Getting Started with HackRF and GNU Radio

Michael Ossmann edited this page Feb 12, 2017 · 15 revisions

We recommend getting started by watching the Software Defined Radio with HackRF video series. This series will introduce you to HackRF One, software including GNU Radio, and teach you the fundamentals of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) needed to take full advantage of the power of Software Defined Radio (SDR). Additional helpful information follows.

Try Your HackRF with Pentoo Linux

The easiest way to get started with your HackRF and ensure that it works is to use Pentoo, a Linux distribution with full support for HackRF and GNU Radio. Download the latest Pentoo .iso image from one of the mirrors listed at Then burn the .iso to a DVD or use UNetbootin to install the .iso on a USB flash drive. Boot your computer using the DVD or USB flash drive to run Pentoo. Do this natively, not in a virtual machine. (Unfortunately high speed USB operation invariably fails when people try to run HackRF from a virtual machine.)

Once Pentoo is running, you can immediately use it to update firmware on your HackRF or use other HackRF command line tools. For a walkthrough, watch SDR with HackRF, Lesson 5: HackRF One.

To verify that your HackRF is detected, type hackrf_info at the command line. It should produce a few lines of output including "Found HackRF board." The 3V3, 1V8, RF, and USB LEDs should all be illuminated and are various colors.

You can type startx at the command line to launch a desktop environment. Accept the "default config" in the first dialog box. The desktop environment is useful for GNU Radio Companion and other graphical applications but is not required for basic operations such as firmware updates.

Now you can use programs such as gnuradio-companion or gqrx to start experimenting with your HackRF. Try the Examples below. If you are new to GNU Radio, an excellent place to start is with the SDR with HackRF video series or with the GNU Radio guided tutorials.

Alternative: GNU Radio Live SDR Environment

The GNU Radio Live SDR Environment is another nice bootable Linux .iso with support for HackRF and, of course, GNU Radio.

Software Setup

As mentioned above, the best way to get started with HackRF is to use Pentoo Linux. Eventually you may want to install software to use HackRF with your favorite operating system.

If your package manager includes the most recent release of libhackrf and gr-osmosdr, then use it to install those packages in addition to GNU Radio. Otherwise, the recommended way to install these tools is by using PyBOMBS.

See the Operating System Tips page for information on setting up HackRF software on particular Operating Systems and Linux distributions.

If you have any trouble, make sure that things work when booted to Pentoo. This will allow you to easily determine if your problem is being caused by hardware or software, and it will give you a way to see how the software is supposed to function.


A great way to get started with HackRF is the SDR with HackRF video series. Additional examples follow:

Testing the HackRF

  1. Plug in the HackRF
  2. run the hackrf_info command
    $ hackrf_info

If everything is OK, you should see something similar to the following:

hackrf_info version: 2017.02.1
libhackrf version: 2017.02.1 (0.5)
Found HackRF
Index: 0
Serial number: 0000000000000000################
Board ID Number: 2 (HackRF One)
Firmware Version: 2017.02.1 (API:1.02)
Part ID Number: 0x######## 0x########

FM Radio Example

This Example was derived from the following works:

  1. Download the FM Radio Receiver python file here
  2. Run the file
    $ python ./
  3. You can find the GNU Radio Companion source file here

Getting Help