N1AV (x-N1RWY) on the air

Ham radio, hiking, coffee, and other tech talk.

Firmware updates & minor panic

If you are lucky enough to own the Yaesu FT-991 or the FTDX1200, you know that Yaesu releases Firmware, DSP and screen updates (and C4FM in the case of the 991) every so often.   I do applaud Yaesu for the commitment to this line of radios with these update releases as a way to keep the rigs current with the technologies available.
As a side note, the DSP changes from these updates for both radios are quite dramatic, major kudos to Yaesu for these changes!

However, you should know – updating these radios with the new software and firmware releases are not trouble free.   Having spent a few hours in the garage shack managing these updated the other day, I thought it would be blog worthy to talk about what I encountered and discovered during the process.

Updating the FT991

The first radio that I updated, the FT991, has four different updates.
Firmware, DSP settings, TFT screen settings, and the C4FM.

image of the FT-991
My shack machine is a Win 7 desktop with a fast SSD drive and a pile of RAM.   (No.. I am not going to upgrade to Win 10.. ever)
It has 4 rear USB ports and two in the front for plenty of USB connections, which is handy since the 991 needs a USB connection for the updates.

I connected my (link in this postTrip lite shielded USB cable  to one of the front USB ports on the computer and then to the radio per the directions from the Yaesu files site. (The links change when the software changes, so I didn’t direct link – Just scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will see the software links there.)

Per the directions, I fired up the DSP update.. and it promptly crashed after 15 seconds.  Disconnect everything,  power down power supply, go through the process of the three key push while turning on… run the software again..and I get the software to run for 40 seconds this time and the software crashes again.

Grrrrrrr…….

Sitting there sipping my coffee, watching the temperate climb over 90 in the garage shack my brain wandered to a related issue that I recalled reading about recently on one of my random ham related topic google searches.. I don’t remember the exact search term, but I think it was related to working digital modes with radios and computers.

The post was about hams using “auxiliary” USB ports (the ports on the FRONT of the computer)  for software updates and having the updates fail, or using these ports to connect a computer to a radio and having the software pop up with the “Installing new software for your device” message each and every time you power up the radio.

So, I put the coffee down, disconnected my trip-lite shielded usb cable from the FRONT USB port and put it in one of the ports on the REAR of the computer.  Then followed the steps for the software DSP update again.

Two things happened:

  1. This DSP update completed without issue.
  2. The computer never popped up the “Installing new software for your device” message.

WIN WIN!  (and I learned something new)

Result: Always use a “primary” USB port (or on a tower, one of the USB ports on the back of the machine) when doing software updates or connecting your computer to radio.  Leave the front ports for keyboard / mouse or USB sticks.

All of the updates for the 991 are included in one zipped file.  This update package allows you to upgrade from ANY previous level of firmware / software.  It is NOT an incremental update (thank the lord).  This means if you have not updated your rig for a while or in the case of AC7FF, ever.. you can go right from out of the box software/firmware in 2015 to the latest and greatest release listed on the website.  A good thing.

All of the updates will run after the initial unzipping of the compressed file.. EXCEPT for the TFT (screen) update.  That requires a second unzipp process which then gives you access to the TFT update and the new screen improvements for the 991.  (You will see why I point this out later in this post..it IS IMPORTANT to keep reading!)

After moving the USB to the rear, all 4 updates installed as they should. I took my time to follow the directions as best I could.  I need to mention that the directions that are included in the software often DO NOT match the directions written in the firmware / update PDF file that walk you through each step.   Often the steps are not in the same order when it comes to finishing the updates, such as the shut down and close out the software procedure.  At the same time, there are spelling mistakes in the software, as well as the wrong words being used, such as they have “connect usb cable to the computer”  when it should read “disconnect the USB cable from the computer”. If you are computer savy, and you understand the process and what is going on, then it is a minor annoyance.  If you are not a computer “guy / gal” and you trust the documentation as the be-all, end-all of what you should be doing, these directions will cause some confusion.

