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Understanding ProGrammer/RPM and the Radio Maintenance Utilities

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Premium Subscriber
Sep 8, 2002
Greetings, everyone.

The purpose of this topic is to explain how to use the Radio Maintenance utilities that are packaged with ProGrammer and earlier versions of RPM.

The assumption is that you know what ProGrammer and RPM are, at least to some degree, and for that reason, I will not bother to explain those two packages.

I'm only concerned (in this post) with explaining what the Radio Maintenance Utilities are for, when,
and how to use them.

I will from this point forward refer to the Radio Maintenance Utility as RM for the sake of brevity.

So, what is RM for?

It is NOT for programming your radio. It can not alter your radio's personality programming in ANY way.

It IS for:

Recovering the radio in the event of a serious error or glitch in the firmware
Tuning and aligning the radio
Changing the feature package in your radio
Archiving all the data in the radio OTHER than your radio's programmed personality data

I will define what you SHOULD do every time you get a new radio. By explaining this process, you should
have a pretty good idea of how RM should be used.

You just got a radio that's new to you. Say it's a P7100. It might be used, it might be new in the box with its original birth certificate.

Before you do anything to it, you will want to back up the essential data from the radio. That essential data is:

The feature string (feature encryption string)
The tracking data
*The radio's firmware and DSP code *

*Only the versions of RM provided with the older ProGrammer software can back up firmware and DSP code. This feature was eliminated from the version of RM provided with RPM.

So, first, we will back up the feature string.
But let's look at how that feature string works first.

The feature string is the all-important string of data which is used in conjunction with the radio's ESN to define what features are available in your radio. The radio's firmware uses the ESN and the feature string to calculate what features are active. The feature string is in fact an encryption key, and the ESN is another encryption key. The firmware takes these two encryption keys and processes them and then turns on whatever valid features are encrypted into them. If the string is not correctly keyed to the ESN, then you will get an error code. This error code may be 550, 551, or 552. In any event it means that the string has errors. Since at the time of this writing I am not sure of the exact message given and cause for each of those errors, I'll just leave it at that and say that any 550 series error is a feature encryption string error which can be fixed by putting the right string into the radio. Which may require you to contact the Harris TAC (Technical Assistance Center) in order to get the right string data. Which may cost you money.
Which may require you to get it done through a Harris dealer shop.

Anyway, now on to actually backing up the feature string.

Connect the radio to the computer. Bring up RM.
In the row of tabs near the top of the RM screen, select the tab that contains the model series of the
radio that you are working on. In the case of a P7100, that would be the second tab, as it supports
the P7100, P5100, M7100, etc. series radios.

Now look at the row of icons along the top edge of the RM screen. Hover your mouse over each of them to read their labels.

The eight icons that are of most interest to us are labelled,
Read tracking from radio
Read tracking from file
Read features from radio
Read features from file

Farther over, you see:

Write tracking to radio
Write tracking to file
Write features to radio
Write features to file

To read the features from the radio and save them to a file, you would first click on the third icon,
read features from radio.
After the read process is complete, now you will want to write that feature data to a file. Which you would
do by clicking on the write features to file icon.

You will have the option of naming the file. I recommend naming the file to the serial number of the radio as found on the serial number label inside the battery compartment. This way it will be easy to figure out which file you need to read back if you ever have to restore a corrupted feature encryption string.

You have now backed up your feature encryption data. That was simple.

Now do the same exact process with the tracking data. Just choose the icons that relate to tracking data, rather than features.

At this point I'm going to stop for a moment and point out a few things about the feature string.

The length of the feature string varies with the type of radio, or more properly, the radio platform/family type.

For example, the older Orions, LPEs, M-RKs, and Jaguar 700Ps are only capable of accepting a max of 32 features. They don't do any feature that's above 32 in the feature list that is posted elsewhere in this subforum.

The radios that followed in the next family, the x7100 and X5100 series radios, and the x7200 series radios, can handle up to 40 features. Their feature string is longer by several characters.

On any of those radios, if the FEATURES menu is active in the radio, you can directly read the radio's ESN and feature encryption string information right from the radio's display.

BUT...the feature encryption string data will end with too many zeros. Four too many, on a P7100 or M7100, etc. If you are recording those strings by hand, remember that. Drop the four extra zeroes at the end of the string.

Now let's take a moment to talk about editing the feature string. Say you found a cooperative Harris radio
dealer and they will allow you to buy a feature upgrade for one of your radios. It can be done, and I've done it myself, several times.

That dealer will need this information:
The serial number of the radio
The ESN of the radio
The radio model number
The current feature string in it

If you tell them that you can do the feature string upgrade yourself, they will probably be glad
to email your new feature string to you once your payment clears.

The cost of features: They can be as cheap as 50 or so dollars, and some packages of features
that work together may cost over a thousand. I can't give you any exact pricing information.

So they sent you your new feature string. How to get it into the radio?

Simple. There's a button in RM marked FEATURE DATA EDIT. Click it. Delete the existing data in the window that opens up and enter the new data that was sent to you. Then save it to disk as a backup (give it a unique name, of course) and then write it to the radio. The new features should be activated as soon as the radio resets.

