conveniently change the frequency. In the example below I have dragged the spectrum and centered on an FM station. All going well you should hear the audio coming out of the PC speaker.”



Now you have all installed in a correct way, you can install some software to display the infomration that you are receiving.

The Planeplotter software is not free but it has a trial period of 30 days to experiment with it. It has a lot of different options.

To download the software go to the next web page:

At this web page there are the steps to get it working.

But I recommend a nice video tutorial to get the Planeplotter working feeded by the RTL1090 information:

If you are not satisfied with the instructions from the first website, I recommend this other web page to follow the installation steps:

To see an example of planeplotter there is a screenshot:


There is another software to visualize the aicrafts that I have experimented with it, called ADSBScope but I had some problems with it.

The next link will explain you how to get it started and to download it:

There is another screenshot to make an idea of what we are talking about:


I will recommend you the planeplotter software to work with, I know you have to pay for it after 30 days but it has more options and brings you a lot of different possibilities.

Play with any of the 2 programs, try the 2 possibilities and get used to them before choosing what is the best of them.


3 thoughts on “Windows SDR – software setup

  1. I am keen to know how do i Log the data received and make a database of all aircrafts tracked using this method, all help appreciated, TIA, Girish

    • You can save all the data in a document in the raspberry pi! But the problem will be that it has not enough memory and will be full quite fast! I recommend you to plug a additional memory to the raspberry pi and with use the command to redirect the data of the flightradar24 software to a file.txt for example in the external memory!

      Then you can use the data how you prefer!

      Hope I solve your problem!



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