Result: Pay attention to the documentation and the conflicts in the included PDF directions and the directions in the software.

Updating the FTDX1200

I then moved on to the FTDX1200, one of my favorite radios as of late.

image of the FTDX1200

It is a real work horse and I really LOVE the ergonomics of the radio, unlike the 991 – which made some bad choices with the assignment of controls to the limited knobs it has on the radio.. but, this isn’t a post about ergonomics, rather the software update process.

With the FTDX1200, the software for the updates is also located in the “Files Tab” of the FTDX1200 page on the Yaesu site.

The directions suffer the same issues with the FTDX1200 as they do with the 991, a conflict of information between the software directions and the PDF file.  Just be aware of it – I have a feeling it is consistent among all of the software / documentation.

The 1200 has a “old skool” DB9 serial connection on the back of the radio which makes it easier to update (as long as you have a serial connection in your computer).  I connected the serial cable to my serial port and proceeded to update the DSP, then the main firmware, and then finally the TFT screen update.    From what I read online the TFT screen update is a MAJOR change with the addition of colors as well as some options to the [Scope] settings for different waterfall displays.  Several online posts have compared it to the updates of the 991 screen, really bringing a fresh look to the FTDX1200.  Ok, whatever – I will see when I get to that update.

I have to admit that I was gun shy about updating the FTDX1200.  I had gone through a series of  updates about a year ago.. and proceeded to BRICK my radio.

Yep.. right at the start of contest season.
Freakin’ awesome.. I had to bring it back to HRO, get it shipped off to Yaesu (since it was still under warranty) and wait..
2.5 months later, the radio was back, just in time for Winter Field Day.
Needless to say, I didn’t want to do that again.  So, I was paying extra special attention when I did the firmware update (which is what killed it last time).. and this time it processed it easily.

Sweet!  Having completed the firmware update I quickly ran the TFT screen update and rebooted the machine.

I was greeted with the typical Yaesu splash screen as normal….

image of the Yaesu splash screen

And it stayed there.. just showing the splash screen.

OH S*&%%&!!!!!!
I push the [Antenna] button on the radio, and I hear the relays in the radio ‘click’. Push it again ‘click’.. ‘click’.. “click click click…”

However, the screen still shows:
image of the Yaesu splash screen

I push the band buttons on the right side of the radio.  I switch from [14 MHz] to [28 MHz]… I hear the band noise change.

However, the screen still shows:

image of the Yaesu splash screen

Ok… Full reset time.
I turn off the 1200, shut off the power supply, disconnect all the cables to it, turn on the power supply, engage my fingers in the correct sequence to force the 1200 into a full reset and turn it on…

image of the Yaesu splash screen

ARRRRRRG!!!!!!!
The screen still shows the splash screen and nothing else.

I take a long gulp of coffee, set down my mug, get up from my stool,  and start swearing as I pace around the garage.  Flashbacks of last year and the waiting for the rig to come back from Yaesu start to swirl in my mind.   I didn’t want to start yet ANOTHER contest season with this thing in the shop.. and I would have to pay for this repair to boot.  I was an ‘angry camper’ at this point.  I had passed ‘unhappy camper’ three reboots back.

OK- after about 10 minutes of pacing around I came back to the radio.  ‘Think this through’ I tell myself.
Ok.. Reload the updates.  So, I reload the TFT file.

Same result.

Reload the firmware file and do the full reset as directed in the directions.

Same result.

I load the TFT software again.. and I am about to execute it.. when I look at the actual file that I am loading.  I should be loading 02-03.. However, the file says “02-04”..  Ok.. what is this?

Come to find out that the TFT software was NOT grabbing the file for the FTDX1200, but rather grabbing the file FROM THE FT-991 and promptly loading that file up into the FTDX1200.

The FTDX1200, gladly takes the install of the file, however, upon reboot has not idea how to process what it is told to display as it doesn’t have the same layout or display of the FT-991. So.. what does it do?  It hangs at the splash screen.  As it can’t move forward from that point.

image of the Yaesu splash screen

And the dumb ass award goes to..

