How to Scan with a Baofeng Radio: A Step-by-Step Guide

The Baofeng radio series, including popular models like the UV-5R and UV-82, is renowned for its versatility and affordability. One of the powerful features of these radios is their ability to scan for active frequencies. Scanning allows users to find and listen to active conversations on various frequencies, making it an essential function for amateur radio enthusiasts, preppers, and professionals alike. This guide will walk you through the steps to scan frequencies with your Baofeng radio.

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What is Scanning?

Scanning on a Baofeng radio involves automatically cycling through a range of frequencies or channels to detect active transmissions. This feature is particularly useful for monitoring emergency services, weather channels, or simply finding local communications.

Types of Scanning on Baofeng Radios

Frequency Scanning (VFO Mode)

  • Scans through a range of frequencies to find active signals.
  • Useful for discovering unknown or unprogrammed frequencies.

Channel Scanning (MR Mode)

  • Scans through the pre-programmed channels in the memory.
  • Ideal for quickly checking activity on known frequencies.

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Step-by-Step Guide to Scanning with a Baofeng Radio

Frequency Scanning (VFO Mode)

Frequency scanning involves searching through a continuous range of frequencies. Here’s how to do it on your Baofeng radio:

Turn On the Radio

  • Rotate the knob on the top of the radio to power it on.

Enter Frequency Mode

  • Press the “VFO/MR” button to switch to Frequency Mode (VFO). You should see the frequency display (e.g., 145.000) rather than a channel number.

Select the Band

  • Choose between VHF and UHF by pressing the “BAND” button. VHF frequencies are usually displayed with a leading digit between 1-3, and UHF frequencies typically start with 4-5.

Set the Step Size

  • The step size determines how much the frequency changes with each step during scanning. To set this, press the “MENU” button, navigate to menu item 1 (STEP), press “MENU” again, select the desired step size (e.g., 5 kHz), and press “MENU” to confirm. Press “EXIT” to return to the main screen.

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Start Scanning

  • Hold down the “*SCAN” button. The radio will start scanning through the frequencies. It will pause whenever it detects an active signal.
  • To resume scanning after a pause, press the “*SCAN” button again.

Stop Scanning

  • Press the “EXIT” button or any other button to stop scanning.

Channel Scanning (MR Mode)

Channel scanning involves searching through pre-programmed channels stored in the radio’s memory. Here’s how to perform channel scanning:

Turn On the Radio

  • Power on the radio using the knob on top.

Enter Channel Mode

  • Press the “VFO/MR” button to switch to Memory (MR) Mode. You should see channel numbers instead of frequencies.

Start Scanning

  • Press and hold the “*SCAN” button. The radio will begin scanning through all the pre-programmed channels, stopping when it detects an active transmission.

Resume or Stop Scanning

  • To resume scanning after it stops on a channel, press the “*SCAN” button again.
  • To stop scanning completely, press the “EXIT” button or any other button.

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Advanced Scanning Tips

Adjusting the Squelch

  • The squelch level controls the radio’s sensitivity to weak signals. Lowering the squelch can allow the radio to pick up weaker signals, but may also result in more noise during scanning.
  • To adjust the squelch, press the “MENU” button, navigate to menu item 0 (SQL), press “MENU” again, use the arrow keys to adjust the level (0-9), and press “MENU” to confirm. A lower number means more sensitivity to weak signals.

Setting Scan Resume Mode

  • You can control how the radio behaves when it finds an active frequency. There are typically three modes:
    • TO (Time Operated): The radio pauses on an active channel for a few seconds, then resumes scanning regardless of whether the signal continues.
    • CO (Carrier Operated): The radio pauses on an active channel and resumes scanning only when the signal stops.
    • SE (Search): The radio stops scanning and remains on the active channel.
  • To set this, press “MENU”, navigate to menu item 34 (SC-REV), press “MENU” again, choose TO, CO, or SE, and press “MENU” to confirm.

Programming Channels for Efficient Scanning

  • For channel scanning, pre-program the most relevant frequencies into your radio’s memory. This allows for quick and targeted scanning of important channels, such as emergency services or local repeaters.

Practical Applications of Scanning

Emergency Monitoring

  • Keep track of local emergency services by scanning through public safety frequencies. This can be crucial during natural disasters or other emergencies.

Amateur Radio Operations

  • Use scanning to find active amateur radio frequencies, particularly useful for finding new contacts or monitoring local repeater activity.

General Communication

  • Scan to find unoccupied frequencies or monitor local business or personal communications.


The Baofeng radio’s scanning capabilities provide a powerful tool for monitoring a wide range of frequencies. Whether you’re a ham radio operator, a prepper, or just someone interested in staying connected, mastering the scanning functions on your Baofeng radio can significantly enhance your communication abilities. By following the steps outlined above, you can effectively scan for active frequencies and channels, making the most of your Baofeng radio.