The BaoFeng BF-888S is a very cool and inexpensive little radio that a lot of people purchase before realizing that there is no way to program the BaoFeng BF-888S radio with just the radio, you have to purchase a programming cable, download the software, and learn what you are doing first. This can be a big turn off but it doesn’t have to be as programming the radio is pretty easy.
Think of this as your How To Program the BaoFeng BF-888s For Dummies which will walk you through each step necessary to program the BaoFeng BF-888S.
What you need
Of course to start with you will need the BaoFeng BF-888S radio. I liked this two pack as it had everything my wife and I needed to use the radios.
The next thing you need is the programming cable to program the BaoFeng BF-888S such as the one I used, the Compatible USB Programming Cable for Baofeng or the BTECH PC03 FTDI Genuine USB Programming Cable, both from Amazon.
Of course you will need a computer (Windows, Mac, or Linux) and the best free BaoFeng programming software is CHIRP which can program the BaoFeng BF-888S as well as many other radios. The BaoFeng bf-888s programming software free download can be found on the CHIRP website.
Installing the programming software, CHIRP
Once on the CHIRP website click the link that says Click here to download the latest Windows version (or the link for Mac OSX or Linux), you will see the following screen for Windows users (Mac and Linux will be similar but from here on out I will only be showing the Windows version):
From this screen you want to click on the chirp-daily-xxxxxxxx-installer.exe link (where xxxxxxxx is the date of the file) which will start the download. Once the download is complete you might see the following screen from Windows:
This is NOT because the file you downloaded is harmful, it is because Windows Smartscreen does not recognize the file and since it is an executable file, it is a little over cautious. Click the link that says “More info” shown above and you should see the next screen:
You can now click the “Run anyway” button at the bottom and continue the installation of CHIRP on your computer.
Installing the cable used to program the BaoFeng BF-888S
Once you plug the cable into the computer it will either automatically find and install a driver for it, or it will not. You can check your device manager to see which happened. In my case it showed the following screen:
Note that it sees the cable, but does not know what to do with it. Since I opted for the Compatible USB Programming Cable for Baofeng to program the BaoFeng BF-888S, I received a cable and a small CD with the BaoFeng programming cable driver on it. Inserting the disc allowed me to install the driver which then shows up in device manager like this:
Take a good look at the information in the red box above, we will need it in a second to program the BaoFeng BF-888S.
The next step is to plug in the radio, turn it on, and launch the CHIRP software. The first time you run CHIRP you might see a pop up box that says that error reporting is enabled, you can just click OK and move on. Before we program the BaoFeng BF-888S we want to see what is already in the programming, click on the menu at the top and select Radio -> Download From Radio as shown here:
Now you will see a box pop up like the one below:
Here is where we need to use that information I told you that you would need in a second, the COM port number. I have set mine to COM3 and if you look up a couple images you will see that it matches what was shown in the device manager. Once you have the port set, set the Vendor box and Model box to what is shown in the image above and click OK. You should now see the following screen showing the default BaoFeng bf-888s frequency chart:
If you do not see this screen but instead get an error message about communicating with the radio, make sure that the cable is fully plugged into the side of the radio. You should not be able to see either of the silver plugs, there should be no gap between the radio black plastic and the black plastic of the plug. If there is a gap, push a little harder and you should feel a solid click, retry the connection and it should work. The vast majority of complaints I see about not being able to program the BaoFeng BF-888S is because of this problem.
Looking at the programming above the first thing you should know is that unless you have a very eclectic assortment of radio licenses, using these radios in the stock configuration would seem to be quite illegal. Those pre-programmed frequencies are a mixture of commercial (requires FCC Business/Commercial license), GMRS (requires FCC GRMS license), and a few others I do not recognize. This is the main reason you need to program the BaoFeng BF-888S right after you get it.
Bottom line, do NOT use the radio without reprogramming it first for your specific licensed frequencies! Not only would you be breaking the law, but you could be interfering with people and/or businesses that paid a great deal of money for the right equipment and licenses they need to do their jobs. You could also be transmitting on a frequency allocated to emergency services such as law enforcement, fire, or ambulance services. You do NOT want to now what happens if you are caught using a radio that interferes with emergency services, but let’s just say it involves a small room and three meals a day, even if you did it without knowing!
And yes, when I hear people using radios illegally I report them using the online FCC form.
In fact, if you are a licensed amateur radio operator you probably already know about “fox hunts” where we use direction finding equipment and techniques to find beacons or illegal broadcasts, turning the whole thing into a lot of fun. If you have not participated in one, contact your local amateur radio group and ask about them!
Before moving on, click on File -> Save and give the configuration a name so you have the original working configuration should you need it as it can be used as a BaoFeng 888s reset.
What frequencies to program the BaoFeng BF-888S
If you are programming one for a friend or bought one used, you may also find the following frequencies already in the radio:
As you may know, these are the FRS channels (1-7) and GMRS channels (8-22) used by the inexpensive “bubble pack” radios available at all sporting goods stores. Unfortunately these are illegal too since the radios are not licensed for those frequencies (too much power, removable antenna, no FCC certification for FRS or GMRS, etc).
Another thing you might find interesting is that if someone had programmed these to operate on the FRS frequencies they may have also programmed CTCSS codes as well. In FRS radios these are shown as a two digit code such as 11, in the BaoFeng they are frequencies such as 97.4, here is a cross reference table:
Below is a listing of legal frequencies you can use to program the BaoFeng BF-888S assuming you have a valid amateur radio license:
Shown above is the ARRL’s band plan for the 70cm band (44xmhz is in the 70cm band) for use by licensed amateur radio operators. The three most common frequencies I have seen for simplex operation (what you do when one handheld talks directly to another handheld) are 446.00, 446.50, and 447.00. I would recommend you put those in the first three channels.
Next are other common simplex frequencies of 445.925, 445.950, 445.975, 446.025, 446.050, 446.075 so that gets us up to the first nine channels.
The rest of the channels can be filled by finding the frequencies for your local repeaters and using them to finish off the programming.
The image above is my default way I program the BaoFeng BF-888S before adding local repeaters. Note that not only do I have the frequencies put in, but I also set the Tone Mode to TSQL and the TSQL value to 88.5. This was done so that one radio will only open the squelch when the other radio transmits, avoiding all the static of manually trying to adjusting the squelch.
Pro tip: When using TSQL you could very well transmit on a frequency that is already in use and never know it. It is very important you monitor the frequency before using it to make sure that no one else is currently operating on that frequency. To monitor the frequency when you have TSQL turned on press the top orange button on the side of the radio and that will manually open the squelch so you can listen for other traffic. Since my wife and I only use these in small confined areas where we are not too far from each other and typically on low power, I do not believe it is an issue.
Once I was happy with the configuration I would save it using File -> Save As on the menu (this allows me to not destroy the original in case I wanted to look at it or return the radio to factory).
Pro tip: Do not leave a channel empty even if you have to repeat a frequency because turning the knob to that position when nothing is in it makes the radio emit a loud non-stop tone that is really annoying.
Now select Radio -> Upload To Radio from the menu:
You can now turn off the radio, disconnect the cable, turn the radio back on and start using it! If you talk into one radio and hear it on the other, you have successfully managed to program the BaoFeng BF-888S.