I will not get into the complex subject of editing the radio's TRACKING data in this topic, That is something
that absolutely requires you to be the testing technician and have appropriate test equipment and the service manual for the radio type in question. I will only state that if a radio needs alignment, the alignment data is all in the tracking data. Some of the alignments aren't hard to figure out without the service manual, but even then I do not recommend editing any of those values. If you do, please do yourself a big favor and record ALL the original data so you can return to those values in the event that you do edit that data and the radio stops working so well after you do that.

Now, backing up your radio's firmware and ADI/DSP code:

This is a neat feature. You can simply click the "read code to file" button and RM will read and dump a copy of the radio firmware to disk. It takes a few minutes. You will then have a copy of the radio firmware that can be loaded back into the same radio or loaded into another radio of the same model series. Which may be what you want to do if you have one radio with recent firmware and another with old firmware.

Note: The radio file you read out and saved to disk will end in .BIN. But if you are able to obtain a new
firmware release package from Harris (or others) then the same firmware package may (or should) end in .BIZ instead. A .BIZ file is a zipped, original distribution file that is preferred over using the .BIN file, as there may be some differences between the two. In any event it's less likely that a .BIZ file will be corrupted than a .BIN file. Use a .BIZ file for radio firmware updating in preference to a .BIN file if you can get your hands on it.

I'm not going to get into the complex subject of picking and choosing which firmware and DSP code versions are best for your radio. That's a subject that merits its own entire discussion.

You should read the radio's code to file in any event. It's good to have a backup in the event you need to recover the radio from a serious fault.

You should also read the radio's ADI/DSP code to file using the button marked "Read ADI/DSP to file".

In order to do a radio recovery, you need to have copies of both the radio code AND the ADI/DSP code in your archives. (Note, not every radio needs ADI/DSP code, but the x7100/5100 series does.)

The firmware and DSP files will start with different characters according to which radios they are meant for. For example, an Orion's firmware files start with OG. For a Jaguar, the files start with S1. For the x7100/5100 radios, the firmware starts with R0 and the DSP starts with either G or F. F being P25 compatible and G being NON-P25 compatible. (And this compatibility is determined by the radio hardware, so forcing the wrong code into the radio isn't likely to help. Not that you can force the wrong code into the radio without knowing the special trick to it.)

So, you've backed up your feature string. You've backed up your tracking data. You've backed up your firmware, and you've backed up your DSP code.

Now let's say you want to update one of your radios with the latest and greatest firmware and DSP code you've been able to acquire. How do you get it into the radio?

You COULD use the radio recovery feature of RM. But if the radio doesn't show any errors, you can do it as part of the process of reprogramming your radio using ProGrammer or RPM instead.

Read the radio. Then write back to it. But look for that window that pops up just before it actually starts programming the radio You will see two boxes in that window that allow you to search for a new firmware file, and a new DSP file. Use these boxes and find the files you saved. (Hopefully you have a well organized directory structure, so the files are easy to locate.)

You will need to choose both your firmware file and your DSP file.

Then click the program button and the radio firmware and DSP code will update, THEN the radio will be reprogrammed with the new personality. (Same as your old one, unless you edited it.)

A special note: ProGrammer 18 was the last version of ProGrammer that can be freely installed on any PC. It's handy to have around as its version of RM can even be used to extract radio firmware and DSP code from many radios that were last programmed with RPM. But not every version of RPM-compatible code can be read with RM. Just be aware of that limitation.

For informational purposes only, I will also inform you that there are many older versions of firmware that are not compatible with the newer RPM software, and there are some versions that are not compatible with ProGrammer as they are too new. And there are some that are compatible with both, and if those particular versions are used in your radio, you can program your radio with either ProGrammer or RPM.

But if you have access to RPM, you will probably stop using ProGrammer with that radio before too long as the two programs are very similar and if you know how to manage a radio with one, you know how to manage a radio with the other, for the most part.


Dec 17, 2008
I have a p5150 on the way. I am going to program it to receive only on the system in a neighboring county. It has some regular groups and a couple of agencies use provoice groups. I have programmed edacs before so I'm just familiar enough to mess it up. LOL. I've only done M-RKs and LPE 200's and have never done provoice. Will I have to put in the towers twice (one for regular groups and one for provoice groups) or is it an individual group option?

Also, I can't find a p5100 or 5150 listed in my software radio list. I have Programmer R13. It has everything else including p7100, panthers, jaguars, prions, MRK, LPE, MPA, etc. which do I select for the p5150?

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


Jan 25, 2007
On the other side of the tracks
ProVoice is under system setup>edacs> "private voice options". The under group sets, change voice mode to "unencrypted" for each PV TG. You need not program the sites twice. I think to mix PV TG's and analog TG's in the same system, this setting is how the radio determines which mode to listen for. (i've never had to mix them before). I cant help you with the R13 problem though, i'm on a later version. Its gotta be in there somewhere...


Premium Subscriber
Sep 8, 2002
R13 supports the P7100 but at the time it was written, the P5100 wasn't yet released. It's really the same radio but is only sold with limited features. Any 5100 can be turned into a 7100 by changing the tracking data using the radio maintenance tools IF your version of the radio maintenance tools recognizes the P5100. I'm pretty sure that this is correct and seem to remember having done it.

You do not have to enter your system information twice to listen to provoice. Typically, a given talkgroup is used ONLY on analog or ONLY on provoice, and never mixed analog/provoice on a single talkgroup.

Program all your talkgroups for provoice and you will then be able to hear analog transmissions on those talkgroups AND hear provoice transmissions as well.
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