How to Program a Police Scanner

"I just want to listen to police in my area, why is this so complicated?"

We’re asked this question daily, and like all things police scanner related: it depends, which can be frustrating. Programming each police scanner is unique with several variables, including:

  • Where you live
  • What you want to listen to
  • Format required in your area
  • Police scanner model

This decision tree should help you decide whether you should have your scanner professionally programmed or if you should do on your own. As there is not one 'correct' way to program all police scanners, we have videos & guides on each police scanner product page that will show you how to program your specific police scanner, as well as how to get frequencies in your area. Before you get that far, there are 2 things to consider that apply to programming all police scanners:

  • Who will program your police scanner? (You or a Professional)
  • Does your police scanner come with software & frequencies? (Yes/No)

Who Will Program Your Police Scanner?

Professional Police Scanner Programming

Zip Scanners can program any police scanner and take the potential headache out of programming. This will allow you to have your scanner work right out of the box. We can even provide programming if you did not buy a police scanner from us.

Self Police Scanner Programming

If you’re programming your police scanner on your own, there are 2 main things you’ll need to consider:

  • Software
  • Frequencies

If you do chose to program your scanner yourself, check out our other programming articles:

Does Your Police Scanner Come With Software & Frequencies?

Police scanner (hardware) and software (software) work together like other consumer electronics where software operates the hardware. Think of it like:

  • Cell Phones - Android (software) operates Motorola (hardware) phones.
  • Computers - Microsoft Windows (software) operates Dell (hardware) computers.

Some digital police scanners come with software. View the chart below to see if your police scanner comes with software and frequencies:

Scanner Model Software Included Frequencies Included
SDS100 Sentinel Yes
SDS200 Sentinel Yes
HomePatrol-2 Sentinel Yes
BC355N No No
SR30C No No
BCD536HP Sentinel Yes
BCD996P2 No No
BCD325P2 No No
BCD436HP Sentinel Yes
BearTracker 885 No No
BC125AT No No
TRX-1 EZ Scan Yes
TRX-2 EZ Scan Yes
WS1040 No No
Police Scanners With Software & Frequencies

If you have a police scanner with software & frequencies, setting up your police scanner is fairly straight forward - view the product page for your police scanner to watch videos on how to program.

Police Scanners Without Software & Frequencies

If you have a police scanner without software and frequencies, you’ll need to choose a source for each. There are some options to buy software and frequencies together.  What software you need varies depending on what police scanner you have. There are several options, but we show the largest on the market:

FreeSCAN Butel ScanCat ScanControl ProScan
Price Free $39.95 $29.95 $9.98 $50.0
Download/CD Download Download Download & CD Download & CD Download
SDS100 ?? ?? ?? ?? ??
SDS200 ?? ?? ?? ?? ??
HomePatrol-2 Yes Yes
BC355N ?? ?? ?? ?? ??
SR30C ?? ?? ?? ?? ??
BCD536HP Yes Yes Yes
BCD996P2  Yes Yes Yes Yes
BCD325P2  Yes Yes Yes Yes
BCD436HP Yes Yes Yes
BearTracker 885 ?? ?? ?? ?? ??
BC125AT Yes Yes
TRX-1 Yes Yes
TRX-2 Yes Yes
WS1040 Yes Yes
Police Scanner Frequency Options

Frequencies can be entered by hand but, depending on where you live, this may not be realistic. Most police scanner users prefer to purchase a frequency list which they can upload to their scanner using software. There are a several frequency sources to choose from ranging from homemade regional lists that users pass around to professional lists that you can purchase. Below we show some for the larger frequency resources:

Frequency Resource One Time Fee Subscription Download/CD Online/Print Police, Fire & EMS Frequencies Speciality Frequencies Note
Radio Reference $30/year Yes Download Online & Print Yes All View all online
Mr. Scanner $28.95 No CD NA Yes All FCC full list
CitiFreq Free No None Online Yes All View only
Flight Radio $10.00 No Download NA No Air Custom aviation list

Now that you know what is required to program your police scanner, you can either have us do this for you or program on your own. To find instructions on how to program your specific police scanner, visit the product page for your police scanner as there are several links, videos and guides.