Yep.  I will own it.

I wasn’t paying as much attention to this TFT install as the firmware.  However, I wanted to bring attention to this for any other hams out there who own both a FTDX1200 and a FT991.
Make sure you are loading the RIGHT software for the RIGHT radio.  I was lucky, it was just the screen software.  I am sure if I dumped the wrong firmware, that could have been a disaster waiting to happen (assuming it will take it).   And no… I am not going to test that theory for you.

With the right TFT screen software installed my FTDX1200 was back to normal.  I haven’t tested out the new waterfall displays yet.  That will be in another post I am sure.

Result:  Pay attention to the files selected by the Yaesu software install programs, as it might grab the wrong one.

 

Hope to work you on the air.

73 all.

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8 Comments

  1. Chris Houghton May 5, 2018

    I have a ft-991 and updated the main, dip and c4fm. The radio seems bricked due to the fact the TFT will not update. I keep getting a “unable to open com port” error. Don’t know why when all the other firmwares updated just fine. Thoughts? Don’t know what I am missing. Did not see a second unzip for the TFT as mentioned. Thanks in advanced.

    Chris KC5AD

    • n1rwy May 14, 2018 — Post Author

      Chris,
      The only thing I can think of is the TFT software is defaulting to a different COM port than what you have connected, or the different button push sequence is not putting the radio into the setting it needs to be in order to accept the TFT update. Each update has a different key-button push sequence. I often was using the wrong one when I got the same com port error.

  2. Peter MOHSG February 20, 2018

    I have an FT 991 and always update without issue. I have not however updated the C4FM firmware as there was no instructions on how to do this when I bought my radio. There are instructions now. Does anyone know what C4FM does? Is it worth updating.

  3. Ken N4MIT January 16, 2018

    I was updating my 5 day old FT-991A and after the “Main” update I got that same dreaded logo screen… nothing else. I double and triple checked everything… Yep I had the latest firmware and yep it was for the 991A… it all looked good. Yeah after the 3rd reflash I was past the unhappy stage too. I opened a tech support request on-line at Yaesu and later that day I got a call. It only took one sentence for it all to make sense. Once you upgrade the “Main” firmware it isn’t compatible with the “TFT” firmware. GEEZE! why didn’t the instructions say that? Yaesu needs to change that logo splash screen to include in Big Friendly Letters “DON’T PANIC” just flash the TFT now. Here I was expecting the logo to disappear and see the normal vfo/scope/control screen… but no… so I thought I had bricked my brand new toy. Anyway Yaesu’s tech support did a great job and walked me through the next step to make sure it worked. Thank you Yaesu Support.

    • Dave N6KL February 6, 2018

      Thanks, Ken and Jon for your posts, and Jason for the really helpful blog. I too, just tried updating and got stuck forever at the “Yaesu Screen of Death” when attempting to update to the Feb 2018 code for my FT-991. I had seen the release note about needing to do the Tft firmware if you change the main firmware, but hadn’t noticed the part where “Your radio will appear to be bricked until you finish all firmware, TFT and DSP.” That should have been made more clear.” I appreciate the info posted here. Thanks!

  4. Jon Klimek KE0LHK January 1, 2018

    After only a year in radio, I still feel I have a lot to learn. My Christmas present was a base radio that could do everything I needed to do and still be portable – so I have an FT-991A. Quite a radio, and a lot to learn with it. I bought the radio from another ham who has been really helpful. But you need to learn things on your own from the ground up so its second nature to tune it fast in the field.

    My first realization was that the radio was running old firmware and needed an update. I ran into the same issue. Yaesu does not warn you that the order they print the instructions, you will be stuck at the splash screen until you get the Main, DSP and TFT updates done. Then you will be able to see your display for the C4FM firmware update. I would give Yaesu the bonehead award for not mentioning this. Thanks for your write up, which gave me the nerve to keep updating files!

    • n1rwy January 1, 2018 — Post Author

      Glad it was helpful Jon! I figured others could benefit from my experiences.

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