Motorola Programming Primer

If you are new to programming Motorola 2-way radios, these are the things you should know.

A common misconception is that you just build a cable for your radio, plug it into the serial port of your computer and you are ready to program. In general, nothing could be further from the truth.

There are some exceptions, but for programming most Motorola 2-way radios (those that can be programmed), you will need the following equipment:

*may require Windows 95 for some newer RSS.

Now, there are some things you should know about all the different things above.


As far as the computer goes, you may have to experiment. Most of the radios you will try and program were designed and built when the fastest computers were 286, 386, or 486 machines. The timing routines built into the software often can't compensate for faster processors and newer UARTS. As a result, you are very likely to encounter problems trying run the RSS and program the radios on newer computers (486's and up), as well as computers faster than 16 or 20 MHz.

You will want to read the following Service Bulletin from Motorola regarding RSS and Computer problems. It is available in either .doc or .pdf or .txt formats. If you have trouble with your RSS running, check the RSS Troubleshooting Flowchart from Motorola, it is in .doc format.

The most stable and flexible platform we have tested so far has been a 486DX4/100 desktop which has the capability to turn off Internal and External Cache for the CPU in the BIOS setup screens. This allows the computer to be relatively fast for some of the newer software but also is capable of being slowed right down (by disabling cache) for the real old stuff.

If you are trying to use a laptop, be advised that trying to get it to slow down enough may be impossible. Laptops usually don't give you the options in BIOS to turn cache on/off. Some however may let you select how fast the processor runs, which may help.

You may hear of people who say to use programs like MoSlo and the like. These programs insert delay routines on a user selectable basis in order to try and fool the software into thinking it is running on a slower machine.

While they may make it possible to actually get the software to run, getting it to actually read/write to the radio usually fails (the slow-down software can't compensate for the UART read/write cycles). So, we recommend against using these utilities, you'll just end up frustrated. Just use a slower computer to begin with.

Some RSS packages contain a Com Port Test function in the Setup Computer menu. Use this for troubleshooting. If the Com Test passes, then you know that the computer should be the correct speed, the RIB works, and your cable connections are probably ok.

As far as operating systems go, you want to use just plain old DOS. Unless the RSS package is made specifically for the Windows 95 operating system DO NOT OPEN A DOS WINDOW and try to run the RSS. Sure, you might get the software to run and be able to edit saved codeplugs and the like, but when it comes to trying to read/write to the radio 90% of the time it will fail. Not only may the read/write fail, but there is a VERY high chance that you will corrupt the codeplug in the radio and make youself a very expensive paperweight.

Because Windows 95 is a multitasking environment, and the RSS is looking for exclusive control of the serial port resources, the two will fight and you end up with a dead radio.

If you don't have a dedicated DOS machine for programming, at least reboot out of Windows 95 to MS-DOS mode, or better yet, make a bootable DOS floppy and boot off that. Some RSS is very picky about having enough conventional memory available to run, if you get an "Out of Environment Memory" error, or something similar, this is most likely the problem. The solution is to use a plain boot floppy that does not load any drivers or utilities.

One other thing to watch out for, on a lot of newer computers, the BIOS automatically maps a serial port to COM1. Sometimes, though, due to WinXX registry settings, this doesn't always happen properly. In essence, you could have a computer that relies upon the software to map a port, and that may not work too well.



As far as the cables from the computer to the RIB go, they are pretty straight forward and are easily fabricated.

For RIB to radio cables, you have a number of options:

In most cases you should be able to fabricate something that will work at least temporairily from our diagrams. That may just mean using tape to tape wires onto the correct pads on the radio.

In general, Motorola does not sell the pieces of side connector required to build your own cable (for obvious reasons). If you want to build a more permanent solution, you can often salvage the needed pieces from old speaker microphone cables (probably available from a Motorola 2-way shop for cheap/free). You may find that extra holes may need to be drilled and pins moved around to get them in the correct places, but it is possible.

Radio Interface Box (RIB)

Again, you have a number of options available to you:

The schematic we have on our site is of the official RLN-4008 RIB.

Be warned that there are a number of aftermarket variations available. Some will not program all radios, because they don't have the full, compatible, circuit in them.

However, this may be what you want, and you are by all means entitled to your own position. But, if it doesn't work, do you have a schematic to troubleshoot it from?

A note on the Smart RIB (SRIB). The SRIB is backwards compatible with all the functions of the RLN-4008. It does however provide the circuitry necessary to Flash Upgrade some of the newer radios (with the correct software). We have reviewed the schematic of the SRIB, there is NO WAY to make the RLN-4008 into a Smart RIB. It is also not possible to build a Smart RIB, it uses application specific IC's and surface mount devices which cannot be ordered from Motorola.

Radio Service Software (RSS)

OK, here's the deal on RSS. The only legal way to posess RSS is to sign the required license agreement and purchase it directly from Motorola. Many people believe that Motorola will not sell it. This is FALSE. As long as you are willing to sign the license agreement and pay the price, they will sell it to you, just call 1-800-422-4210.

You may see people selling RSS on Ebay. Whether it is on a hard drive of a computer, a copy of a floppy disk or CD, or even the original Motorola RSS package, all of this software is illegal. There are very strict provisions in the licensing agreement, and what it all boils down to is that once you buy the software, it is yours and yours alone, and you cannot re-sell it, period.

Don't be fooled by the disclaimer "purchaser is responsible for all licensing of this software". It means absolutely nothing, because the software cannot be resold to begin with. If you were to try and register your illegal RSS, Motorola would just laugh at you and send the cops to haul you off to jail.

If you are in the market for pirated software, don't look here. We will not be a part of the distribution of pirated software, and you won't find any on our site. We don't have any links or information on FTP sites for pirated RSS, so don't ask.

RIB-less Programming Cables

There are a small number of radios that do not use the RIB for programming. These are identified on our pinouts page as PC TO ____, or "RIB-less", instead of RIB TO ____. These cables connect directly from the computer to the radio. You still need the correct RSS package in order to service the radio.