RTL-SDR for Linux Quick-Start Guide

Setting up an RTL-SDR dongle in Linux isn’t complicated provided one has clear and concise instructions. That’s the goal of this project. The first edition was created for Linux Mint 17.3, the second edition for Mint 18.3 and the third edition for Mint 19.3. Some applications that no longer function were removed and new ones added.

Some things in this guide will not work in other distributions. If your SDR is not based on the RTL chipset then the driver installation will be different. Attempting to make a guide for all scenarios isn’t practical. Feel free to modify and redistribute it for your favorite distro and SDR hardware.

Doing ADS-B under Mint 19.3 or Ubuntu on a PC has become a rather complicated affair and is now beyond the scope of a quick start primer. For more information look to flightaware on a Raspberry Pi or Virtual Radar Server.

I’ll continue to update this guide approximately once per year as new distributions of Linux are released. The focus will be on the basics of using an RTL-SDR for general radio and test bench purposes with proven applications. Experimental and advanced applications tend to break at the slightest update, so I’ll publish those as separate articles.

If you’re developing an SDR application for Linux on a PC and would like some press, I’ll be happy to evaluate it and consider it for the next edition and/or an article. Just send me a link to your github. Because I do not have a crystal ball with an ethernet port on it I will require some fundamental outline of how it functions. 🙂

Most issues I’ve heard back about involve blacklisting drivers. If it’s not working, double-check your work. If your fingers are as fat as mine, you may have made a simple typo. For further support, visit the forums at https://rtl-sdr.com/forum for assistance from a community of enthusiasts.



RTL-SDR for Linux Quick Start Guide, Third Edition v20.




RTL-SDR for Linux Quick Start Guide, Second Edition v2-18.




RTL-SDR for Linux Quick Start Guide, First Edition v10-16.

rtl-sdr4linux_quickstart (v10-16)



Thanks for tuning in!


-Ken Ranous


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